Tuesday, 25 April 2017

5 Indonesian Ethical Clothing Labels

All this time, when it takes to ethical clothing labels, I've been looking abroad—and later on wistfully dreaming that I could one day purchase their items—when, in fact, there are various ethical labels here in my own homeland. You're probably familiar with Kana—not like I haven't mentioned them millions of times—but other than that, I was clueless about fair fashion labels in the country. Thanks to the Slow Fashion exhibition I visited earlier this month, I got introduced to more than a handful of them. So, in case you're as clueless as I was, I thought I'd introduce some of them to you in this post.

When 5 Indonesian NGOs joined together to form Crafts Kalimantan—a network of indigenous artisans in Kalimantan and their NGO support groups—they created an initiative that turned into Borneo Chic, which was then established as the marketing arm for the network. Their purpose is to promote the artistic heritage of Borneo—such as anjat, korit, bemban, tenun sintang and ulap doyo—by merging the elements of traditional weaving with contemporary designs. They opened their first store in 2011 in Kemang, Jakarta, and now carries their products in 6 stores across the nation.

Starting in 2015, Cinta Bumi has been specialising in barkcloth, which is handmade textile embodiment with papery-leathery texture, originating from Bada Valley (Poso) and Kulawi Valley (Sigi) in Central Sulawesi. Their goal is to revive the barkcloth-making tradition in Indonesia by embracing the artisans across the country. With a home-based atelier in Bali, they cater to the cause of sustainability in social and environmental aspects. Their selection varies from bags, pouches to book covers.

It was in May 2014 when designer couple Ega and Julia (EJ) started this Bandung-based sustainable jewelry label. It is unique from the way that their products are handcrafted using dry rice grain, resin brass or silver. Their goal was to create a label focused on "sustainable luxury," meaning to create luxury items while using sustainable materials. Their items remind me of crystals without having to mine for the items, which is much eco-friendlier. They also look incredibly gorgeous!

Using natural dyes as well as trees and plants native to Indonesia, Imaji Studio strive to be more sustainable. Using 100% handwoven cotton and asking for the help of local artisans, they apply Japanese philosophy and aesthetics, preserving deliberate beauty in imperfection of handmade objects. They offer all sorts of quirky casual clothes, from slip dresses to culottes. They also have side projects—such as the Zero Waste project, where they create accessories from their leftover fabric.

With the determination to create a positive social impact, Denica Flesch created this batik brand with the focus on batik tulis (literally translated: written batik), which means each pattern is drawn by hand and each item is unique. Their business model ties one collection to one initiative for a rural textile community. For instance, for their KUPU collection the Sukkhacitta team provides training to the farming community in Jamplang Village, Central Java, to turn their indigo farms into fabrics for clothes. They offer a selection of gorgeous kimonos, bandanas and scarves.

One of the things that I love the most about Indonesian fair fashion labels—as you can probably tell from this list—is that they, not only empower the poor and stay responsible to nature, but also fight to preserve our cultural heritage. As an art-enthusiast, I find that aspect to be very important—as our cultural artistry seems to be dwindling. Aside from these, you can obviously check out a number of other ethical clothing labels that I've featured on the blog before. You can also read my interview with the founder of Kana and see their behind-the-scenes process.

If you have any more recommendations of ethical labels, please don't hesitate to let me know down below!

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Monday, 24 April 2017

Fashion Revolution Week STARTS NOW!

As most of you probably know, four years ago today the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh collapsed, killing around 1200 people. In this building there were a number of garment factories producing clothing items for retail companies worldwide, including Primark, Gap, Uniqlo, C&A and Walmart. This was the event that inspired the founding of the Fashion Revolution organisation and every year on April 24th, they initiate a movement to evaluate the behind-the-scenes of the fashion industry. Then, a year ago, they took it up a notch and created a Fashion Revolution Week on 24-30 April. There are various ways you can participate on this movement—especially if you're an influencer—which you can check out here. Here on Alive as Always, though, I'll be bringing you a week of ethical fashion-related posts—read below.

When it comes to ethical fashion brands, they seem to be so hard to find in Indonesia. Aside from my beloved Kana, which you would have seen on the blog over and over again, I actually didn't know any other brands of the same ethics. That is until the Slow Fashion exhibition I visited earlier this month introduced me to many other brands that I've never heard of before. So here I will feature them to be alternatives for the fashion-enthusiasts in the Archipelago.

Recently, Annika of Pineneedle Collective just launched her selection of patches and she talked about the manufacturing process of her products. Then she mentioned certifications that ensure that certain clothing labels or factories are ethical and fair. That's when I realise that aside from the perpetrators—the designers and manufacturers—and the influencers, fair and ethical fashion gets a lot of help from organisations as well. These are the organisations and foundations that ensure the sustainability of the fashion industry and provide information for manufacturers and consumers alike on the topic of ethical fashion.

