A Fashion Icon Reflects on 30 Years of Success

Acclaimed Indonesian designer Edward “Edo” Hutabarat held a show on Wednesday in Jakarta to mark his 30th year in the fashion industry.

The fashion show, titled “Reflection,” showed off 100 of Edo’s functional and stylish designs, which featured hand-dyed batik pesisiran patterns from Indonesia’s coastal areas of Cirebon, Pekalongan and Madura.

For years, Edo’s designs have won the hearts of many prominent figures among the country’s fashionistas and social elites. Spotted at the show last week were, among others, cosmetics producer Martha Tilaar, media and education leader Pia Alisjahbana and Nadya Hutagalung, the famous model who is also the new ambassador for Edo’s clothing line, PARTONEEDWARDHUTABARAT.

Wearing no additional accessories, 25 models strutted their stuff in pieces ranging from dresses to jackets, coats and robes, all beautifully designed to reflect simplicity and elegance.

Edo said that simplicity was indeed the theme of the show.

“This is the simplest fashion show I’ve done in my whole career,” the North Sumatra-born designer said. “Yet this is what makes me happiest. Why? Because this is the first time I’ve had a chance to reflect on things I have done in my life.”

Edo said his more reflective attitude was due to an emotional experience he went through earlier this year.

Three years ago, Japanese kimono master Genbei Yamaguchi contacted Edo to express his interest in batik. The two decided to collaborate in opening a shop in Japan and were soon busy with preparations.

In March, Edo flew to Japan to work on some photo sessions for the shop’s catalog. He was scheduled to interview some new staff members when he got back to Indonesia.

But for a reason he said he couldn’t explain, he felt a strong need to get home early and get the interviews finished quickly. So he decided to shorten his visit and return a day earlier than planned.

“The following day, the day I was supposed to be flying back, the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. How could I not think back on my life after that happened?” he said. “It was like everything I had planned was just shattered. It seemed like everything was gone.”

In the aftermath of the disaster, Edo and Yamaguchi, both shaken, decided to postpone the opening of their store.

With the project on hold, Edo tried to put his thoughts toward designing his new collection, but he said narrowly missing the disaster put him in a reflective state of mind. He thought back mostly on the last 21 years of his career how much he had changed in that time.

In 1990, the governor of Jambi, in Sumatra, asked Edo to help develop the province’s traditional woven fabric, called songket, and its batik.

Edo said he had to travel to some remote areas in Jambi to meet songket and batik makers. “I was all ‘creme de la creme’ back then,” he said. “I was really into luxury. I wouldn’t go out without my Mercedes. So [going to Jambi] was a big challenge for me at that time — to suddenly be in places where everything was so simple.”

During the first two years of working in Jambi, Edo said he struggled to adjust to the simple life. But soon, he said, he found comfort in it.

Thanks in large part to Edo’s efforts, Jambi’s songket and batik businesses have developed into successful industries. Edo even brought Jambi’s songket and batik to a show in London in 1992.

Soon, Edo became interested in traveling to other regions and exploring more of Indonesia’s traditional crafts and fabrics. Over the past 20 years he has traveled extensively from one tip of the country to the other, from Payakumbuh in West Sumatra to Wamena in Papua.

“Indonesia is truly an amazing country. There is so much beauty in its natural resources and so much culture to be proud of,” he said. “I really wish I had started my travels earlier in life.”

Over the course of his journeys, Edo has become friends with hundreds of people from the places he has visited, learning about their traditions and cultures. Some have even become partners in his clothing line. “Despite the fact that I am a very straightforward person and the way I speak can be very blunt, I can get along well with them,” he said.

One of the sad things he found during his travels, he said, was that many people, even in remote regions, have replaced their pride in cultural arts and traditions with pride in “modern” items.

“The queens of some tribes, for example, are now wearing printed fabric,” he said. “Unlike 10 years ago, when I first visited those places and all the fabrics were beautifully handmade, people nowadays can’t afford to create the same items. Many have sold off their heritage fabrics because they needed the money.

“This was what made me decide to help preserve what may be totally lost in the next five years or so if nothing is done.”

Edo collaborates with local handicraft producers, guiding them to create high-quality products including batik, songket, tenun textiles, silver jewelry, woven baskets and wooden crafts.

“I wanted them to realize how sophisticated their cultures are. A piece of batik, for example, is created by a number of artists who have to work for hours each day, drawing, painting, coloring and putting on hot wax,” he said. “Those fine batik pieces you’ll see on the catwalk are all the results of the efforts of the locals I’ve worked with for years.

Edo said his many travels throughout the archipelago, and the people he has met, have taught him to truly appreciate the simple things in life, which is reflected in the designs of his new collection.

“Really, I found true happiness in the simple things,” he said. “People may say the PARTONE [collection] is very expensive. Why is that? Because it is made with all my skill and experience, and because their money pays for me, not to buy a Jaguar or expensive watches, but to help explore this country, which is how I get my inspiration.”

Edo’s success means he has a lot of copycats. The designer said he knew many of his patterns had been ripped off, but instead of upsetting him, he said it made him happy. “I love it. I am happy that I can share with and, in a way, feed a lot of people,” he said. He added that he had at one point considered copyrighting his designs but changed his mind. “For me, it is a blessing. You have to be a trendsetter.”

“I am not a good businessman. In fact, I am not a businessman at all,” Edo added. “PARTONE is just one chapter. There are 999 others still to come. I just hope this country’s younger generation will be able to continue what I’ve started.”

source : thejakartaglobe

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