Indonesia’s fashion landscape reflects the nation’s intricate history, where a fusion of ancient traditions and motifs combines with modern-day trends and creativity. Moreover, Designs that come out of Indonesia are innovative and unique, resonating with both local and international audiences. Indonesian fashion designers provide a unique and powerful form of art and story-telling through their creative and innovative collections. They are authentic and deeply grounded in the nation’s rich heritage.

The Contemporary Tradition Trope of Fashion Designers


Indonesia's fashion boasts rich technique and unique designs, with motifs deeply rooted in the nation's culture and history. Additionally, the nation’s designers seamlessly weave traditional elements into their creations, creating a marriage of colors, textures, and patterns that captivate the world. Paying homage to their heritage, Indonesian designers use craftsmanship inspired by the intricate designs of batik and beautiful embroidery often seen on kebaya, thus reimagining Indonesian fashion for the modern world. 

Here are some Indonesian fashion designers who are making waves in the global fashion industry. 

Tex Saverio

Piece by Indonesian avant-garde Fashion Designer, Tex Saverio

Born and raised in Jakarta, Tex Saverio is a name synonymous with avant-garde and theatrical fashion.
His designs seamlessly blend fantasy with wearability, gracing both Hollywood red carpets and international runways. Furthermore, he has dressed celebrities like Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, and even designed the wedding dress for Jennifer Lawrence’s character, Katniss Everdeen, in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie. Renowned for his intricate embellishments, luxurious fabrics, and meticulous attention to detail, Saverio's designs harmoniously fuse Indonesian cultural elements with contemporary global appeal. Notably, he has earned the nickname "The Alexander McQueen of Indonesia."

Sally Koeswanto

The comeback stage of Indonesia haute couture fashion designer, Sally Koeswanto

Sally Koeswanto stands out not only for her designs but also for her commitment to sustainability. Her creations often incorporate eco-friendly materials and production methods, showcasing her dedication to responsible fashion. During her career, she has placed family first, even taking a one-year break from designing. Her comeback show in 2015 showcased 23 haute couture designs categorized into three colors: white, gold, and black. Her designs were bold with distinctive cuts that celebrated a woman’s strength.

Sebastian Gunawan

The living sequins fashion designer, Sebastian Gunawan

Known for his evening and bridal gowns, Sebastian Gunawan's designs are a tribute to timeless elegance. With a focus on intricate handwork and a penchant for using luxurious materials, Gunawan's creations often feature traditional Indonesian embroidery techniques reimagined in modern contexts. Also inspired by Hollywood glamor, Gunawan will often incorporate beads, crystals, sequins, and semiprecious stones into his high fashion designs. His ability to combine classic silhouettes with contemporary twists has earned him a devoted following, both domestically and internationally.

Biyan Wanaatmadja

Biyan Wanaatmadja is celebrated for his ability to fuse traditional Indonesian textiles and techniques with Western and modern design aesthetics. His pieces are a testament to his commitment to preserving Indonesia's cultural heritage while making it relevant in the global fashion landscape. Retailers like Club 21, Bloomingdale's, and Saks Fifth Avenue carry Wanaatmadja's designs. His work boasts original patchworks of silk and lace, meticulously detailed and crafted with hand embroidery and beading. He lived in Europe for 15 years before returning to Indonesia, but he has never forgotten his roots. Wanaatmadja’s collections showcase his deep connection to Indonesian artistry.

Dian Pelangi

Dian Pelangi is a trailblazer in the modest fashion movement, known for her vibrant and eclectic designs. Credited with pushing traditional boundaries in Muslim fashion, she inspires with her unique take on modern Muslim wear. Her use of bold colors and patterns challenges the idea that modest fashion has to be subdued with neutral colors. Notably, Pelangi's work highlights Indonesia's rich color palette and demonstrates how cultural influences can result in globally appealing designs. This is evident in her fashion shows held in diverse locations such as the UK, France, Germany, Holland, Australia, Dubai, Egypt, Kuwait, and Jordan.

Peggy Hartanto

Peggy Hartanto's innovative designs seamlessly blend Indonesian tradition with a global aesthetic, capturing the hearts of fashion enthusiasts worldwide. Named as one of 30 Under 30: The Arts List by Forbes Asia in 2016, her meticulous attention to detail and commitment to quality have earned her a well-deserved spot among the fashion elite. Through her eponymous label, she continues to inspire budding designers and enthusiasts, therebyshowcasing Indonesia's immense talent on the global stage.

Toton Januar

Toton Januar is an Indonesian fashion designer whose name resonates with innovation and creativity in the Indonesian fashion scene. With a distinctive design philosophy that fuses traditional and very localized stories and craftsmanship with contemporary aesthetics, Toton has made a significant impact both nationally and internationally, earning him the International Woolmark Prize in 2017. Toton Januar's work showcases Indonesian fashion's enduring allure and global potential, contributing to its growing presence in the international fashion scene

Indonesian Fashion Designers Continuing Influence

Made up of almost 20,000 islands, Indonesia boasts a rich and diverse culture. Not only does each province and region have its own food and dialect, but customs and traditions also often differ. This creates a landscape fit for creativity and innovation. 

The fusion of heritage and innovation, craftsmanship and contemporary vision, tradition and modernity, will remain the driving force for Indonesia's influence. A reflection of Indonesia's diversity, designs from the archipelago boast of the nation’s vibrant culture, rich history, and commitment to craftsmanship. Indonesia will continue to make waves and inspire other designers to explore the intricate intersections of culture and creativity. And the fashion designers will also continue to play a pivotal role in the global fashion industry. The evolution of Indonesian fashion is not merely a trend—it's a journey that will shape the industry's future.

