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Khadi and Batik – Indo-Indonesian Fashion and Culture Exchange

Ritu Beri, Indonesian designers

Last Saturday, I visited Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia. It was a very pleasant evening which saw a very creative, cultural and fashionable hand-shake between India and Indonesia. The 70 years of Indo-Indonesian relationship and 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi Ji was commemorated by initiating a Khadi and Batik Fashion Show in the lawns of the embassy. The event saw experienced and well-known designers from both the countries, come together, and showcase Khadi (handspun, hand-woven natural fiber cloth from India) and Batik (a craft that is an indispensable part of Indonesian culture) in a very fashionable format. The audience was thrilled to see the versatility and scope of the two forms of art. The procession of the cutting-edge ensembles was amazing. One of the most beautiful frame on the stage was to see his Excellency Sidharto Reza Suryodipuro, Ambassador of Indonesia and his wife walk down the ramp to set the event in motion.

His Excellency Sidharto Reza Suryodipuro, Ambassador of Indonesia

His Excellency Sidharto Reza Suryodipuro, Ambassador of Indonesia walked hand in hand with his wife.

To me, as an audience and someone who loves to keep up to date with fashion trends, it made me sit-up and take notice that both Khadi and Batik, together had so much potential to make for our everyday elegant fashion wears. One is a fabric and the other is method of producing colored designs. The artistic collaboration of one with the other was fascinating. The cultural bond was evident. We know that both Khadi and Batik stand synonymous to traditions, and the way they have undergone changes and stood the test of time is absolutely commendable. It made me curious around both and when I returned home, I was keen to discover more and I ended up reading around them.

Batik can be both elegant and elaborate!
Batik and Khadi fashion show

Indian Star designer Ritu Beri creations

Indonesian Batik

So what is Batik and what makes Indonesian Batik so special? Batik is the art of creating colored patterns on textiles by dyeing them, while the remaining (un-dyed) part is filled with wax. It is a heritage from 7th century, which found a way in the life of people in Indonesia, especially in Java. Batik is a composite of two Javanese words, “Amba” means writing, and “Titik” meaning point (sign of word, symbolized). Thanks to philosophical and meaningful symbols, Javanese Batik influences the life of the locals in many ways. The method of making the shades, natural coloring, embroidery, use of technology, creation of motifs/symbols/patterns and the people who have been making batik for decades are all part of this age-old tradition. As I read further, I also learned that Indonesian Batik motifs are not mere symbols but each design has a hidden message of the cycle of life. The cultural values seem embedded on the cloth.

What is Batik?

Batik is a method (originally used in Java, but now spread throughout Indonesia) of producing coloured designs on textiles by dyeing them .

They are special and unique Batik designs to be worn on birth, marriage, death and happy occasions. Some of the indigenous designs were only under the scope of the royal families but now no more. The design Kawung contains symbols of divinity, life philosophy and the concept of harmony of life. Ceplok batik is an ornamental variety and is considered a symbol of balance, order and perfection. Parang batik motif is an authentic Indonesian batik and for a long time machete motif was worn only by the royal families, only. Sekar jagad batik is generally flowery and worn for happy occasions. A sick person is often covered with patchwork motifs to heal and look forward to better life. 

Thus, UNESCO recognizes Indonesian (Javanese) batik as
historical fabric of human civilization. It has included it on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2009
. Right from infants being carried in batik slings to girls wearing batik when they begin menstruating to bride-bridegroom’s special dress to the dead being covered in funerary batik, the motifs for each occasion convey a meaning. Batik has existed in Indonesia for centuries. Originally, it was a hereditary tradition but now it is also a source of livelihood for innumerable. Thus, they say Batik has permeated into the Indonesian lives, like never before. On every 2nd of October Indonesians all over the world wear batik in honor of their ancient tradition.

Display of exquisite Batik patterns on Saree by the celebrity fashion designer Carmanita from Indonesia.
Batik is deeply rooted in the culture and traditions of Indonesia.

Indian Khadi

The originality of Indian Khadi speaks for itself. It is a native fabric of India. The rugged texture, well-ventilated feel and the simplicity of the fabric is its USP. If you recall of Swadeshi movement, you will agree with me that Khadi or khaddar is pride of India. When it comes to Indian fabrics, it is synonym to self-reliance. This time-immemorial fabric is made by spinning the threads on Charkha (spinning wheels) and then the yarn is converted into fabric in the looms. Mahatma Gandhiji was the one who revived the use of Khadi during pre-independence days to express freedom from repression. It was used to boycott foreign products and we succeeded too.

