Sylviana Hamdani (Jakarta Post)
Sat 16 October 2021
The pandemic has hit the fashion industry hard. As the government encourages everyone to stay home to stay safe, people have less need for new clothes, bags, shoes and other fashion items, which has led to a drop in sales.
“Between March and July, many [fashion] the events have been cancelled,” said Ali Charisma, National Chairman of the Indonesian Fashion Chamber (IFC), one of the largest fashion associations in Indonesia. Jakarta Post. “A lot of our members have seen a big drop in sales, around 60%,” Ali added.
When all stores and malls in Surabaya, East Java were closed, Aldrie Indrayana, a fashion designer in 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 before they decide to buy. When all the stores and malls were closed, my sales dropped to 50%.”
Fashion designers aren’t the only ones struggling. As fashion is a labor-intensive industry, small producers such as batik artisans and traditional textile weavers have also struggled to survive.
“Many [of] my suppliers told me that they lost 100% of their source of income during the pandemic,” said Riri Rengganis, a fashion designer from Bandung, West Java.
Riri sources its textiles directly from traditional batik artisans and weavers in Baduy, Cirebon, Pekalongan, Klaten, Kupang, Sumba, Yogyakarta and many other parts of Indonesia.
Struggling: Riri Rengganis (center) poses with models after a recent fashion show. (Riri Rengganis) (Personal collection/Riri Rengganis)
“The most of [the batik artisans and traditional textile weavers] don’t understand the internet and rely solely on direct sales to tourists and fashion designers,” Riri added. “But during the pandemic, tourists weren’t allowed to come and fashion designers weren’t buying new supplies.”
Riri herself has also seen an 80% drop in sales during the pandemic.
A silver lining
Each cloud has a silver line. During a meeting organized by the Ministry of Commerce in Jakarta earlier this year, Ali got to know representatives of the Indonesian Diaspora Business Council (IDBC).
The IDBC is a non-profit organization that promotes trade and business relations between Indonesia and the countries where the diaspora resides.
After a brief discussion, IDBC agreed to promote the products of 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 opportunity for both of our organizations,” said Fify Manan, President of IDBC, during the MoU signing ceremony on Zoom on August 12. “There are more than 12 million [in the] Indonesian Diaspora across the world now. Together we can do a lot for Indonesian fashion.
IDBC Trade Link
One of the facilities that the Diaspora organization provides to 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 are still focusing on Indonesian fashion, food and beverage products (on IDBC Tradelink),” said Astrid Vasile, Vice President of IDBC.
Through the MoU, IDBC has appointed IFC as the custodian of Indonesian fashion designers to be listed on IDBC Tradelink.
“We have carefully curated the list of designers, so only those who are reputable and export-ready will be featured on IDBC Tradelink,” Ali said.
Ready for it: A Muslim outfit by an IFC designer shown at the Muffest 2020 press conference. Photo taken February 4, 2020. (JP/Sylviana Hamdani) (JP/Sylviana Hamdani)
So far, about 30 Indonesian fashion designers have been featured on the website. All feature photos of their collections, a brief company profile, website, and contact information.
“IDBC Tradelink is like the windows of a store,” said Diski Naim, deputy regional manager of IDBC Australia who developed the online platform. 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 IDBC and IFC are not-for-profit organizations, all of these services are provided free of charge to eligible fashion designers.
“I think the IDBC Tradelink will be very useful for Indonesian designers and diasporas,” Aldrie said.
“Before, I was living abroad and it was difficult to find batik or hold [weaved] attire for attending formal functions,” said the designer, who studied fashion at the Fashion Institute in Sydney and Central Saint Martins in London. “At the time, I had to ask my friends and family to get me these outfits. They had to buy them, package them and send them to me. It was a lot of hassle. With this platform, [the] The Indonesian diaspora can easily browse the collections of Indonesian fashion designers and contact them directly if they see something they like.
In addition to the Business Directory, IDBC Tradelink also features IFC-organized events featuring IFC designers, such as the upcoming Indonesia Sharia Economic Festival (ISEF) from October 25-30 and the Festival of Muslim fashion (Muffest) early next year.
“About 30 IFC designers will showcase their collections at ISEF,” said Ali Charisma.
A discussion forum
Along with a business directory and promotion platform, the IDBC Tradelink also offers a discussion forum, where Indonesian fashion designers and the diaspora can exchange information.
“Indonesian diasporas, for example, can give clues about current trends in their country, as well as their import regulations,” Astrid said. “And all discussions will be in Indonesian, which is our mother tongue. So it will be very convenient for both [Indonesian fashion designers and diasporas].”
Astrid, who owns a construction company in Perth, Australia, has resided in the country for 23 years. She is also the Founder and Executive Chair of the Australian and Indonesian Businesswomen’s Network (AIBN).
A helpful tip from Astrid based on the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), was that almost all products, including fashion, from Indonesia enjoy free import duties.
“It’s an interesting fact for anyone looking to export their products to Australia,” Astrid said.
To kick off their collaboration, IDBC and IFC launched a series of Diaspora Talks on Zoom.
“As they say, ‘tak kenal maka tak sayang'” (if you don’t know him, you won’t like him), Astrid said. “Many of us don’t really know about the latest fashion developments in Indonesia, and vice versa. Therefore, we will organize these Diaspora Talks to get to know each other.
The first Diaspora Talk, held on Zoom on September 29, discussed the modest fashion industry in the Middle East and Africa, showcasing the fashion communities and business catalysts of these country.
The second conference on October 7 focused on sustainable markets in Europe, also featuring fashion communities and business enablers from France and the Netherlands.
Two more Diaspora Talks are planned, discussing the modest clothing industry in the United States, followed by spring fashion trends in Australia and New Zealand. Yuyun Harper, an Indonesian fashion designer and business catalyst living in Perth, is due to speak at the event.
“We hope that business relationships will occur during these talks,” Astrid said.
Riri feels excited about the collaboration between IDBC and IFC.
The “Indonesian diaspora is like our representatives abroad,” the fashion designer said. “When they see and like our creations, they become our customers. Sooner or later, they will also promote our products to their friends, colleagues and customers in their countries. And maybe they will also become our business partners.