The Future of the Indonesian Fashion Designers

Indonesian fashion designers are known for their adaptability and innovation in a rapidly evolving industry. They not only incorporate traditional elements into their designs but also harness the power of technology and e-commerce to reach a wider global audience. With a tech-savvy youth population, Indonesia has seen online fashion retailers and startups emerge, democratizing and fostering industry creativity. This blend of heritage and digital innovation positions Indonesian designers as trendsetters shaping the industry's dynamic future.

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It’s impossible to visit Indonesia without seeing people wearing batik. Although it’s no longer people’s first choice for daily wear, most will still wear traditional clothing on Fridays. Why Fridays, you may ask? In 2009, former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono encouraged Indonesians to wear batik following its inclusion in UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. The Indonesian batik’s inauguration was held on 2 October 2009, which, you guessed it, was a Friday.

What is Batik?

The origin of batik word, membatik


Batik is derived from the word 'ambatik' which translates to 'a cloth with little dots'. ‘Tik' means little dot, drop, point or to make dots. The traditional way of making it is labor-intensive (which often translates to its hefty price tag). It utilizes a wax-resist fabric dyeing technique: before the fabric is dyed, patterns are “drawn” by hand with molten wax, using a tool known as a ‘canting’, or manually stamped on with handcrafted blocks. After the dyeing process, the design will then appear in stark contrast to the dye (usually a neutral color like brown).


What makes batik even more unique is that each area of Indonesia has its own unique design. It usually contains information on their livelihoods, flora and fauna, and even customs. For example, in Cirebon, the motifs often resemble clouds (Mega Mendung). In Banten, however, you will see the Simbut batik motif, resembling a taro leaf. Just like the many ethnic groups and islands that make up Indonesia, it is also diverse and unique depending on where you are in the country. Although it is still often used during special occasions, the traditional motifs are making their way back into everyday wear, including leisure and even streetwear.

Bringing Batik Back

Youngster wearing batik in a festival

There is a growing group of Indonesia’s younger generation taking an increased interest in incorporating batik—not just the motif and design, but batik sarong—into their fashion lookbooks. Remaja Nusantara is one of the many batik communities making headway in the online world. They encourage the younger Indonesian generation to get back in touch with their cultural roots. Their content features Indonesian youth donning batik sarongs with blazers, or styling them with boots for a chic streetwear vibe. They have even organized events to teach others how to properly wear and tie batik sarongs. Featuring a variety of ways to style batik sarong for any and every occasion, they are heading a movement they call ‘berkain’ (‘kain’ means cloth, and the suffix ‘ber’ indicates an action).

However, the designs and motifs are also finding their own place in the modern fashion world. Fashion designers are incorporating the traditional motif onto suits, dresses, skirts, and even accessories like hats and bags. Some designers have also incorporated other cultural references into their batik designs. Most notably in Indonesia and Singapore, cheongsam is also incorporating batik motifs. As there is a large group of Chinese Indonesians living in Indonesia, many have taken the creative liberty to represent their ethnic and cultural upbringing through the clothes they wear. These batik-cheongsam designs can most often be seen during engagements and weddings, as well as Chinese New Year celebrations in Indonesia.

Beyond The Movement

With the hopes to preserve the meaning and heritage of batik, many designers have taken on the task of making the motif much more accessible for people to wear, but in a more creative and modern flair. Some brands strive to make it more wearable from formal to casual. Not only batik, but many local designers also take their inspiration from other traditional fabrics such as tenun and more. Here is the top ready-to-wear collection we find interesting.

Sejauh Mata Memandang

The brand boasts a minimalist collection that still evokes the rich tradition of Indonesian batik. Using materials like cotton, linen, and Tencel, they support environmental issues by using textiles that are considered sustainable materials. They also take it further by utilizing recycled textiles in the designs.

BINHouse

BINHouse’s unique creations evoke a sense of simplicity and elegance with the traditional touch of batik. Inspired by the silhouettes of the kebaya, BINHouse adds new excitement to its ready-to-wear pieces. Most of them are a juxtaposition between the old and the new that tells a beautiful story.

Purana

Purana, which means ‘old scripture’ in Sanskrit, was established in 2009. They are true to their commitment to adopting Indonesian local wisdom. They even utilize artwork made by local artisans and combine them with fashionable cuts, patterns, and color mixes.

bateeq

Launched in 2013, bateeq offers a fresh, fashion-forward take on batik. Their collection is available for men, women, and children, as well as home decor. They provide a modern edge, offering a timeless collection of ready-to-wear dresses, shirts, blouses, and pants.

Batik In The International Waters

Batik has also made its way to international haute couture. Many celebrities donned it on the red carpet; Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and even Beyoncé. Internationally renowned designers from other countries have also included batik in their runway collections. Notably, the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wore a batik dress made by Belgian-American designer Diane von Furstenberg. We also saw Angelina Jolie wearing a batik dress by US designer Nicole Miller. Other international designers who have featured it in their collections include Belgium’s Dries van Noten, Thailand’s Ek Throngprassert, and Italy’s Milo Milavica.

Kate Middleton wearing batik

No longer a thing of the past, batik is making its way back into everyday wear. With the growing help of fashion designers re-imagining the motif in trendy and modern ways, it will not be going away any time soon. And in doing so, the younger generation has also taken it upon themselves to bring their cultural heritage back in their own ways. Creating movements such as ‘berkain’ is just one way that the Indonesian youth are having fun with their heritage and encouraging other Indonesians to wear batik sarongs, like their ancestors used to.

Follow our Instagram to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in textiles, apparel, and all things fashion-related, or use our resource here.

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