Indonesia Design - Defining Luxury

A Silk Pioneer

- ST ORY BY Mikee Sadler P HOT OS BY Bagus Tri Laksono

Getting to know Baron Manansang, a legend in fabric industry.

Baron Manansang is known in the country as the inventor of the beautiful Tenun Baron, a type of highqualit­y silk fabric that is now used and appreciate­d by many. Indonesia Design had the privilege of speaking to him at his store in Mitra Hadiprana to talk about his life story.

What is your background?

I’m actually not a university graduate. I did study archaeolog­y for a short period of time. Then I did a course in Japan that specialise­d in ceramics. At that time I was already fascinated by ancient Indonesian art, such as the fabrics and other artefacts. That’s when I started collecting art and fabric from all over Indonesia. After learning all about Indonesian fabric I started to wonder why Indonesia didn’t have its own form of silk. That’s why in 1975 I started to make silk using a hand weaving machine in Solo. At that time in Java, no one knew how to make silk. During those days, silk was considered as an unfinished product because people here didn’t know how to treat it well. And the locals didn’t have enough knowledge on how to do it. So I started teaching people how to make silk. From harvesting the cocoon, then cooking it to get rid of the sericin in order to get the good silk.

What was silk originally used for in Indonesia?

Silk was often used in Indonesia as a fabric for sarongs. They actually used spun silk, made out of waste silk from a very short yarn. They mix it in order to make a long yarn. What I make is filament silk, made with long fibres that is higher in quality and is more smooth.

Throughout your career, what has your specialty been?

I started making silk in 1975, but in the mid-1980’s I stopped for a long time. I started again in 1996 and started producing different silk textures that still didn’t exist in Indonesia at that time. This type of textured silk is now known as the Baron fabric. I actually have the copyright for that type of specific fabric. Now, everybody makes this fabric and knows it as the Baron fabric, it’s really great.

Why did you decide to focus on silk and weaving?

Because a lot of old Indonesian fabrics are hand woven. We have that skill in this country. But the skill was not fully developed as they only made lurik or sarongs at the time. Like in Sulawesi, they used to only make very short, 40cm-wide weaves. I make 150cm-wide weaves. They also used to only use backstrap loom, which is a primitive method of weaving. The technique I use is the same as how Thai silk is made, using the same materials. When I first started I bought the materials from all over the world. But of course, when teaching the locals here, I had to adjust and work with what we had.

Now, you make a wide variety of silk in different colours and designs. What is your inspiratio­n behind these designs?

I get inspired by everything around me. I see paintings, I see trees, nature, art. I wanted to make a big collection of fabrics that will match everyone.

What collaborat­ions have you done?

I have done a few shows with Biyan, a famous Indonesian fashion label. We started collaborat­ing over 20 years ago. I don’t collaborat­e very often as I make a very specific type of fabric. If I do decide to make a new type of fabric… we’ll see!

Where can people find your products?

I have only one store, and it’s right here in Mitra Hadiprana. Hendra Hadiprana really believed in my work. I knew him for a very long time, and when I started making fabric again in the 1990s, I met with him and showed him my fabric, and he gave this space for me to sell my products. Apart from this store I also have an agent who sells my products for me.

What is your hope for the future of Indonesian silk?

Right now, the market is very small in Indonesia. We are in the process of producing and selling our own yarn, as right now it is still imported from other countries. I currently teach farmers on how to cultivate their own yarn so that we can start selling it in the future. I hope that Indonesia will one day be exporting fabric to other countries and the world will get to know the beauty of our fabric.

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02 His silk fabrics come in different colours and patterns s 03&04
The Tenun Baron store at Mitra Hadiprana Boutique Mall
01 Baron Manansang 02 His silk fabrics come in different colours and patterns s 03&04 The Tenun Baron store at Mitra Hadiprana Boutique Mall
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