A number of the shows at this year’s Jakarta Fashion Week seemed to highlight collaborations between fashion design and art. Three Indonesian fashion labels, each featured works by three Indonesian artists in distinct ways. Major Minor featured the renowned Eko Nugroho. Eko, a contemporary artist from Yogyakarta, who is known for his unique community projects often involving local crafts communities, was catapulted to global fame when one of his works was selected for Louis Vuitton’s Fall and Winter 2013 collection of scarves. Meanwhile, for their latest collections, Danjyo Hiyoji featured the graffiti artist KIMS and emerging artist Monica Hapsari. Last but by no means least, Klé featured the art of emerging artist Natisa Jones.
While preparing for their label’s latest collections, Dana Maulana and Liza Masitha of Danjyo Hiyoji felt that they needed a new energy for their designs. As many of their friends are talented Jakarta artists, they thought it would be a good idea to collaborate with two artists whose works might be compatible with their label’s ‘DNA’ and help develop their designs. They selected Monica Hapsari for their “Vena” collection and KIMS for their “Chameleon” collection. Half way into their design process, they invited the artists to meet and discuss ideas that could strengthen their collections through each of their characteristic works.
“We sometimes found it difficult to interpret the works of our artist friends but as it turned out, the artists also faced a similar problem. They are interested in fashion, but what the trends of next season will be may not be of interest to them. So, by collaborating, we basically provided support to each other in coming up with something that would be acceptable to the art and fashion communities as well as the community at large,” Dana explained.
“The process was dynamic and interesting. With the addition of many other ‘heads’ there were many new things that emerged for the collections. The challenge actually was how to keep the collection from becoming overwhelming because we wanted to apply all the ideas that came up, but also make sure that it was not “underdeveloped” because we were afraid to add something new that might make our customers no longer recognize our brand. In the end, it was about keeping the balance of things,” he added.
Dana claimed that during the collaboration process they always remembered not to be too concerned about whether or not their work would be accepted or not, but rather to focus on being as comfortable as possible and enjoying their work as much as possible and by so doing, creating their best work.
Cousins, designer Kleting Titis Wigati and artist Natisa Jones are very familiar with each other’s work. “I’ve been around Kleting’s work for a while and I have always admired her style and the effortlessness in her designs. The cut/shape and form that her clothing takes appeals to me on a personal level and her passion in the arts has always made it easy for our conversation to flow in a more creative direction,” said Natisa. Meanwhile, according to Kleting, Natisa is ‘surely a very talented artist’. “In the midst of modern-graphic-illustration-esque art, she has a bold character in her paintings, mixing abstraction with anatomies of figures”.
They have collaborated in the past on smaller projects. Natisa has done some fabric design for Kle, but not as a visual artist. Kleting wanted to create something from what would come out in Natisa’s emotions through her paintings. “I explained to her about the cuts and the outfit that I would later create and how it should be wearable but unique at the same time. I wanted Natisa’s art to ‘scream’ on the garments without confiscating the look and the garment’s fit and cuts,” Kleting reminisced.
When Natisa came up with her paintings, Kleting interpreted it as ‘muted emotions – like rain, but a happy rain,’ and created her designs from her own interpretations of the mood she connected with in the paintings. The concept continued to develop during the collection styling by Svastiari, extending the creative process of painting and keywords onto the runway: wet hair, painted hands and paint splatter-covered shoes. The stylist also came up with the idea of painting the shoes, so Natisa also painted on them during the video shoot.
“I personally learned more about the inner-workings of the fashion industry – the process it takes to put together a show and the different creative minds involved in one production. It is quite an opposite creative process to what I do, I think. I don’t usually think about how a painting is received when I am creating it. I dont usually cater to a mass audience. I dont work with a big team. Painting is kind of a solitary profession where the production of the painting and the selling or the image of it are very separate stages. So it was interesting to see it all come together and be part of it. And I think to me it was really nice to be able to experience a more commercial side of a creative industry without compromising much in my art,” said Natisa in response to the project.
“I always love doing collaborations, knowing that it can broaden up your ideas and expand the concept you have at first. Merging two creative heads always amplifies whatever you have. In collaborating, our best ideas will be better than best. With Natisa it is always interesting because we always came out with different results,” added Kleting.
The Key in Collaborations
The willingness to being open and having an open mind that can accept new and often unexpected ideas seems to be key in collaborations. This is also a key element in Major Minor’s collaboration with star artist Eko Nugroho. It all began when Salihara offered Eko Nugroho to present his solo exhibition at their gallery. The artist asked that the exhibition be linked with a community project. Dewi “Deyang” Soeharto of the Friends of Salihara (Sahabat Salihara) patron organization came up with the idea for the collaboration to be with fashion, and arranged for Eko to view the 2015 Jakarta Fashion Week held in November 2014.
“We came and saw the show, and I became very interested and challenged to work with Major Minor, because I felt that they had unique, distinct designs that were full of character. They had their own ‘point’,” Eko explained. The artist and his team met with Major Minor designer Ari Seputra and his team in Jakarta and Yogyakarta.
“I was open to all possibilities and opened up our files about images, visuals, and works that I have created previously,” Eko added. There were so many images that were offered, it was quite difficult to determine which ones were compatible with and were adaptable to Major Minor’s designs. On the other hand it was also difficult to incorporate Eko’s strong elements into Major Minor’s designs in such a way that did not negate each other’s identity.
Sari Seputra, the designer’s wife who is in charge of marketing, added that as Eko Nugroho’s collaboration with Louis Vuitton is already so well-known, it was a challenge to create something that was different. “Eko’s works always have a common thread and strong identity, so we had to work hard in making a creation that was distinct in character,” she said.
For Eko, the collaboration was quite challenging as each party was still in the process of trying to figure out what each other’s paradigm was all about. There is a marked difference between the paradigms in art and in fashion design. I am trying to comprehend the fashion world, while they are also trying to understand myself as an artist,” he said. But that is also part of the excitement, he admitted. Indeed, “it was not easy for us as fashion designers to create or translate Eko Nugroho’s strong works, but through discussions and exchange of ideas we were able to come up with good work,” Ari Seputra admitted.
So, what is next?
“I don’t reallly know what the next step will be, but what is certain is that this has opened many eyes in both parties, and I think that this is what makes me consider that this project has been successful as well as enjoyable,” said Eko Nugroho.
The beauty of art is that there is no one right way of interpretation. Actuallly, in viewing works of art it is most important to be able to do so with an open mind and open heart, open to new thoughts and notions. Will fashion designs in collaboration with art attract the attention of fashion police or actually attract the attention of art critics? Who cares? Clothes and fashion are supposed to make you feel good, and not something by which others judge you. Keep that in mind!