Sun, 09 Mar 2003

Designer hopes 'made-in-Indonesia' becoming trend

Maria Endah Hulupi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

It's not magic, but in the talented hands of designer Warwick Purser, humble materials like pandanus leaves, unused newspaper, natural stones and even grains of millet are molded into beautiful ornaments to decorate modern homes.

Purser's philosophy for design and the presentation of materials is "least is best", and he believes that design must pay homage to the materials and be presented in the simplest manner possible.

"Design in Asia is often exaggerated so that the essence and beauty of the materials are lost in a complicated presentation," he said.

The reason why he uses humble materials in his creative efforts is that they are easy to obtain and are available everywhere here.

"Basically, products made from cheap materials are functional," Warwick added.

The designer recently opened a new store, called Warwick Purser's Lifestyle on the 4th floor of Sogo in Plaza Senayan, Central Jakarta.

The store, although displaying locally made items, is designed to satisfy international tastes and quality standards. The design reflects Purser's creativity and his good taste.

Purser has around 200 items on display, including terracotta vases and multipurpose bowls, all adorned with thumb prints and sprayed with tamarind juice to give them a reddish-brown color.

Simple banana bark has been transformed into artistic plaited mats, candle holders and multipurpose containers, while unused newspaper is finely rolled and arranged into plaited mats and frames. In addition there are boxes, frames and rice/ice containers, all wrapped in woven, dried pandanus leaves.

Purser has also created beautiful cushion covers from dried, woven agal (the leaves of a type of palm tree). He also uses this material to wrap box containers.

From the same material, the Australian designer has created his modern, checkered motive collection, which includes sandals, box containers, cushions and frames.

His beautiful marble collection, including slim and rectangular vases, margarine/butter containers, salad bowls, and salt and pepper containers, is a treasure to behold.

There are also multipurpose baskets made of dried, woven water hyacinth, small vases and jewelry/potpourri cases made from jewawut (millet grains), as well as beautiful candleholders made from stone fragments, among other things.

The handmade items are produced in villages in Java, Bali and Lombok, and are designed for export to leading international stores such as Habitat, The Body Shop, Harrods, Liberty of London, Polo Ralph Laurent, Pottery Barn, Nieman Marcus and Saks.

Purser, who set up Pacto Travel in 1968 and his export company Out of Asia in 1995, also plans to soon open another shop in Sogo, Plaza Indonesia, as well as a flagship store to be opened in the middle of this year in Wisma Diners on Jl. Jend. Sudirman, Central Jakarta.

"With the current economic situation, Indonesians should enthusiastically support a made-in-Indonesia campaign to support the local economy and create employment," said Purser, who employs around 3,000 locals in various parts of Central Java and Yogyakarta.

Purser, together with his film-star friends Rima Melati and Frans Tumbuan, and fashion designer Iwan Tirta, has also restored many of the old village houses in Tembi, Yogyakarta, since, he claims, buildings are part of the country's heritage.

For his efforts, Purser was named the Cambridge Award International Man of the Year, and been presented with the Cultural Heritage Award and Kala Award from the sultan of Yogyakarta for cultural preservation and his contribution to tourism development in Yogyakarta and Central Java respectively.

Many Indonesians, Purser explained, shun locally made products in favor of items bearing "made in France" or "made in Italy" labels.

"I know a number of people who have bought my products overseas thinking they were made in France or Italy, and then come home and to their surprise, they find that the products were actually made in Indonesia," Purser recounted.

The abundant natural materials and handicraft skills here, he explained, are huge national assets that, if properly managed, could help develop small villages across the country in this time of crisis.

"I've seen how the handicraft business has completely revived the economy of Tembi village and others where we work. Think of the multiplier effect this would have if everyone seriously supported made-in-Indonesia products," Purser suggested.