An Indonesian identity
Rattan, a plant that grows in abundance in Indonesia, is often seen as a cheap and seasonal material. However, Indonesian-born product designer Alvin Tjitrowirjo, founder of design firm Alvin-t Studio and furniture brand Alvin-t, sees it as an undervalued material that is worth a fiveyear promotional campaign.
“We continuously reinterpret the Indonesian identity through a contemporary approach,” he says of his firm’s mission. “Part of our latest five-year campaign is to promote rattan as a beautiful but under-valued material. In 2015, we’re exploring the material’s potential and working on design ideas to make pieces that are more practical and domestic compared to our previous collections, which could be seen more as standalone sculptural pieces.”
Tjitrowirjo is a graduate of RMIT University in Australia who has always had a penchant for art and design. Upon graduating, he joined the Melbourne Movement, an organisation that promotes young Australian designers. It was during this period that his Bell Chair was selected and exhibited at Salone Satellite in Milan in 2005. After returning to Indonesia in 2006, Tjitrowirjo caused a buzz by staging collaborations with local and international brands, as well as leading Indonesian design figures. He then continued his studies at the IED Instituto Europeo di Design in Madrid, Spain, gaining a Master’s degree in Product Design. Soon after his time in Europe, which included a stint with the celebrated Dutch designer Marcel Wanders in Amsterdam, Tjitrowirjo set up Alvin-t in Jakarta. In 2010 and 2011, with support from the Indonesian Ministry of Trade, his designs were exhibited at Harrods in London.
Looking back on 2014, Tjitrowirjo says: “Internationally, we’ve had a great year with a successful exhibition in Bangkok.” His Linger Bench was selected to become part of the permanent collection of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, Korea, along with works by design legends such as Philippe Starck, Ron Arad and Alvar Aalto. “Apart from that, our design firm started working on the interiors of a hotel in Bali and a number of exciting F&B outlet interiors for Ismaya Group, such as Magnum Cafe in Pondok Indah Mall 2 and Colette Lola cake shop in Mall Kelapa Gading,” says the designer. Besides Alvin-t’s capsule collection of home wares and tableware, Alvin-t has three product lines: Alvin-t Editions, which features premium hand-made furniture; Alvin-t, which conveys a contemporary attitude towards practical domestic furnishing, organic silhouettes and neutral tones; and Everyday by Alvin-t, a collection of simple and practical designs. Alvin-t’s 2014/2015 collection is inspired by Indonesia’s tropical ambience and a cool Nordic outlook on design.
It’s ironic that Tjitrowirjo, who has distinguished himself by remaining truthful to his Indonesian heritage, is more popular overseas than he is at home. “We are somehow more appreciated overseas than locally,” he notes. “I would like to see wider acceptance and higher appreciation for our products in the local market. We opened a showroom in Kebayoran Baru in 2014, and we want to start showcasing new products as well as some exciting collaborations that will hopefully feed the design-hungry market segment here. We are expanding our brand coverage through several department stores locally, as well as potentially opening an outlet in Bali.”
Tjitrowirjo’s choices of materials and his involvement in the preservation of the local heritage reflect his love and respect for the Indonesian tradition. Beyond that, his breadth of work shows that “design is more than mere ornamentation - that it can be an integral, interactive part of people’s lives.” Placing a strong emphasis on creating a distinct brand of design that draws from the country’s centuries-old love of art and by employing Indonesian artisans and craftsmen, the designer has continued to spread his influence across the local design scene.
“As a brand we have had a healthy, steady growth rate, as there’s a growing market that’s starting to appreciate the value of owning locally made designer furniture,” says the designer. “This gives me faith towards what I do.
Tjitrowirjo’s choices of materials and his involvement in preserving the local heritage reflect his love of Indonesian tradition
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