Sun, 22 Oct 2000

Rift splits ranks of local fashion designers

JAKARTA (JP): An enduring feud belies the glittering face of Indonesian fashion.

Many local fashion designers are now clustered in either of two organizations -- the Indonesian Fashion Design Council (IPMI) and the Indonesian Fashion Designer Association (APPMI). The former groups about 39 members and APPMI has 79. Since their establishment more than a decade ago, they have taken different paths.

Some established designers prefer to keep out of the fray and do not belong to the groups.

Samuel Wattimena, a former member of both groups, said, "Well, the cold war probably occurred since the beginning, many, many years ago.

"Today, such discord should no longer exist anymore."

A senior member of IPMI, Carmanita Mamboe, explained that each organization had its own objectives.

"IPMI's members focus more on creativity, esthetics ... on being a real artist," she said.

APPMI's biggest concern is not only to enhance its members' design skills but also to empower them to become professional businesspeople, Samuel said.

"They (designers) must be able to market their products, to deal with their buyers and join the fashion industry and retail association."

He added curtly that any rivalry between the two organizations was probably the personal feelings of one or two designers.

Chairwoman of IPMI Sjamsidar Isa stated her willingness to cooperate with APPMI and other independent designers.

APPMI's chairman Musa Widyatmodjo shared a similar view. "We have no problem at all," said Musa.

The amiable words do not translate into actions.

Many new graduates of fashion design schools across the country struggle to join both fashion associations, wishing to gain the best from them

Take Kanaya Tabitha, a new emerging designer, who was eager to join both organizations. She found it was not possible.

"Why did I have to go solo? Because I could not join them both," Samuel said.

He added there was no logical reason for each association to prohibit its members from joining the other group because they were established with different purposes. Each group could complement each other, Samuel said.

It is not that easy in reality; it's almost impossible to bring the two groups together.

In 1996, the Jakarta Tourist Agency invited members of APPMI and IPMI to jointly hold a major fashion event, titled Jakarta Fashion Week. It was supposed to be an annual event, but it ground to a halt.

The monetary crisis was considered a reason, but many put the major factor as the rivalry between the two groups.

IPMI recently closed its annual Luminaire Trend IPMI 2001, held from Oct. 16 to Oct. 19, while APPMI will hold its Fashion Tendance from Nov. 9 to Nov. 12.

Although the discord may seem endless, both organizations have made major contributions to the development of the local fashion industry.

IPMI has actively pushed its members to attend various international fashion events. It also participates in regular contests, both locally and abroad.

IPMI can also boast of its members' creativity. Members like Ghea S. Panggabean and Carmanita have conducted a great variety of research and experimentation on designs and fabrics.

Ghea is well-known for her ethnic-themed collection and the jumputan tie-dye technique, while Carmanita recently made headlines for her lycra batik.

APPMI has supported its members to become skillful and professional designers and businesspeople.

It also works closely with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) and international fashion associations such as the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Japan-based Total Fashion. APPMI's members regularly join Total Fashion's annual Asia Fashion Grand Prix International contest.

The organization also holds training, workshops and seminars.

"If one member attends a seminar, he or she has to share his knowledge and experience with others," Musa said.

"So each member is a teacher and also a student as well," added Poppy Dharsono, the founder of APPMI. "We are here to unite those who want to pursue a career in the fashion world."

In the reform era, designers have the option to join the organizations -- or go it alone on local runways.

The world is shrinking, thanks to rapid technological progress. People can quickly and easily access information on fashion from around the globe. Fashion designers can show their work on the Net, and conduct transactions through e-commerce.

With such significant changes, some are asking if local designers still need the helping hand of the associations. (Agni Amorita)