Ayu Rosan couldn’t hide her happiness when she tried on the kebaya kutu baru by Iwan Tirta Private Collection. “When I wear a kebaya, I feel like I’m back in the old times when women wore them every day,” she says. “I feel so elegant and authoritative like a strong woman. I feel more ladylike, more Indonesian.”
An admirer of the legacy of the late Iwan Tirta, the wife of entrepreneur Rosan Roeslani and mother of three declares: “I love Indonesian ethnic fabrics and I deeply appreciate the work that goes into transforming them into beautiful kebaya. It’s all so fascinating because each city and each region has its own style, its own speciality – and each one is very unique.”
Iwan Tirta Private Collection team sees Ayu as a forward thinker yet carrying the traditional value “Ayu Rosan characterised soft-power. She is passionate but caring and proud to fully dedicate her life for family. We see her as an inspirational woman.”
Ayu has gone through a bit of a transformation herself this morning. She arrived at the studio looking fabulous in a red dress and red kitten heels. Red attracts people indeed!
“I enjoy casual style,” she tells us with a laugh. “I love to wear jeans and sneakers. Because my children are grown up now and my daughter’s shoe size is the same as mine, we sometimes borrow each other’s shoes!”
The conversation moves on to heritage style. “I met Iwan Tirta several times and I really admire the collections that carry his name today,” says Ayu. “They have classic patterns, but they’re glamorous. Fashion designers are among my favourite people. I know Biyan, Ghea Panggabean, Edward Hutabarat, and many more.
“Because I’m Balinese I am especially interested in Balinese textiles. I’m always looking to learn more about them. But beyond Bali, there are more ethnic fabrics that are still relatively unknown, especially in remote areas of the archipelago.
“A few months ago my friends and I started organising the Batik Kudus Heritage fashion shows. The aim is to promote our design legacy and to empower the Indonesian women who help keep it alive. The next show will be held on September 9, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin).
“Our interest in Indonesian heritage is what inspired Miranti and Santhi Serad, Dara Ipang Wahid and me to found the Citra Kartini Indonesia foundation. Our main focus is on the empowerment of Indonesian women, because most of the clothes and accessories – bags, wallets, keychains and so on – in batik, songket, tenun and other fabrics are crafted by women.
“Their skills should be more appreciated, and I want to help them to become more valued as craftspeople. Sometimes their hard work only brings them a small amount of money, which is unfair. I want women to be able to work without giving up their roles as wives and mothers. As we know, in the remote areas women only have a domestic role. They need to be educated so they have another skill, and so they can educate their children to create a better generation enjoying better lives.”
Ayu is impressed with how strongly the Indonesian fashion industry is growing. “The designers are growing better,” she notes, “and many more of them are releasing ethnic collections. The new crop of designers especially are becoming more creative. I appreciate how people nowadays are maintaining their heritage and putting a modern touch on their creations to make them fresh and appealing.
“What makes me even happier is that our ethnic textiles are increasingly going international. Many more people overseas are now seeing and recognising our culture. In June, Edward Hutabarat, Oscar Lawalata and Denny Wirawan introduced batik to the international audience through their collections for the Batik for The World event at the Unesco HQ in Paris. They presented batik wedding gowns, cocktail dresses, beach wear and resort looks. How can Indonesians not be proud of that?”
Ayu hopes that the younger generation will learn that ethnic fabrics are not just old-school anymore. “They can be mixed with jeans, with pants or with skirts,” she says. “But the most important thing is that young people have to learn to love their culture first. Being proud of our Indonesian heritage is a mindset that all of us have to own.”