The project IKAT/eCUT looks at the textile industry from many different perspectives: from arts to design, and from tradition to technology.
Most of us are familiar with the term “Fast Fashion” - a phenomenon that describes theprocess of imitating the latest trends and styles presented on the glamorous runways which are then readily available in stores, sold at lower cost and quality to fashion-hungry customers who otherwise couldn’t afford the haute couture and designer pieces. In stark contrast, the “Slow Fashion” movement encourages and supports fair wages, lower carbon footprints and a slower production schedule.
Recognizing the importance of textiles in Southeast Asia and the need for more sustainability in the future, the German cultural center Goethe Institut Indonesien presents an ambitious project during the months of March and April, focusing on these exact issues and questions: is there a way to produce environmentally-friendly textiles and without exploiting resources? What kind of responsibility do textile producers carry on their shoulder? Do we, as consumers, reconsider our approach to fashion?
Anna Maria Strauss, Head of Cultural Programs at Goethe-Institut Indonesien, says that IKAT/eCUT was first initiated in Thailand before making its way to Indonesia.
“With this project, we are looking at mass production of fashion and its effects on the environment and the people involved in the production of textiles, but we are also presenting an initiative called Slow Fashion Lab presenting sustainable alternatives, as well as a fringe programme,” she explains. “IKAT/eCUT in Indonesia is supposed to offer an impulse on what could be done better when it comes to sustainability related to textiles. The sustainability issue is important in all the project strands we are looking at.”
The exhibition “Fast Fashion - The Dark Side of Fashion” by the Museum of Arts and Crafts Hamburg will be shown in Jakarta for one month. Curator Claudia Banz says that the exhibition addresses the conditions of production and the social and ecological impacts of fashion sold all over the world at low prices.
“The huge quantity of chemicals that are used along the textile chain as well as the high consumption of water by the clothing industry cause serious ecological damage,” she says. “[The fashion industry] also has hit the headlines for its often unsustainable jobs. To raise awareness to these circumstances is one aim of the exhibition. The central message is that we should seriously rethink our relationship to fashion and as a consequence change our patterns of consumption.”
When asked what these changes should look like exactly, Claudia Banz suggests the “less is more” approach.
“We should buy less but more sustainable clothes even if they might cost a bit more. As consumers, we should care more about the conditions of production and ask for more transparency. Consumption today has become a matter of ethical responsibility,” she adds.
Putting the exhibition into the context of Southeast Asia, Claudia Banz says that next to China, India, Bangladesh and Vietnam, Indonesia belongs to the main regions of the Fast Fashion production in Asia.
“In general, this branch of the industry is not respecting the local environment nor does it provide fair working conditions. Fast Fashion also displaces local fashion manufacturers and traditions. Therefore it is even more important to sensitize the visitors to the serious consequences that the consumption of global fashion has for people and the planet. Fashion is not only glamorous, but also has very dark sides.”
Incorporated into the Fast Fashion exhibition is the Slow Fashion Lab, curated by Aprina Murwanti. It adds the Indonesian perspective to this complex issue, although Aprina admits that here, the Slow Fashion movement is still in its early stages.
“I see the Slow Fashion Lab as a platform to ignite change,” she explains. “I involved different sides into the lab, communities, the government, labels. I appreciate Indonesian traditional textiles but I want to highlight something different because what’s important nowadays is how our traditional legacies and cultural wisdom can be transported and transferred into the future.”
Through the Slow Fashion Lab, she adds, she wants to bridge the gap between Fast Fashion and Slow Fashion - connected through the overall theme of water - and show the world that Indonesia also has the means to offer alternatives that are environmentally friendly, have a longer durability and better quality.
In addition to the Fast Fashion exhibition and the Slow Fashion Lab, a colorful series of fringe events invites the public to join the activities. Curator Ika Vantiani says that she wanted to talk about fashion from the perspective of the consumers and how they use and deal with it in their daily lives, from secondhand clothes to clothing swap parties.
Ika formulated the concept behind the exhibition “For Keepsake, Keep Me”, which presents fabrics that have been kept by their owners for nostalgic and sentimental reasons.
“I think it’s very interesting to see how powerful fabrics can be in this regard,” she says. “This exhibition will showcase these fabrics and the stories behind them.”
She will also organize a “Behind the Screen” talk with young Indonesian fashion bloggers to examine their role in the industry, a seminar involving German designers, a handmade fabric day as well as a “Repair Fair”.
“The ‘Repair Fair’ is an effort to get people to try and repair their own clothes and fashion items, instead of just throwing out your ripped jeans or shirt because you lost a button or two,” Ika explains. “Rather than going out and buy something new, I am presenting a couple of Indonesian artists and makers who focus on fabrics and textiles and also do a lot of modifications. They fix your clothes in a very artistic way. Each of them will have their own table, and you can bring your torn clothes for them to repair, and to learn how to fix your own clothes by hand.”
To complete the programme, the Goethe-Institut also organizes Textile Residencies, where German designers and Southeast Asian producers are brought together in workshops and production residencies in order to learn from each other and establish a lasting working relationship.
According to Anna Maria Strauss, the whole world of fashion and textiles is a relatively new field for Goethe-Institut to explore, although it has already been dealing with the more general topic of sustainability in the past.
“Thanks to this project, we have been getting in touch with so many new partners, so there might as well be a follow-up later on,” she says. “And even though the majority of people in Indonesia are not yet
aware of the Slow Fashion movement, there is a big interest from the institutions we have talked to and who are willing to put it on their agenda, and therefore we might put together more and different activities revolving around this issue in the future.”