Rebels and Disrupters at Jakarta Fashion Week

Attending a fashion week is always fun to me, but I admit that after having seen countless shows year after year sometimes things can start to look somewhat similar. So it’s nice when suddenly a rebellion springs on and off the runway.


The 9th Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) started off strong last week as Jenahara sent hijab models in dark-colored leather pants, gleaming chainlinks and graffiti-ed skirts down the runway under Nirvana’s most iconic song, while multimedia featuring the raw words of punk rock princess Patti Smith. Half of the audience, myself included, roared in applause, while the other half, notably hijab-wearers, stunned in silence. I was lucky to talk privately to Jenahara afterwards, in which she clarified her message of women in veils as free-willing, non-repressed individuals with their own passions and rebellions, just as her unveiled sisters– unlike what’s been much portrayed by Western media. While Jenahara, one of the young designers groomed under the Indonesia Fashion Forward incubator, might’ve intended that message to non-hijab-wearing crowd, everyone in the audience felt the jolt.


Rebels came out again on the tribute show by label-designing local celebrities, where Tities Sapoetra created wacky prints and bedazzled embroideries inspired by David Bowie, models Simone and Kelly Tandiono partnering up behind Cover Me Not swimwear and sent a sassy collection to honor Amy Winehouse, while Oxcel paid an homage to Muhammad Ali. It may not be high on the fashion bar, but certainly delivered much oomph to brighten the night.


A more tribal kind of rebels arrived in ancient motifs and bold colors of Nias, the exotic island off the coast of Sumatra known for their athletic and agile stone-jumpers, through Happa Happa label by the rarely-disappointing designer Mel Ahyar. The cultural references, including on the textile, remained—even on the menswear lot—yet she managed to rein them in enough to make the collection fairly urban-appropriate (you do need to strip off the styling accessories, however). Happa Happa is never for the faint of heart, and this latest collection keeps it as much.


Au courant urban sensibility was also present in refreshing silhouettes and daring palettes on collections showed by Friederich Herman and Danjyo Hiyoji. Friederich’s designs felt more playful with a tinge of preppiness in those short pleated skirts, while Danjyo’s gave off a city-dwelling bohemian vibe.


Yet perhaps, into the 6th day of the fashion week when this column is written, the wildest surprise was delivered by Suzuki Takayuki, the Japanese designer on his 2nd year collaboration with label Bateeq. The Japanese’s exquisite fabrics and refined executions met Indonesian batik essence already won my heart last year, and the white-blue stripe touch was revisited this year, yet this time he shook the audience by coming on the runway, armed with scissors and spray-paint, to turn a ball-gown into a poufy tutu. The statuesque model Paula Verhoeven stood still as the soft-spoken Takayuki went wild swish-swashing with both hands, drowned into his own creative mad zone, while audience ooh-aahing and mostly forgetting to snap pictures. The most suspense finale, hands down. Takayuki-sama, anata wa kuree-jii!

What about off the runway? A little sharing economy initiative is quietly introduced on the Fashionlink marketplace by a group of young entrepreneur and a longtime fashion insider. Kostoom is basically an Uber to connect young designers who aren’t yet economically-sized for clothing manufacturers, and relatively well-equipped, home-based tailors who’ve lost much of private clientele now that most people prefer to buy off-the-rack clothes. It works through web and app and meant as a B2B model, which I think has a fair shot in bridging the persistent gap between Indonesian fashion designers and garment industry.


Last, and quite an irony, is the post-criticism initiatives by H&M, as presented in a talk show during JFW, to combat their image as a fast fashion label. As I wrote on this column last year, The True Cost by Lucy Siegle and Overdressed by Elizabeth Kline, the first (on a film documentary format) was featured on last year’s JFW, clearly detailed the damages on resources, working condition and worldwide waste of discarded clothing. When it first started to send low-priced new styles every 6 weeks to stores, H&M was considered a bona fide disrupter to the institutionalized 2-season fashion cycles—forcing bigger labels to issue a pre-fall, summer 1 and 2, or even resort collections throughout the year. Yet the disruptions have indisputably wreaked havoc on resources—just imagine the fibers and fuels used every 6 weeks to churn out new collections worldwide—that as long as H&M refuses to lengthen the period between cycles, their much-touted initiatives to improve working conditions and recollect used clothing for fiber recycle will still fall flat. I never held H&M against the low wages, because it’s depends on the country’s government where they manufacture, but H&M can re-change the fashion cycle. Years ago, along with the likes of Topshop and Zara, they did it for the global fashion industry to begin with.

Now let me put on my rocking scarf by rebellious artist Eko Nugroho and MajorMinor label, as I head to JFW’s closing show. See you there?

As published:



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