Coming together for fashion issue

Sylviana Hamdani

ANN/ THE JAKARTA POST – The pandemic has hit the fashion industry hard. As the government encourages everyone to stay at home to remain safe, people have less need for new clothes, bags, shoes and other fashion items – which has resulted in plummeting sales.

“Between March and July, a lot of (fashion) events were cancelled,” National Chairman of the Indonesian Fashion Chamber (IFC) Ali Charisma told The Jakarta Post. IFC is one of the largest fashion associations in Indonesia. “Many of our members experienced a sharp drop in their sales, of around 60 per cent,” Ali added.

When all the shops and malls in Surabaya, East Java, were closed, Aldrie Indrayana, a fashion designer from the city, also experienced a drop in sales of his menswear brand Aldré.

“My collections have cutting-edge designs,” Aldrie explained. “My customers usually like to try them on before deciding to buy. When all the shops and malls were closed, my sales dropped down to 50 per cent.”

Fashion designers are not the only ones in trouble. As fashion is a highly labour-intensive industry, small-scale producers such as batik artisans and traditional textile weavers have also struggled to survive.

Models showcasing Muslim attires by IFC designers at the press conference of Muffest 2020. PHOTOS: THE JAKARTA POST

“Many (of) my suppliers confided that they had lost 100 per cent of their source of income during the pandemic,” Riri Rengganis, a fashion designer from Bandung, West Java, said.

Riri buys her textiles directly from traditional batik artisans and weavers in Baduy, Cirebon, Pekalongan, Klaten, Kupang, Sumba, Yogyakarta and many other parts of Indonesia.

“Most of (the batik artisans and traditional textile weavers) don’t understand the Internet and solely depend on direct sales to tourists and fashion designers,” Riri added. “But during the pandemic, tourists were not allowed to come and fashion designers were not buying new supplies.”

Riri herself has also experienced an 80 per cent drop in sales during the pandemic.

A SILVER LINING

Every cloud has a silver lining. During a meeting held by the Trade Ministry in Jakarta early this year, Ali became acquainted with representatives of the Indonesian Diaspora Business Council (IDBC).

The IDBC is a non-profit organisation that fosters trade and business connections between Indonesia and the countries where diaspora reside.

After a short discussion, the IDBC agreed to promote products by Indonesian fashion designers and help them go global. On August 12, they signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) that cemented their collaboration.

“This collaboration opens doors of opportunities for both our organisations,” Chairwoman of the IDBC Fify Manan said during the MoU signing ceremony on Zoom on August 12. “There are over 12 million [in the] Indonesian diaspora across the globe now. Together, we can achieve a lot for Indonesian fashion.”

IDBC TRADELINK

One of the facilities that the diaspora organisation provides for IFC members and their partners is the IDBC Tradelink. The website is both a platform that showcases Indonesian products, as well as a business directory of Indonesian fashion designers and entrepreneurs.

“At the moment, we’re still focussing on Indonesian fashion and food and beverage products (on the IDBC Tradelink),” IDBC Vice President Astrid Vasile said.

Through the MoU, the IDBC has appointed the IFC as the curator for the Indonesian fashion designers to be featured on the IDBC Tradelink.

“We’ve carefully curated the list of designers, so that only those that are reputable and ready to export will be featured on the IDBC Tradelink,” Ali said.

So far, approximately 30 Indonesian fashion designers have been featured on the website. All of them showcase photos of their collections, a brief profile of their business, their website and contact details.

“The IDBC Tradelink is like a shop’s windows,” IDBC Australia Deputy Regional Director Diski Naim, who developed the online platform, said. The “Indonesian diaspora and buyers can see Indonesian fashion products on the website, read their profiles and contact them directly if they want to buy”.

This website is also easily accessible on mobile phones.

As both the IDBC and the IFC are non-profit organisations, all these services are provided to eligible fashion designers for free.

“I think the IDBC Tradelink will be very helpful for both Indonesian designers and diasporas,” Aldrie said.

“I used to live abroad and had a hard time finding batik or tenun (weaved) attire to attend formal functions,” the designer, who studied fashion at The Fashion Institute in Sydney and Central Saint Martins in London, said.

“Back then, I had to ask my friends and relatives to find these attires for me. They had to buy, pack and send them to me. It was a lot of hassle. With this platform, (the) Indonesian diaspora can easily browse the collections of Indonesian fashion designers and contact them directly if they see anything that they like.”

In addition to the business directory, the IDBC Tradelink also features events held by the IFC and featuring IFC designers, such as the Indonesia Sharia Economic Festival (ISEF) on October 25-30 and Muslim Fashion Festival (Muffest) early next year.

“Approximately 30 IFC designers will showcase their collections during ISEF,” Ali Charisma said.

A DISCUSSION FORUM

Besides a business directory and a platform for promotion, the IDBC Tradelink also offers a discussion forum, in which Indonesian fashion designers and the diaspora may exchange information.

“Indonesian diasporas, for example, can give hints of what’s currently trending in their country, as well as their import regulations,” Astrid said. “And all the discussions will be held in Indonesian, which is our mother tongue. So, it’ll be very convenient for both (Indonesian fashion designers and diasporas).”

Astrid, who owns a construction business in Perth, Australia, has resided in the country for 23 years. She is also the founder and executive chair of Australia-Indonesia Businesswomen’s Network (AIBN).