Edward Hutabarat: Maestro of Batik

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EDWARD Hutabarat is a leading Indonesian designer whose creations incorporate a local concept. He is striving to enhance the image of batik-wear as internationally accepted fashion and batik garments for both summer and spring wear in the United States, Japan and Europe.

Based on this dream, Edward Hutabarat has established a second label called Part One Edward Hutabarat. He hopes Part One Edward Hutabarat, which is located in Pacific Place, can turn into a venue for dialogue, the sharing of ideas and experiences for those who love Indonesian culture. Edward, whose friends call him Edo, is confident that batik can compete with foreign fabrics or fashion at any time.

“A major nation like Indonesia has a unique character and so does its fashion. To me, fashion is an integral part of one’s lifestyle. So, fashion is more than a garment and its related accessories; it is connected to the life surrounding it, for example, food, toiletries and so forth,” Edo explained.

He said that just like in other countries, fashion has become a major industry in Indonesia. However, it is definitely a highly competitive business, although as a professional businessman he does not worry too much about the competition. Edo, who has Tarutung blood running through his veins, is fully aware that many of his creations are copied by garment vendors and other designers. But he is not bothered by this as he feels delighted when his work and ideas are used by many designers and brings them benefits.

“It’s not only about my ideas being stolen but I actually expect that today’s batik movement can have a positive impact on the lives or livelihoods of batik makers because we must be concerned about their incomes,” Edo explained when met at his house in South Jakarta.

Edo added that they are not properly rewarded or appreciated by the Indonesian government even though they play a major role in preserving batik. He hopes that on the third commemoration of National Batik Day, the President and First Lady will provide them with appropriate rewards as an indication of the government’s appreciation for their work and creations, especially the batik makers who have dedicated their lives to batik making for more than 20 years. The appreciation could be in the form of an official photograph of the President and First Lady expressing gratitude for their dedication in the world of Indonesian batik.

Edo has had a long career in the world of fashion: Not less than 30 years. So it is only natural that his revolutionary activities in the fashion industry here include efforts to make batik famous worldwide. This can be seen in his boutique on the first floor of Pacific Place, Jakarta called Part One Edward Hutabarat, where a wide range of modern batik outfits are displayed in a large space.

The boutique is unique as it is very comfy and artistic, with its décor including products from over the country. Such a concept has always drawn the attention of many people that visit Part One Edward Hutabarat.

Speaking about the way to make modern and elegant batik outfits, Edo has his own unique method to transform batik into simple wear as can be seen from the items in his collection, which are light, relaxing, open, multifunctional and colorful.

The bespeckled designer constantly presents new ideas and new alternatives by incorporating batik in bags, shoes, slippers and jewelry. This way batik can stand equal to foreign fashion that competes in the domestic garment market. “I am neither Valentino nor John Galiano. I am simply Edward Hutabarat, who keeps striving to further develop Indonesian fashion using my own barometer and perspective. Thus the batik of Part One Edward Hutabarat appropriately matches Hermès, Dior, Armani bags and jelly shoes from Marc Jacobs as well as Manolo Blahnik. That was my idea when I established the second line of Part One Edward Hutabarat. Because we live in a globalized world, we must always be ready to blend our batik with all sorts of imported articles that can be easily found in all malls in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta,” he added.

This reality means that it is time for batik to have a more modern image or appearance for various outfits, such as resort-wear, beachwear, office-wear, cocktail dresses and even evening gowns.

Basically, Edo wants Indonesians to know more about batik, meaning not only about the material piece by piece but actually learning directly about the life stories behind the making of batik. Batik is not merely the physical form of the uniquely Indonesian fabric and clothes, but within it there is a very long process, esthetical taste that involves the makers’ emotions as each stroke or drawing made by the maker using the small dipper or canting involves his or her emotions fully and also incorporates many aspects of life, culture and environment.

To deepen his knowledge of batik, Edo frequently travels all over Indonesia to cities that produce batik so that he can become fully aware of the makers’ lives and the root of batik making. He also wants Indonesians or consumers to appreciate batik not only for its physical form but also because of knowledge of the makers’ lifestyles, such as the scenic panoramas, culinary, traditions and other aspects of each region. “Indonesia has a diverse culture. So seeing the art of making batik right from the start or its roots will deepen one’s appreciation and love for batik,” said Edo.

Edo, who is the seventh child in his family, added that today batik is not only worn for traditional ceremonies but it has also turned into a national identity or icon. He says one should also know its history, motifs and the method of manufacturing batik. “Each motif has a deep meaning and each batik-producing region has its own unique designs,” said the renowned designer.

To Edo, batik is not merely just a piece of fabric. So it is only natural that a piece of fine batik can cost millions of rupiah due to its long manufacturing process, in which it sometimes takes two years to make one piece of batik. The manufacturing also involves a lot of manpower. Becoming a highly professional batik maker or a maestro of batik takes at least 20 years.

Edo said that we should be aware of all such factors to better understand batik and everything that is related to batik. One has also to be a smart person. But in reality only foreigners are capable of understanding and can truly appreciate a piece of Indonesian batik.

Edo wanted to share the story of the making process of batik gentongan or a container or a vessel that looks like a drum using natural coloring materials in Tanjung Bumi, Madura, East Java. The cloth for the batik is immersed or soaked for six months in a gentong (drum) with teak leaves to get bright red and indigo blue. “To me, such batik fabric would be inexpensive if it cost Rp 3 million (US$336). Just imagine the long and complicated process it takes to make batik gentongan — at least six months by those who draw the motif, color it and remove the wax in extremely hot water. So can we calculate how much each batik maker makes every month?” he asked.

That is just one story about batik manufacturing in Indonesia as there are many others, such as the batik made in Cirebon, Pekalongan, Tuban, Kudus, Yogyakarta, Surakarta, Jambi and a number of other cities. Each batik maker has his or her own unique motif and a different method that is simply incomparable. (Satria Rangga Fausta)

The Jakarta Post, November 13, 2010

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