If you not sure how to ascertain genuine Khadi, there are Khadi Mark Regulations, 2013. So the KVIC Act say that “any cloth which is woven on handlooms from cotton, silk or woollen yarn hand-spun in India or from a mixture of any two or all of such yarns”. Another very interesting fact that I picked on recently is that the count of Khadi is measured in km/kg or N/m. From the cotton balls in the farms to cleaning, carding, spinning, reeeling and weaving, there is a delicate process involved in the making of the material that we all love. And the best part is that Khadi can be blended with other fabrics and made into much more. When it comes to Khadi, there comes our Indian spirit.

Ritu Beri's designs in Khadi
If you thought Khadi is boring, rethink again! Ritu Beri made it look amazing.

When Khadi and Batik came together

Batik and Khadi share a similar past and history and thus they go together very well. Batik originated in Indonesia and symbolizes cultural ethos of it where as Khadi originated in India and can be called as an Indian national dress. Fashion designer Ritu Beri opened the Fashion Show with a collection of contemporary and traditional Khadi ensembles i n collaboration with IAMKHADI (not for profit social enterprise). Indonesian designers followed suit. Also, the musical performances by Sunita Bhuyan, the violinist from Assam, (the recipient of the Indira Gandhi Priyadarshini award) for Music and the Indonesian artists who performed some Balinese dances added a festive mood to the whole ambiance.

Some of the Batik creations presented by Indonesian fashion designer,  
Arty Israwan
Some of the Batik creations presented by Indonesian fashion designer,
Arty Israwan

Indonesian designer who came first was Arty Israwan. She won the audience with the use of traditional Batik patterns in everyday fashion wear. Next, there were contemporary Batik patterns on Khadi by another well-known Indonesian designer Hendri Budiman. The show ended on a classy note wherein Batik patterns were put on on Saree by yet another popular Indonesian fashion designer, Carmanita. Overall, it was a very entertaining and engaging display of talent around Batik and Khadi. It was a great way indeed, to celebrate the friendship and the culture of the two nations.

I truly loved this concept of cultural-exchange. The show was organised by IAMKHADI and supported by Indonesian Embassy. More such events should keep happening. The Indonesian Embassy has lined up a series of events here in India to celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Have you been to Indonesia yet? If not, read my post here.

12 thoughts on “Khadi and Batik – Indo-Indonesian Fashion and Culture Exchange

  1. A big thank to you for putting together a blog post about the fun cultural fashion show! And it was very interesting to read a bit the history behind the two tradional fabrics. I know the very basic of batic and how the they are made because I have done one in my childhood a white tshirt tight hardly with ropes and then I dipped it in a bowl of dark tea water. It was fun!

    I have been to India before, but I have never heard of khadi before but generally I have always thought that the Indian wore the prettiest clothes in the world.

  2. I have heard of Batik before and I am a fan but I have never heard of Khadi. The combination of both really works well. Thank you for sharing the history of Batik and Khadi. It is good to see that the relations between India and Indonesia have been going on for 70 years – I hope that, that can continue for at least another 70 years.

  3. Batik is my soft spot though its pretty pricey. Its always nice to read about a good fusion which looks to be the case with Batik and Khadi. I don’t think anyone can go wrong with Batik on Sari- that is impressive and I guess expensive!

  4. I love this post! The fashion looks incredible, absolutely in love witht he patterns and styles. It must have been a great even to see it with own eyes and the ambasador with wife walking down the ramp. I wish people wear their traditional patterns around the world. Sadly it’s vanishing.

  5. Wow it is a great culimination of both textilectraditions of India and Indonesia. I love bright Batik prints and Khadi as comfort clothing. Would love to try the combination of both.

  6. What an interesting event! A lovely combination of fashion and culture exchange. I didn’t realize both Khadi and Batik have similar to traditions. From what I understand the batik fabric seems to have a wide spread utility and is being worn on birth, marriage, death and many other occasions.I enjoyed seeing all these colorful costumes and especially the beautiful models presenting them. So much elegance! I’d love to wear one of those dressed myself.

  7. Wow this was a culturally enriching experience..a refreshing break from the absurdities of fashion garments in general. I love batik print. The combination of khadi and batik is epic

  8. I love watching fashion shows, and recently I am into traditional garments and fabrics. Yesterday, my ordered batik fabrics have arrived from Thailand and I can’t wait to wear them for this upcoming gala (where I am planning to wear traditional prints). I am excited to get hands of those Indonesian batik!

  9. I love watching fashion events, it is great article and i really enjoyed to read. so that I came to know about Indonesia fashion and culture.

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