Who would have thought that patrolling Jakarta's most glamorous shopping centers to investigate the latest fashion designs could put such a dampener on your spirits?
Instead of stumbling across the "it-item" of the season, we found ourselves boxed into a maze of row after row of deathly boring clothing. And once into this maze, it seemed there was no coming out.
Sure those candy-colored stilettos, black-and-white cropped jackets (think 60s) and high-waisted skirts will get a lot of attention from the fashionistas, but that's all there is to it. Fashion has merely become a medium to broadcast one's lifestyle.
It is always fun to look back at the times when fashion still dared to be revolutionary; when the world was shocked, for instance, by Coco Chanel and her modern "vulgarity"; when Dior introduced the "new look" during World War II; when the 60s saw the birth of Mary Quant's miniskirts. Or the time when Vivienne Westwood (and Malcolm McLaren) seasoned fashion with insanity and became responsible for the punk and anti-fashion epidemic in the 70s. These revolutionary icons -- most were not exactly young when they brought fashion to a defining stage -- created key moments in their exploration of the fountain of youth.
Although not well known enough internationally to be regarded as icons, a number of Indonesian designers have been successful at shaking up the country's fairly relaxed fashion scene once in a while.
Sally Koeswanto, for example -- the rebel who shocked us with her "Masquerade Rhapsody" pieces in 2006. Biyan Wanaatmadja and Johannes Ekawan Yunarko are among a few other names from the older generation who may be "hip at heart" but never really went out on a limb.
Sadly, most of the senior designers have been so consistently uninspired that if any more sequin-scattered cocktail dresses or mother-of-the-bride gowns find their way into their future collections someone is going to get hurt. Trust us, if they tossed out their leftover sequins, rhinestones and tassels tomorrow, the crime rate would be a lot lower.
Playing it too safe, Indonesia's more established designers seem to be driving our fashion reality toward the mundane. There are, however, a number of promising young designers whose works deliver. Promising fresh changes, their ready-to-wear items exude the confidence and boldness needed to steer the industry back to its fab track.
Paper Dolls (PD) is a clothing line formed in early 2007 by Siska Chandra, 24, and Rinindita Suhendrato, 23. Exploring the naivete of the world of children, PD's first and second collections mock the gruesome adult world, in which the joys of bedtime tales, cheerful games in the park, or the innocent indulgence in cakes and candies, have been forgotten.
Despite PD's potential to become the next big thing in the prˆt-…-porter market, few are willing to throw their support behind the daring designs of undiscovered designers.
"Our problem is society has a limited appreciation of developing clothing lines or ones that don't have prestigious labels," Siska said.
It seems local fashion businesspeople and retail companies are too timid to carry PD's unique products in their outlets.
Winnie Kusuma, 24, and Patrice Dessiles, 40, are the maverick women behind Waiter/Waitress (W/W).
Unlike Paper Dolls, W/W is a brand that specializes in practical items such as T-shirts and jeans with "destroyed" effects. True to their motto, "Massive production with a designer touch and quality", W/W chose to become an independent local clothing line that dares to compete.
Commenting on the signature characteristic of their products, Winnie and Patrice suggested that fashion is an empty canvas waiting to be painted playfully. "Just like in sex, we should be able to have fun in fashion," Patrice said. Despite it's as yet unfamiliar name, W/W with its edgy and brilliant creations is a brand so potent it is likely to triumph in the extensive and cruel indie clothing market.
Indonesia's fashionistas should be more adept in spotting the manifestations of new, strong ideas in the domestic fashion industry, and Paper Dolls, Waiter/Waitress, and other undiscovered one-of-a-kind brands might just put the foreign labels that have been inundating our malls for so long to shame.