Era Soekamto

Pro­pel­ling batik to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - News - +Se­bas­tian Par­togi

In­done­sians are right­fully proud that batik has been listed by UNESCO as part of the world’s in­tan­gi­ble her­itage. How­ever, the tex­tile has yet to achieve world­wide pop­u­lar­ity. This has been the driv­ing force be­hind Era Soekamto, the cre­ative di­rec­tor of the Iwan Tirta Pri­vate Col­lec­tion, as she sought to raise aware­ness among mem­bers of the Bri­tish pub­lic on the beauty and cul­tural sym­bols in­her­ent within the In­done­sian batik. “Some 90 per­cent of the lo­cal batik mar­ket con­sti­tutes In­done­sians. Ex­pa­tri­ates in In­done­sia, fur­ther­more, only choose to wear batik when they are meet­ing pub­lic of­fi­cials. Over­seas, the tex­tile has not been pop­u­lar, due to the ex­tremely long process re­quired to make it,” Era told J+ dur­ing an in­ter­view. Ac­cord­ing to Era, one of the first steps needed to in­tro­duce batik to an in­ter­na­tional pub­lic is to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the core In­done­sian cul­tural val­ues em­bed­ded within the Ja­vanese fash­ion sta­ple. “We have to com­mu­ni­cate to the in­ter­na­tional pub­lic that batik is a sa­cred art. We have to be able to tell the story be­hind the pat­terns and mo­tifs.” Era cites her col­lec­tion De­waraja as an ex­am­ple. The col­lec­tion was pre­sented at a mini-fash­ion show or­ga­nized dur­ing the re­cent trip made by an In­done­sian del­e­ga­tion to the UK. Era’s fash­ion la­bel fea­tures new de­signs in­spired by the orig­i­nal mo­tifs cre­ated by In­done­sia’s leg­endary batik mae­stro, the late Iwan Tirta. Era says that the pat­terns and mo­tifs in the col­lec­tion serve as sym­bols that lit­er­ally il­lus­trate the ideal Ja­vanese leader. “The con­cept is rooted in the wis­dom of the an­cient Ja­vanese king­doms, whereby as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of God on Earth, kings should em­anate a divine en­ergy of com­pas­sion and love in­stead of be­ing ego­cen­tric.” This con­cept of lead­er­ship re­mains rel­e­vant to­day, she says, as does lo­cal wis­dom about the con­cept of God that is epit­o­mized in many batik de­signs. Rais­ing aware­ness, how­ever, is def­i­nitely not enough to garner in­ter­na­tional-level suc­cess for hand­made batik, Era says. In­done­sia still has a lot of home­work to be done to at­tain that goal. “We have to cater to the de­mands of the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. To pro­duce 1,200 batik pieces per month you need to be very dis­ci­plined, aside from ac­tu­ally in­creas­ing your pro­duc­tion ca­pac­ity and the quan­tity of your hu­man re­sources.” Era also en­cour­aged In­done­sian batik de­sign­ers to forge part­ner­ships with prom­i­nent in­ter­na­tional fash­ion brands to gain more global pop­u­lar­ity for batik. “We can do what [the Ja­panese de­signer Takashi] Mu­rakami does,” she said, re­fer­ring to the de­signer’s 2015 col­lab­o­ra­tion with wildly pop­u­lar French fash­ion la­bel Louis Vuit­ton.

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