Didiet Maulana on IKAT Indonesia and His Love for Tenun Ikat

DA MAN talks to IKAT Indonesia’s Didiet Maulana to learn more about the brand, the latest collection and the special fabric behind it: tenun ikat. 

Photo from Didiet Maulana’s archive.

Established in 2011, IKAT Indonesia encapsulates and reinvents the ideas of how the young generation can preserve Indonesian culture through the nation’s legacy of weaving in the fashion industry. Furthermore, it seeks to promote curated, well-designed fashion items by local artisans. And behind the brand is none other than designer extraordinaire Didiet Maulana. His focus has always been at delivering the designs that everyone can wear and appreciate. His dedication, presence and vision have always delighted fashion enthusiasts from all over the archipelago … and also beyond. In his chat with DA MAN, the creative director touches on the history of the brand, zooms in on menswear and the brand’s latest collection.

DA MAN: Hi, Didiet; thank you for having us! How are you?
Didiet Maulana: I’m currently busy preparing for the latest IKAT Indonesia collection and also preparing a collaboration design with Garuda Indonesia which will be launching soon.

DA: First, we want to take our readers back to the start. Can you tell us a bit about how IKAT Indonesia began?
DM: IKAT Indonesia was established in 2011. In the beginning, we started from a ready-to-wear collection for women. Then, a year later, the menswear collection was born with Nicholas Saputra as my muse at that time. After that, we also have a made-to-order premium brand named Swarna by IKAT Indonesia. Three years later, in 2014, we launched Sarupa by IKAT Indonesia, a brand that specializes in uniforms. We have made uniforms for many hospitality and corporate establishments like BCA, then the Shangri-La Hotel and many more.

DA: What’s the story behind IKAT Indonesia?
DM: Back in 2010, there were a lot of angry protests on social media when batik was claimed by other countries. My reaction, though, was to get to work. At the time, what went through my mind was that I wanted the younger generations to know what it is that the country has and I wanted to introduce it through culture—especially in terms of lifestyle. It took one year of research, and following that, in 2011 we launched a ready-to-wear collection that incorporated tenun ikat, a traditional woven fabric.

“What makes it special is that there is a story behind each pattern … and that is also what makes it beautiful”

DA: To appreciate tenun ikat one really needs to understand the intricacies of how this kind of fabric is made. Can you elaborate on how this is done by IKAT Indonesia?
DM: The making of tenun ikat relies on traditional methods. But we are here to combine it with patterns that play with scale, which are inspired by patterns or motifs that exist in various regions. Furthermore, we collaborate with local craftsmen and make it look more modern, not only in terms of pattern but also color.

DA: So, what makes it special?
DM: What makes it special is that there is a story behind each pattern … and that is also what makes it beautiful. It’s not just the end product that’s interesting, but also the story in how it came to be.

DA: Moving on to earlier this year, if we’re not mistaken, you threw a show in London titled “Senandung Nusantara” for the “An Indonesian Cultural Late” at The London Book Fair. What’s the story behind your participation there?
DM: We were invited by the Indonesian committee and I was chosen as one of the curators for the fashion sector at this year’s The London Book Fair. Then we brought some of IKAT Indonesia’s collections and held a show there. The show itself was hosted by the National Organising Committee of Indonesia and BEKRAF (the Indonesian Agency for Creative Economy). At that time, “Senandung Nusantara” highlighted a collection made of Sumbanese fabric and what made this event even more special is none other than the fact that Wiwied Muljana, who incidentally is my muse, flew there to support us and also to model for the show.

DA: How was the response from the audience?
DM: The response was great. The visitors were very interested, especially with the patterns, as well as the processes and the stories behind them. Aside to that, a couple of days on the show, I hosted a workshop with the Indonesian Embassy in the United Kingdom about how to wear and how to mix and match the fabric with what they have there. It was very interesting to see the enthusiasm of the visitors.

DA: Now, let’s head back to the present and talk about your current collection, “Binar Mentari.” Any particular reason why you named it that?
DM: I divided IKAT Indonesia’s collection into two big seasons. The one for spring/summer we called “Mentari” or the sun. The second one for fall/winter we called “Purnama” or the full moon. The “Binar Mentari” collection is part of “Mentari.” The reason why I named it “Binar Mentari”—which means sunlight—is because it comes with the hope that it radiates optimism and good wishes everybody. I want the collection to shine.

DA: What’s the main story that you want to tell with this new collection?
DM: That I want the young generation always to be optimistic, always believe in what they want to do. We want to spread kindness and optimism. That’s why the colors on the collection are so vibrant and the shapes are flexible.

IKAT Indonesia by Didiet Maulana’s collection / Photography Tony Narotama / Styling Peter Zewet / Styling Assistant Jerdi Anarchi / Styling Interns Salsabila Asy-Syifa and Fitria Ayunisa GROOMING Arimbi MODEL Arthur carvalho da silva/emodel the agency, Lucho Moroz/Gustav models Location The Parama Creative Space

DA: Any particular reasons behind your choice of these hues?
DM: For me, the color palette represents the season, the sun and also the sense of optimism.

DA: There was also a swimwear piece and a scarf in “Binar Mentari” if we’re not mistaken…
DM: Both of them were a special touch in this collection and, surprisingly, these items became one of the most sought after by our clients and influencers.

DA: By the way, do you still remember the first tenun ikat piece you owned?
DM: My first tenun ikat was given by my mom to me back in 2008. She got back from Lombok and then she handed to me this very beautiful Lombok ikat. Then, I created a design by turning it into a dress for her to wear. Surprisingly, I got many compliments on it. It was very nice.

DA: What is the most challenging or memorable piece you have designed so far?
DM: The most memorable pieces are the collaborations that we did with international brands, such as Starbucks, Disney, and TUMI. And then, the design that we made for international events like The World Bank Meeting (The Annual Meetings for the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund) in Bali and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation).

DA: Do you approach menswear design differently from womenswear for IKAT Indonesia?
DM: I only design what I can wear and I love something easy to wear and suitable for a tropical climate like Indonesia. For menswear, it was fun because I can imagine who can wear it.

DA: Last but not least, do you think that men are more daring today when it comes to trying different shapes and colors? And how do you respond to that change through your design?
DM: I think that now, men are free and more expressive with what they wear. So, it doesn’t have to be dark colors for men; now they are more daring when it comes to picking vibrant colors. Bomber jackets, shirts and outerwear are now also in great demand among men. How do I respond that? We launched a very sexy yet masculine board short with vibrant colors and it sold like hotcakes. The ultimate key is to keep it simple and wearable.