10th JFW: The Fight for Legacy and Relevance

Time does fly fast. This week Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) turned ten. While a 10-year run is relatively young, considering New York Fashion Week was initiated in the 1940s while the region’s most notable fashion week in Tokyo has run for over a decade, the 10th mark still posts bigger questions, such as seed of legacy and sign of relevancy.

Looking from its structure, JFW already has in place a few wagons to carry the challenges; design competitions and the coaching program Indonesia Fashion Forward (IFF).

One of the design competitions ran during JFW, Lomba Perancang Mode (LPM) actually predates JFW all the way to 1979, and has consistently served as a good launch pad for aspiring fashion designers in Indonesia. Past winners include today’s established names such as Musa Widyatmodjo and Carmanita, with a couple of recent winners like Tex Saverio and Lulu Lutfi Labibi quickly became the darling of fashion devotees and the target of copycats.

Other design competitions ran under JFW umbrella such as Lomba Perancang Aksesoris (LPA) or CLEO Fashion Awards (rebilled now as New Fashion Force Awards) have given birth to new labels with almost cultish following like Rosalyn Citta, Danjyo Hiyoji and Byo. Some of the new talents caught through these competitions often found their way into IFF since its inception six years ago.

Established by Forum Mode Indonesia Foundation in collaboration with JFW, the British Council, the London-based Center for Fashion Enterprise and the Indonesian government (now represented by the Indonesian Board of Creative Economy), IFF aims to develop the capacity of fashion designers with necessary skill set and infrastructure in order to establish Indonesia as one of the world’s fashion capitals in 2025. When you think about it, this is essentially the legacy JFW wants to build.

Has the seed of legacy been growing progressively to come to fruition within the target timeframe? Quite a number of IFF inductees have gained accolades from international fashion industry and finding overseas markets—Toton’s winning of Woolmark Prize 2016/2017 womenswear for Asia and London Fenwick’s pop-up store for Indonesian designers came to mind—yet while we rightfully celebrate those milestones we must never lose sight of the building blocks needed to create a fashion capital.

Infrastructure. Standard. Just as Indonesia’s problems elsewhere, so is the case here. As I’ve repeatedly written, the problem is the gaps between artisans and designers, then between designers and the garment industry. Beyond creativity that meets preference, quality standard from inner seams to color finish is a must, especially for export— which Indonesian designers often struggle to meet. Most of our artisans or crafters work on varying degrees of quality and punctuality while the local garment companies with technical capacity that meets international standards, the ones manufacturing foreign labels since the 1980s, work on a much bigger economic of scale than the typical first export order. And yet, if the first order fails the requested quality, buyers won’t place repeat orders.

The vicious cycle can only be bypassed by government policies and incentives that raise the quality bar of our artisanal industry and push local qualified garment companies to tap into emerging Indonesian designers, a kind of multi-ministry teamwork with legal and decision-making powers beyond ceremonial duties. Now, can JFW as an organization sell the real business potential of fashion to the related ministries and make them work together to build the necessary industrial blocks? 2025 is only a short 8 years away.

Interestingly, a handful of IFF inductees—Michelle Tjokrosaputro of Bateeq, Anandia Harahap of IKYK, Rani Hatta— openly stated that going global isn’t as much of their top priority than meeting international standards upon entering any market. That’s awareness of business fundamentals, humility in acknowledging the current state, and savviness in serving domestic and foreign market equally.

If every designer showing at JFW demonstrates the aforementioned traits and JFW can bridge government and private sectors to build an end-to-end fashion industry, then that will answer both the legacy and relevancy questions. JFW will not only be the annual fab fete that insiders love to grace and public clamor to see, but a powerhouse that co-builds a productive industry.

Beyond that, relevancy is continuously challenged in the ever-shifting industry. Digitalization has disrupted how fashion is presented, promoted, accepted and acquired. Before journalists can craft a proper report, anyone with camera phone can cheer a collection or call out plagiarism. Before the crown jewel show Dewi Fashion Knights is unfurled, social media chatter can sway opinion on whether this year’s selected “knights” will pump enough fresh blood to warrant a watch.

And yet, in the midst of migration towards everything digital, enough designers including Gloria Agatha of Jii, this year’s JFW Entrepreneur Award winner, admit that bankable customers still seek shopping experience in physical outlets despite having sought information online. That the minds behind Brightspot Market and The Goods Dept. won for institution category of the 5-year Pia Alisjahbana Award* granted this year showed JFW is attuned to how customers are getting more urbane and leaning towards pop-up or concept stores.

A proclivity to navigate through these moving factors—creative, business, media—should be nurtured among the talents promoted through JFW. It’s a tall order, and perhaps was never asked of the Big Four fashion weeks decades ago, and yet this is the age Jakarta Fashion Week finds itself to be in.

For 2025 and beyond, fashion and business forward.

As published: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/10/28/urban-chat-10th-jfw-the-fight-for-relevance-and-legacy.html

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