Lynda Ibrahim, Jakarta | Feature | Sat, March 07 2015
As you’re reading this column, Paris Fashion Week is in full swing. Closer to home last weekend, the fourth annual Indonesia Fashion Week was also in full swing.
While the main four — New York, London, Milan, Paris — run twice a year, Indonesia Fashion Week (IFW) and the older-by-three-years Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW) are held annually.
The main four fashion weeks have consistently maintained a crystal-clear platform: to project future fashion trends. They are currently showing Fall/Winter 2015-2016 collections.
The prime target audience is fashion journalists and critics with occasional invites to top department store execs, a very few loyal customers and, increasingly recently, media-courted celebrities.
What goes on the runway is the prime visual and main voice where, if you watch intently enough, magic happens — when clothing is turned into fashion. There are no commercial activities, corporate or retail, taking place during the main four fashion weeks.
Trade shows are organized for corporate buyers separately in much less glitzy set-ups, where designers negotiate terms armed with look books and pricing structures.
Once clothes are ordered, produced, and shipped to stores within four to five months, retailers may throw on-site trunk shows for end customers to induce purchases.
Indonesia doesn’t yet have an end-to-end fashion industry.
Our garment industry serves domestic and export markets that are almost divorced from local designers’ works, our local designers have yet to gain sure footing in our major retailers and our heritage textile artisans have acute problems crossing from ethnic to contemporary.
For these reasons alone, I understand the need to introduce commerce into Indonesia’s young fashion week tradition — with the condition that fashion remains upfront.
Yet center stage was not where fashion was during the last IFW, quite literally. Gone were the elegant, focal, vibe-creating fashion installations that used to greet visitors at the entrance and dotted the short walk to fashion shows in previous years.
This year runways and IFW-selected booths of showing designers plus other promising talents were pushed all the way to the back, past the halls cramped by side events and countless sellers brought by sponsors.
There were supposedly 2000-plus looks offered during 32 shows. Some of them were delightful, yet they were largely drowned by the clutter of other things going on at the same time — bazaars, seminars, event launches and whatnot.
There was a lot of noise, but not much voice. Is all lost for the IFW?
No, provided it evaluates the direction it wants to take for next year. Proclaiming itself a movement is a tall order that can only be accomplished with clear direction and well-defined actions.
Since I love fashion and appreciate the promise that IFW offers I’ll share my two cents here.
If the IFW wants to emphasize a bridge to commerce, then it shouldn’t shy from becoming a full-fledged trade event.
Forget fancy fashion shows, switch to trade shows and deal-making. Bring abundant potential buyers — department stores, private boutiques, online retailers, just to name a few — and coach designers to conduct business with them.
Most of the designers at the IFW didn’t even have look books and corporate price points, but some were ready to sell their show or sample pieces to end customers off the rack — none of which is standard practice for fashion buying.
Yet, if the IFW somehow still feels that retail activity should remain a sizable part of its frame, then it should put forward the collections of fashion designers.
Create a layout that allows visitors to actually see, breathe in and marvel at fashion, at least as a part of public education, instead of letting them brush elbows against foot-dragging shoppers and screaming children.
While partners and sponsors will understandably bring in their mentored SMEs, the IFW should be involved in curating those sellers.
As for the fashions presented, beyond dependable names like Ardistia New York and Jenahara, I reserve kudos for Sofie’s solid lines and unapologetically urbane collection; Korean designer Hong Hye Jin’s decidedly grown-up and un-KPop designs; the overall look offered by various ready-to-wear labels under Fashion First; and the exciting fact that refreshing men’s wear graced the IFW’s runways.
A special note for the sea of Muslim fashion shows flooding IFW 2015;
as much as I support the rise of Muslim fashion, I felt many of them should’ve first run their training wheels on smaller, category-specific events, such as the Indonesia Islamic Fashion Festival before being selected for a fashion week on the scale of IFW.
Again, I love fashion, I share the big dream, and I still believe IFW can take local designers onto global stage. But first and foremost, IFW must return the magic of a fashion week onto its own stage.
Lynda Ibrahim is a Jakarta-based writer with a penchant for purple, pussycats and pop culture. -