DA MAN - Style - - Designer -

Last Au­gust, renowned In­done­sian de­signer Edward Hutabarat held an ex­hi­bi­tion ti­tled “Tan­gan-Tan­gan Renta” (which lit­er­ally means “old hands”) cen­tered on the striped wo­ven fab­ric known as lurik. The ex­hi­bi­tion went on for a week fea­tur­ing sev­eral in­stal­la­tions, pho­tographs and videos about the tex­tile—the re­sult of seven years of re­search.

The ex­hi­bi­tion was opened by a fash­ion show fea­tur­ing the traditional tex­tile. None of the pieces on show, however, were sold to the gen­eral public. As a mat­ter of fact, Hutabarat no longer runs any bou­tiques and of­fers his works in a more per­son­al­ized, way. If you want to buy one of his pieces, you will need to come face-to-face with the spir­ited de­signer. And a short while ago, I had the op­por­tu­nity to do just that.

Ricky Ronaldo: Can you give us a brief in­tro to the “Tan­gan-Tan­gan Renta” show you did?

Edward Hutabarat: What I need peo­ple to un­der­stand is that the fash­ion show was not to sell my prod­ucts. There is only one piece each and the rea­son why I made them was to get peo­ple in­spired. That is the point of the show: You come, you see, you touch, you take pho­tos and you copy my de­sign. I tell them: “Here is a list of ad­dresses of all the peo­ple who make

lurik; don’t dis­turb me any­more about it be­cause I’m work­ing busy work­ing on an­other pro­ject.” Like that.

RR: What makes lurik so spe­cial to you?

EH: Lurik is part of the In­done­sia’s cul­ture and peo­ple wear it for cer­e­mo­nial du­ties. For ex­am­ple, dur­ing the birth­day of a palace—say, the ker­a­ton in Yo­gyakarta or Solo— ev­ery­body from the queen to the courtiers wear lurik. Such is the case with batik as well. It is not merely a traditional fab­ric—which is some­thing many In­done­sians don’t re­al­ize. They also have to be very care­ful in mak­ing it, mean­ing with a lot of re­search. They can’t sim­ply go to sev­eral ex­hi­bi­tions and buy 100 to 500 pieces of fab­ric, bring it to the fac­tory, and then make it. It has to be more than that.

RR: So was the show some sort of statement about how we are los­ing touch with our her­itage?

EH: Not only the show the other day but my en­tire 37-year ca­reer. I never make a statement. I make facts. Facts based on re­search at its roots. It’s not based on a book, tele­vi­sion or the In­ter­net be­cause I am a per­son who doesn’t like read­ing books. I also don’t like watch­ing movies, ex­cept doc­u­men­taries, be­cause when I see how mag­nif­i­cent a film is, in my head it’s al­ways en­gi­neered. I’m not say­ing that ev­ery peo­ple should be like me, but that’s just the way I am.

The way I al­ways see things and learn is al­ways through its roots. I know batik be­cause I see how peo­ple make batik, from the be­gin­ning till the end; how batik is used in events from wed­dings to death and birth. I am also very lucky in terms of batik be­cause I was trusted to dress Princess Mangkubumi, daugh­ter of Sul­tan Ha­mengkubu­wono X of Yo­gyakarta, back in 2002. I had the chance to see the “breath” of ke­baya, how they are worn within an en­vi­ron­ment where it was of the ut­most im­por­tance. This is why I am now a lit­tle bit un­mo­ti­vated to make

ke­baya, be­cause I see how it has be­come al­most cir­cus-like.

RR: Not in touch with its roots any­more, you mean?

EH: Not in touch with the phi­los­o­phy any­more. The number one phi­los­o­phy of ke­baya is symmetry, like a ki­mono. To know whether a ki­mono is classy or not


is not through the de­sign, but by the tex­tile. If you go to Ja­pan or China, you won’t see a cos­tume that’s asym­met­ri­cal. This is what I main­tain when I am mak­ing ke­baya. It’s not the dec­o­ra­tions I put in the clothes but the qual­ity of the batik, the qual­ity of the hand bind­ings and the thread that all needs to be made by hand to achieve the per­fect symmetry.

