The Jakarta Post, Jakarta – Sat., 09/22/2007 – Life
Crinolette Rose & Daniel Rose, Contributors, Jakarta
A group of teenagers in similar outfits are sitting around a skate park; fitted T-shirts with silhouettes of faces of rock stars, skinny faded boot-cut jeans, brightly colored socks, torn converse sneakers, some layered with acrylic paint.
The scene above is a quintessential example of indie youth, which we often come across in urban areas like Jakarta and Bandung.
In the name of art, idealism, and creativity, a good many of the younger generation have staked their money in the indie clothing line business. This has been a long-established phenomenon that has been part of the lifestyle of urban youth.
The fashion world is an industry that is difficult to penetrate or even comprehend, not to mention that it has been worshiped for a long time by a bunch of brand-minded followers, thanks to the images propagated by all the (in)famous fashion brands. So why bother staying in it for so long and withstanding all the risks with something as seemingly feeble for ammo as an indie clothing brand? Indra Wibisana, a name that has been in the battle zone for four years with his King of Queens brand puts forward two reasons: originality and different marketing targets.
It is well-known that many independent clothing lines categorize themselves according to certain music genres and perceive music as a critical influence on their products’ styles, from emo-rock with My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Avenged Sevenfold, to metal with Black Sabbath, Van Halen, and Judas Priest. From indie-pop with Camera Obscura, Broken Social Scene, The Softies, and Bishop Allen to indie rock and indie punk with bands like Green Day, Rancid and Bad Religion—all have big impacts on skater communities and the SoCal Punk Movement.
Besides music, sociopolitical conditions also play a pretty big part. We have seen T-shirts criticizing the war in the Middle East, raising awareness toward HIV/AIDS or global warming, or ones that bear feminist slogans. This proves that Indonesia’s younger generation is critical and has their own ideas about what is going on around them.
The initiators of independent clothing lines usually come from the indie communities themselves. Seizing the opportunity to produce clothes and accessories for people with similar tastes, they select and recognize their targets well. Apart from knowing the clothing style and music, analyzing the financial condition and purchasing power of their marketing targets is just as important. How many Indonesian major clothing lines produce T-shirts with the face of Iggy Pop (The Stooges) or the entire personnel of Judas Priest as the artwork and put small digits on the price tag? The answer to that has ultimately allowed independent clothing lines to indirectly create a community of loyal customers of their own. Their originality and creativity married with a reasonable price range may as well prevail over the exorbitant trends set by international fashion Meccas.
However, there are always factors that inhibit the growth of Indonesian independent clothing lines. Local major clothing lines may have the same marketing targets as the indie ones. Despite the fact that their designs may look too safe, it is indisputable that they have bigger capital and better promotional strategies that allow them to set up runways for fashion shows and bring in the lights to fashion parties in Jakarta’s hippest spots. And it is easier for them to gain access to outlets in malls in every big city in Indonesia.
Unhealthy competition, like in any other industry, also occurs in the indie clothing line business. And if you go visit low-to-mid class shopping centers, you may find imitations of brands coined by international figures such as DJ Nigo (Tomoaki Nagao) with Bathing Ape and Pharrel Williams (The Neptunes) with his Big Billionaire Clubs sold at a much cheaper price. This situation also contributes to the narrowing down of demands for local independent clothing lines.
Time has tried the determination of Indonesian independent clothing line owners, and they have decided to stay the course. High competition, unpredictable national economic conditions, and other obstacles have not stopped many new faces from plunging into this business alternative. As long as the independent spirit is alive in arts, music, and entertainment, fashion will always be in fashion.
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