If you don't have the budget to buy from ethical brands, there are other ethical ways to acquire your clothes, i.e. thrifting. However, if you're a newbie to this whole ordeal, there are definitely some ways you can make the thrifting situation a smooth sailing. Having been thrifting since only 2011, I know I'm probably no expert, but I thought I'd share some of the things I've learnt over the years. I'd be sure to make this applicable for both on- and offline.

If you've been following the blog for a while, you'd probably notice that I'm not much of a DIY master. That being said, I think DIYing things is such a fun activity to do and I'm definitely a sucker for personalised items—and what better way is there to do so than DIY? These tips will be equipped with recommendations of the best and easiest DIYs that I know—and may have tried before—so even the most amateur of DIYer will be able to follow.

One of my biggest pride as blogger is in my ability to remix my clothes. Following the original idea from A Beautiful Mess, back in 2012 I made my own version of the Fashion Mixology. While ABM created 8 outfits using 8 pieces, I made 6 outfits using 6 pieces. It was my one and only attempt, but it was a lot of fun. I think most people often find it hard to remix their clothes, thus keep buying new pieces that they only wear 1-2 times before tossing away. I hope this will inspire some of you and help you wear your clothes to its maximum potential.

Saving the best for last, I'll close Fashion Revolution Week with a list of my favourite ethical fashion bloggers from across the globe. If you want ethical brand recommendations, tips on turning your closet fair and other such inspirations, these are the people to follow. I applaud their passion to support brands who treat their workers right and inspire people to be conscious consumers, instead of exploiting the latest trends and encouraging people to spend without considering its negative impacts on others. If we have more influencers like this, the world could be advancing in the right direction.

via Fashion Revolution
But don't forget to contribute this week as well by wearing your clothes with the label out and asking your favourite clothing label "Who Made My Clothes?" Spread the awareness, that behind each of these items, there is a face and a life who may or may not have to pay for your bargains. Demand your favourite brands to be responsible to their workers and treat them right. You can also film a haulternative video—or maybe write a post about it, if that's more up your alley—and spread it to everyone you know to encourage them to acquire their clothes ethically. Also, check out this page to see if there's any local event you can attend. Let us learn more, spread the awareness and take a stand against fast fashion!

P.S: If you want to read more about this topic, you can find all the posts here

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Thursday, 20 April 2017

IKAT/eCUT: Swapping with Strangers

Remember the Slow Fashion exhibition I mentioned earlier this month? Throughout the exhibition duration, they also held side events every weekend—fair crafts workshops/live demos, ethical fashion talkshows, the works—and I managed to catch the last one before the closing: a swap party! It was held on Saturday—around 2 weeks ago—Dia.Lo.Gue art space. My sister and I had to arrive there late because she had to work. At first, I didn't know what the norms were—if we would still be allowed to swap some clothes by then—but it was soon clear that we could still join in. The system works like this: we register our names and items that we brought to the people in charge, who will check if our items were still okay and give us tokens to use as tools to swap clothes, then we lay out our clothes on the available tables so everyone can take a look and decide if they want to take our stuff in exchange for their own. My sister and I scored two awesome "new" items, in exchange for the two we let go. It was definitely worth the usually tedious weekend traffic!

The items I get from the swap party

Sis's top // swapped cardigan // thrifted skirt + sandals // KABOKI macramé purse // photos by Akita

Now, four years ago, I'd gone to another swap party back in Kassel—that was the first one I've ever been a part of. This cardigan was the loot I managed to score from that little event; it used to belong to my classmate and I think her Grandma knitted it—or maybe I'm imagining details. And I can't help but to compare this event with the previous one. First of all, this one seems to have the get-in-swap-get-out kind of method—they didn't provide refreshments, lounging area or even music—it was held at a café, so there's music and food, but not from the event. It's understandable, of course, since this is a volunteer-based event to encourage people to shop less. But because of that system, I didn't manage to learn the story behind the pieces I acquired. We were encouraged to write down our stories and attach it to the clothes, apparently—my sister said she read it somewhere—but it wasn't as effective, I believe, to really create a connection with the clothes and the prior owners.