I don’t want to sell my clothes with a price tag, that’s why four years ago I closed all my shops. Be­cause for me, I want to sell my clothes like I’m sell­ing my paint­ings.

RR: So how long does it take for you to make a com­plete at­tire?

EH: I never keep count. [ Laughs] Just un­til I say it’s nice. So, what it means for me to be mod­ern is, first, simplicity. Number two is qual­ity. And number three is cov­er­ing it by iden­tity. I play with these three an­gles.

RR: Where do you usually look for in­spi­ra­tion?

EH: From Sa­bang un­til Mer­auke. Ba­si­cally any­time and any­place. Many jour­nal­ists ask me where my in­spi­ra­tion come from but I can­not an­swer this ques­tion. Just go to the depths of Waka­tobi, go with a plane from Bali to Ku­pang then to the Bima is­lands, then drive un­til you reach Sum­bawa, all of it are beaches, then you can make a statement that In­done­sia is a mas­ter­piece of God. You need any proof? From my 20 years of travel across In­done­sia I have 200,000 pho­tos and 10,000 me­men­tos, one of them be­ing lurik. But I play with it by mod­ern­iz­ing it.

RR: Do you re­lease your clothes by season?

EH: Nothing. I do what I want. I don’t care. I’m not Dior or Issey Miyake who are chased ev­ery year to launch a collection. I do what I like now.

RR: What ad­vice could you give to peo­ple who want to fol­low in your foot­steps?

EH: Love your work. Your work has to make you happy. That is what liv­ing is all about. So, the ex­hi­bi­tion yes­ter­day was to con­vey that in­spi­ra­tion. That’s why my tar­get was young adults, to show them how can they be creative but mod­ern. That is the point of lurik the other day. This is why I spread the ad­dresses of lurik man­u­fac­tur­ers to all the vis­i­tors of the ex­hi­bi­tion.

RR: It seems that the ex­hi­bi­tion was less about fash­ion and more about art...

EH: Yes. Art, fash­ion and hu­mans. It’s about time that I talk about hu­mans be­cause for me to be hu­man is to be able to give and for­give. This is my good karma. That is the uni­ver­sal re­li­gion for me: The won­der of giv­ing and the beauty of for­give­ness, unity of the world. This life is a jour­ney not a bat­tle. So, that’s why I did the ex­hi­bi­tion and why my In­sta­gram name is “Edo – The Jour­ney.” From the clothes to any­thing I make, that’s my jour­ney.

RR: Are you cur­rently work­ing on a collection?

EH: If I feel like it. When you love some­thing, you’ll never let it go. Just don’t be sur­prised if sud­denly next month I make an ex­hi­bi­tion about gethuk [a Ja­vanese snack made from cas­sava] or cof­fee, or­anges or or­chids. Mil­len­ni­als now need in­for­ma­tion and in­spi­ra­tion that is alive. This is what I want to show­case. It’s not fun if we don’t get to touch or see.

RR: How do you see Edward Hutabarat, as in the brand, in the fu­ture?

EH: I don’t know. Just wait. I never make plans but I’m al­ways there. For me, now, ev­ery day is a hol­i­day. You want to buy my stuff, that’s okay. But you’re not buy­ing just merely an ob­ject, you are buy­ing a story. Ev­ery piece I sell, whether it’s clothes or a barrel, has a story. It does not merely hap­pen.

Like the stripes on the edge of my batiks which is the sig­na­ture of Edward Hutabarat. That is my iden­tity. There’s no need to make a belt, or put this, that and ev­ery­thing else. It’s all too com­pli­cated. Be­cause I know those who do that didn’t do their re­search. It’s just like a crazy per­son for me, be­cause there is no story behind it or a phi­los­o­phy. You know Viviene West­wood? Look how she dresses the same way as her run­way shows. Look at Ghea Pang­gabean: Her clothes are the same as what you seen on the run­way. That’s a real de­signer. If the de­signer’s clothes are not the same as the clothes in their collection, then they’re fake.

RR: Does that mean that you don’t fol­low con­tem­po­rary trends? EH: I’m some­one who makes trends. We have to be the trend­set­ter and not fol­low it.


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