Sun, 05 Sep 1999

Sarong back in swing of things in fashion

By Agni Amorita

JAKARTA (JP): The sarong is no longer just a garment of villagers or something casual to wear only in the home. Local designers have recently been focusing on the sarong again in their collections.

Ghea Panggabean pioneered the use of sarong in her designs back in the 1980s. Then we had Samuel Wattimena, who created the Borneo sarong look at the beginning of this decade. It was a big hit at the time and many other designers followed the trend by creating various kinds of sarong dresses. But the sarong inspired outfits slowly disappeared from Jakarta's fashionable society. But recently the trend has re-emerged.

Last month, the Bali-based fashion designer, Irsan, presented his pelekat sarongs as sophisticated modern outfits. Ichwan Hakim Thoha, 23, and Era Soekamto, 24, two of the youngest members of Indonesian Fashion Designer Council (IPMI), have also picked up on the sarong reemergence and will present their latest sarong collections in the ballroom of the Crown Plaza, Holiday Inn Hotel, Jakarta on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Ichwan Thoha, and his business partner, Era Soekamto -- no relationship with former model Enny Soekamto -- have a fashion label called Urban Crew. Their designs are a big hit among Jakarta's young people. In their sarong based designs in their newest "e-Techno" collection they do not use material traditionally associated with sarongs.

"We will use Lycra, so that the sarongs in the collection have a tube silhouette with folded, pleated, and wrinkled details," said Ichwan Thoha, or Icoen, a week prior to the show.

Icoen's use of Lycra is the result of a two-year search for a better stretch fabric for his designs.

"Lycra's thread fiber is the answer to our needs of a modern fabric that has elasticity and durability," said Era.

Lycra is appropriate for tight dresses and can also absorb perspiration. "This kind of textile is very suitable for teenage outfits," added Icoen, adding that famous international designers such as Donna Karan and Giorgio Armani have also used Lycra as their important fabrics.

Urban Crew had signed a legal cooperation with an international Lycra producer. In October 1999, the Singapore based Lycra producer, Du Pont Far East, will fly Urban Crew's collection to the Lion City for a Lycra exhibition.

According to Icoen and Era, in their newest Urban Crew collection, cargo trousers, capuchone shirts and imitation pockets or zippers will not be seen.

"I am fed up with those trendy details. I believe they will be out of date by the time my newest collection is launched," Icoen predicted.

His 2000 e-Techno stretch collection, which will be presented in the Crown Plaza, have plain colors such as brown, green, purple, yellow, gray, dull pastels and transparents.

Urban Crew was built by Icoen and Era, right after the two finished their studies in LaSalle Fashion College in 1996. They began working with only two assistants but now they have 14 assistants and four outlets in leading department stores in Jakarta.

Icoen and Era launch new collections every three months. Their prices range from Rp 68,000 to Rp 368,000 per piece.

"We always put "eight" in our prices because we believe it is a lucky number," joked Era, whose house on Jl. Radio Dalam, South Jakarta, is used as Urban Crew's studio. "Don't call us a boutique because we want to be a retail fashion chain in the future. Urban Crew will be the Indonesian Saint Michael with more than just clothes offered to the public," she said.