It’s time for us to share our story. A story that hopefully will rise your awareness and love for Indonesia’s traditional fabric, namely Batik and Tenun through Oemah Etnik’s lens.

What was the inspiration in initiating an ethnic fashion brands?

In 2013, we saw a great opportunity that had not been developed. At that time when we learned from batik artisans in small cities, we saw they have really good batik fabrics, but when we returned to the city, we realized that there was no younger generation wearing batik. So we triggered to develop it: how to create ethnic collections at affordable prices with a wearable style. We use hand-stamped batik. We created collections with casual cut so people would be able to mix and match them with sneakers. Now, we can see many people are getting creative with our collection, wearing them to work, college, malls, and even vacations.

Now that people are wearing batik and tenun, what’s next?

We want ethnic to be inherent in people’s daily lives. In a sense, not only physically wearing, but also knowing the process and story behind the making, so that they can appreciate and be able to pass on the story to others. But that requires cooperation from the brand owner as well. We have to be able to create good, cool, and wearable products for customers. If it’s not cool, they won’t buy it. If they don’t buy it, they won’t have the interest to learn more about batik or tenun. So the chain will be broken there. What ethnic brands are doing now are competing to make the best, coolest, and most different products from the others. Only then the customers would buy, use, and learn how the process was made, and create a sense of pride.

Is there any competitions between basic fashion brands and ethnic fashion brands?

We have our own markets and opportunities. As for OE, our opportunities lie on the government regulations that require wearing batik one day a week. Second, the ceremonial events such as weddings, engagement party, recitals, etc., people are known to choose batik over basic staples. Lastly, traveling. Now that the lifestyle of the customers has changed, they are competing to wear ethnic while on vacation both inside and outside the country. When traveling abroad, they want to show off their country’s identity. These are opportunities that OE can take and develop.

What’t the DNA that has becoming OE’s purpose?

Be the ‘missing link’ between local craftsmen and customers. It’s like a road, but with a broken link in the middle. That’s where OE tries to build a bridge to connect both sides: small local craftsmen, and bigger market.

We always see it this way: “We in OE are not only making clothes. Every little thing that we do: launch new collections, collaborating with big names, holding an event, creating innovations in fashion, all was done to help these artisans to grab bigger market. To help them empowered. It’s a long journey. Every time we return to the craftsmen in small cities, as if we were reminded again that there are still many that have not been processed, there are still many that can be developed and promoted, there is still much to be helped. But, this is our small steps to get there.

Have you been facing any obstacles?

Of course we have. Obstacles are there for us to learn and be better. One of them is the color difference in each fabric made. All OE’s fabrics were handmade without machines, including the coloring process. We continuously educate our customers to understand that the results of each batch will not be exactly the same. It’s called uniqueness. This handmade coloring process is very dependent on the weather and time. For example, when drying the fabric, if the sun is up and bright, colors tend to fade. And vice versa. But we always maintain the quality and work our best to reduce too-different color difference.

What is the next goal for OE?

We want OE to be the top of mind for ready to wear ethnic fashion brands with have-it-all styles that are wearable for any occasions: work, events, casual, traveling, and else. To get there, of course we have to differentiate a lot of our products, gaining our stock, and creating styles our customer would wear and love. And of course, we hope to become a retail ethnic brand in Indonesia.