P.S: I might have photoshopped these photos to hide the huge pimple on my face

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Saturday, 15 April 2017

Ginger Honey Milkshake

Since spring seems to have, well, sprung up in the northern hemisphere—and that's where most of y'all come from, I think—I thought I'd come up with a chillier and more refreshing recipe this month. Also, I've been intrigued more and more by the plant-based lifestyle—as you might have noticed from my recipe posts for several months now. Aside from that, I'm also trying to incorporate more local produce into my recipes, so as not to have to shop for some expensive imported ingredients as well as support the local agriculture. This one in particular is my very own preference, since I've developed an aversion towards dairy milk—to drink, anyway—and got a soft spot for ginger. Originally, I wanted to make this recipe with lemon—but apparently that's how you make buttermilk so no :') On to the recipe!

(makes 1 mason jar)
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 6 tbsp. honey
  • 1 cm white ginger, sliced
  1. To freeze the bananas, chop them into smaller pieces—or just use your hands to pluck them—put them into a container and stick them in the freezer (a couple hours would do, but I left them there overnight)
  2. Put all the ingredients into a blender and turn it up on the "pulse" setting for around 2-3 minutes (or until all the ingredients have mixed well together)
  3. Pour the mixture into a glass/mug and enjoy while it's chilled!
Tips:  Now, here's the thing about the recipe: my Stepmom and I would disagree about the taste.  To me, there should be less ginger—maybe 1/2 cm. To my Stepmom, there should be less honey—since my milk was already rather sweet, she said maybe 2 table spoons, but if you have unsweetened non-dairy milk, maybe 4 spoons. My suggestions would be to add both these ingredients gradually while tasting the mixture as you go. If you don't like bananas, you can substitute with vegan ice cream, of course. I don't fancy icy drinks, so I didn't add ice cubes, but if you like those, please do. If you're vegan, you can substitute the honey with fruit syrup/nectar (this was made apparent to me by a kind vegan because for a second I forgot that honey wasn't vegan). Lass es euch schmecken!

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Monday, 10 April 2017

Lessons Learnt: No Shopping

Today I want to talk a little bit about how I accidentally stopped shopping for clothes for over a year—until March 4. Before then, the last time I had to actually pay for a new piece of clothing was in January 2016, when I made my first ever purchase at Book of Deer. It is so fitting that this clothing line that I've lusted over for so long should be the last one in a while. That being said, I did acquire a hand-me-down clothing item from a swap with a friend. Also, I managed to finally slip into an item that's been sitting in my wardrobe for too long. But last month, unfortunately, I had to break the streak and buy a pair of boots, because the shoes I was wearing at the time deteriorated. However, it still stands that I haven't gone and paid for a clothing item for a year. It's a bit funny, really, since I never vowed to do so, and many external factors—such as finances—also contribute to this outcome, but I did learn a few things in the process. Here they are.

There's Always Something to Wear

Often we face the bulging mess that is our wardrobe and, somehow, still manage to declare that we have nothing to wear, when, in fact, we actually own too much. Unless you're rendered homeless in some way, chances are you actually do have something to wear. This is one of the reasons I managed not to go shopping: because I have enough. You guys see it on the blog; I still manage to pull off various outfits using pretty much the same items for a whole year. It may seem quite boring, but clothes are meant to be worn several times and outfits are meant to be repeated. When it comes down to it, there is literally always something to wear.

Easy to Plan

Having very limited number of clothes makes it very easy for me to remember what I own and plan my outfits ahead of time. If I'm feeling a little bit creative or dedicated, I could probably even sketch it out. Of course, the clothes I have are still a lot for one person—I'm still surprised to find several items I don't remember in my wardrobe. Still, it's much, much easier than when my wardrobe was double or triple its current size, which means planning outfits takes less time now. I can really channel my time into creating something more impactful and important—like work or this blog or whathaveyou. Not only a time-saver, having a smaller wardrobe has reduced my stress levels considerably.

No Money, No Cry

One of the reasons I stopped shopping was money problems. I don't know if I ever talked about this on the blog but my budget is very, very tight at the moment. So much so that shopping for clothes literally fell to the bottom of my priority list right now. And, you know what, it doesn't bother me. I used to spend hours scrolling through online stores and closet sales, contemplating what to get—even when I don't need any new item at all. Now I can literally skim through any listings and be absolutely okay with not purchasing anything. Instead, I could use the money—and time—for other more crucial stuff. Probably for the first time ever, I find that even when I don't buy the things I thought I wanted, the world doesn't come crashing down.

Alternative Consumerism

Okay, so you may want a new clothing item. So did I! But there are definitely other ways to acquire new clothes without having to break the bank and raid retail stores. For example, you can swap with your friends. Why not exchange clothes that you both no longer like from your wardrobe? One person's trash could be another person's treasure. Or you can DIY an old item to give it an entirely new look. If you can't do it yourself, you can go to a tailor with your idea. It could be a little pricey, of course, depending on what you have in mind—or where you live—but you at least won't contribute to the clothes being discarded into landfills. Or, best idea, you can look for hand-me-downs from your parents, grandparents or older siblings. They might have a little something that don't fit them anymore. Who knows? It could be your new favourite thing!

