Remember those episodes in the famous cooking show Masterchef, there was one challenge called the Mystery Box. The cooks are given a box with the same ingredients and they have to use only those ingredients to create a dish within a certain amount of time. Do they all come up with the same dish?
Every participant cooks a different dish. Some succeed, some fail. Some dishes are similar to one another. But no matter how similar, they are not the same dish. The pattern from this challenge could be applied to explain the problem with local artisans, specifically Indonesian artisans.
If previously we have discussed a lot about their exploitation, which is an external problem, we can now shift to an internal problem that lies within the artisans themselves.
Last week, we attended “Mera Bura” which was a collaborative event initiated by one of our communities, Copa de Flores. The event was opened by a short presentation from the socially conscious fashion brand and a fashion show of their newest collection, then followed by a talk show.
The talk show mainly discussed about how small and medium enterprises (UMKM) in Indonesia, including local artisans, still struggle to start and maintain their businesses, let alone to expand. These enterprises’ main problem is not in the lack of capital, but in the capital management.
A representative from the Indonesian Creative Economic Body (BEKRAF) found that 70% of these enterprises do not have a proper bookkeeping. “They [UMKM] still mix their business and household expenses. There aren’t many who use the internet for their business, mostly they use it for social media. They also don’t use any banking services,” she said.
Another speaker justified the statement saying, “Even when we have given them [local artisans] starting funds, they are still unable to expand their business. Most of the time, the funds are used up for household needs.”
BEKRAF released that out of 16 creative economy subsectors, fashion has given the second largest contribution to this sector’s income, right behind culinary. This makes our local fashion a potential industry to dive in, as they have contributed Rp1.000 trillion in 2018.
Copa de Flores, has seized this potential and now become one of the well-known local brands who brought up traditional heritage into the modern trend.
“Mama-mama in Flores [“Mama” equals both to “Auntie” and “Mother”] weave as they please without observing the market trends, so it’s hard for them to sell their products,” Maria Bella, co-founder of Copa de Flores, said.
However, Copa de Flores didn’t quickly follow the global trend. Many local fashion brands are trying to follow fashion trends and produce for larger market demand. Copa de Flores found that our local fashion’s strength is actually in the process and story, not how trendy (as in modern) or massively we can produce.
Copa de Flores encourages its weavers to produce authentic tenun with natural colouring. They also emphasized on the stories behind their fabrics and how each fabric is woven by threads of ‘a mother’s love’.
Boldly, instead of following the trends, Copa de Flores tries to incorporate the trends to suit the tenun characteristics and thus create their own trend. They even admit that their designs are being copied by unknown brands for much cheaper price. Instead of bringing them down, they take the actions as a ‘compliment’ for it proves how their brand could create a new trend.
“The trend of ‘luxury’ has shifted. It’s no longer about showing the ‘bling-bling’ but inclining back to nature. Now people are more keen to wear traditional fabrics or outfits to weddings, instead of Western and modern dresses,” Bella said.