Jakarta. Jakarta is the main inspiration for designer Chitra Subyakto's new fabrics for her hip fashion label, Sejauh Mata Memandang, literally "as far as the eye can see."
Chitra unveiled the colorful, handwritten batik textiles with Jakarta landscape and clover leaf motifs at an exhibition in Jakarta Creative Hub, Central Jakarta, on Monday (17/4).
The new collection is called Jakarta Kita (Our Jakarta) and was made by housewives from low-cost government flats in Marunda, North Jakarta, in Pesakih, West Jakarta and in Pulo Gebang, East Jakarta.
The collaboration, which began earlier this year, is the fruit of the designer's labor with Jakarta's National Crafts Council (Dekranasda).
"I usually have to travel to Central Java to produce my fabrics, so I am happy that I can work with batik makers from Jakarta this time. It's more efficient and Jakarta is my hometown. These women are housewives, they weren't trained in batik craftsmanship, so it's really great that they were able to work on this collection," she said.
According to Chitra, Dekranasda has been conducting batik and embroidery workshops at the government flats in the past six months, during which the head of Dekranasda, Veronica Tan, the wife of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, expressed her desire to create a new batik motif.
"She wanted batik with new motifs inspired by Jakarta, but not the ubiquitous ondel-ondel (street puppets) or Monas (the National Monument)," Chitra said.
Chitra is known for incorporating natural landscapes in her collections. Her past works include fascinating patterns of seaweed farms, trees and flowers found on the walls of the Borobudur temple.
For the Jakarta Kita collection, Chitra turned to clover leaf, or Semanggi — also the name of a famous junction in the middle of the capital, and other Jakarta traffic marks for inspiration.
The clover leaf was also the main inspiration for former President Sukarno when he initiated the construction of the Semanggi junction prior to the 1962 Asian Games. The junction remains an icon of the capital city.
"The Semanggi junction is a symbol of unity, as it connects North, South, West and East Jakarta without traffic lights. And the Semanggi flyover project that is currently taking place has inspired me even more to create this collection," she said.
Some of the fabrics in the Jakarta Kita collection even bear the final design of the Semanggi flyover project, which adds a circle around the clover leaf design of the interchange.
"Inspiration can come from anywhere. I created my Noodle Bowl collection after looking at the bowls that we see everyday at street food vendors," she said.
Veronica said in a statement that the program aims to empower women living in the subsidized government flats.
"We teach more than just craftmanship. We wanted these women to learn entrepreneurship. It is our task to ensure that all Jakarta residents, especially women, have the skill to earn money for their families," she said.
Chitra said Sejauh is selling a small batch of handkerchiefs, scarves, fabrics and embroidered pillows from the Jakarta Kita collection at the exhibition. Prices vary from Rp 180,000 to over a million. More products will be available from Sejauh stockists soon.
All the fabrics created for the Jakarta Kita collection are currently on display at the Jakarta Creative Hub in Graha Niaga Thamrin in Central Jakarta. The exhibition runs until May 13.