Finding Myself

As cheesy as this sounds, on a psychological level, I think the whole no-shopping thing really help me figure out who I am and what kind of relationship I want to have with my clothes. What we wear says a lot about the kind of person we want to be—even if we're not particularly interested in fashion. The fact that I don't get to shop—which later turns into not wanting to shop—really forces me to look at the things I own and figure out what they possibly say about me. Not just in the way the clothes look, but how I treat them—do I wear them often? Do I care for them right? I admit, I've purchased clothes that weren't right for me in the past, so this whole experience feels a lot like detoxifying my wardrobe and it pretty much has the same effect. Never before, I believe, have I ever felt a stronger sense of self.

Aside from the physical act of putting clothing items in a cart and paying for them, I also unsubscribed to all newsletters from online stores. This has also reduced my stress level considerably. Without having to mark all my emails as read—because I just can't stand having unopened emails in my inbox—I feel much, much less distracted from doing things higher on my priority list. I've also stopped window shopping, both online and offline, for the same reason. This, of course, didn't happen overnight—I used to still wander about town just walking into and out of stores—but once I realise I stopped doing that, I also notice how much lighter my heart feels. And, yes, I was once a retail-therapy enthusiast, but I do feel there are less destructive and insensitive ways to relieve one's frustration than consumerism. Why don't you give it a try?

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

IKAT eCUT: The Truth Behind Fast Fashion

The amount being paid for different purposes in one clothing item (the left is fast fashion, the black tag is wage)
Where big retail brands' clothes are made worldwide
Natural dye selections with colour variety with different methods
Last weekend my sister and I sauntered off to a less familiar part of town to visit the IKAT eCUT: Slow Fashion exhibition, held by Goethe Institut Indonesia. I've been meaning to visit the site for weeks now and, thankfully, was finally able to do so. It was a long journey but definitely well worth it. The exhibition started off in Hamburg a couple years ago and I'm so thrilled to finally have it in Jakarta. My sister and I learnt a lot about the fast fashion industry, including the minimum wage situation in various countries, where clothes from different unethical brands are made and the local impact on the environment here in Indonesia. Did you know that Citarum River—the biggest and longest river in Java—is claimed to be the most polluted river in the world? The first case I noticed was perpetrated by GAP in 2013, but apparently the situation has yet to improve since then. Hopefully, you can read the rest of the information here—including water usage for different fabrics.

There was so much information, I'm very unsure of what to write here. But, for instance, something which intrigued me was the difference in wage payment in fast fashion and slow fashion labels. As you can see in the diagram above, for fast fashion, for every 4,95€ item, the workers receive only 13 cents of wage; while for medium price segment, for every 29€ item, the workers receive only—get this—18 cents of wage! Huge difference in price range yet so little difference in wage. Can you believe that? Meanwhile, for slow fashion, for every 19,90€ item, the workers receive 60 cents of wage—which makes a huge difference. And, if you guys know ethical clothing, you'd know that most of their clothes will cost more than 20€—which means more well-deserved wages for the workers. Let that sink in for a bit!

Pollution by clothing manufacturing facts and the effects on Citarum river (right)
Dyeing technique alternatives—including microfarming!

Hand-me-down shirt + purse + skirt // thrifted loafers + hat // outfit photos by Akita

But, aside from the negative facts, there is also good news in this exhibition. The slow fashion lab is absolutely enlightening and beautiful. It is filled with various items from local ethical labels, including my all-time favourite—which you would know if you've been around since 2015—Kana. There were also various alternatives in terms of dyeing, fabric manufacturing and dye-resist techniques—including our proud batik and the innovative microfarming. I was completely awed by the various natural dyes introduced, using leaves and woods from our local area—including the infamous indigo leaves—and how the colours may vary with the addition of other non-toxic substances. The same goes for the incredible fabric manufacturing using natural ingredients, such as pineapple and abacá banana. It was absolutely remarkable!

If you want to learn more about slow fashion and the dark side of fast fashion—and if you care about people and the environment, I suggest you do—come visit the exhibition! It'll still be around until 9 April 2017 at Gudang Sarinah Ekosistem. They also have some awesome side events to go with the exhibition each week—I'll hopefully be at their swap party next Saturday. Also, don't forget that at the end of this month it will be Fashion Revolution Week—and you can bet that there'll be a lineup of posts from this blog to support the cause. I'll let you know more about that when the time comes. Watch this space!

P.S: Deliberately wore ethically-acquired outfit for the exhibition—although I know most of them were probably not ethically manufactured. Secondhand is my life!

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