Covered and classy

Beautiful and striking designs were seen at the fourth Islamic Fashion Festival 2010 Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta.

ISLAMIC fashion is sometimes seen as quite unwearable. If you look at some designs, you find that most of them don’t quite make sense for the average women.

Where on earth would you wear trailing yards of fabric, layers of material and strange-looking headgear? But just like other types of fashion, where some of the things we see on the runway don’t quite look like what women can wear every day, it’s all a matter of interpretation.

That being the case, the fourth Islamic Fashion Festival (IFF) Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta not only had some beautiful and wearable designs, and there were also several pieces you could adapt to your existing wardrobe.

The first night, the Gala Night, saw several VIPs in attendance, with guests of honour Raja Muda of Perlis Tuanku Syed Faizuddin and Raja Puan Muda of Perlis Tuanku Lailatul Shahreen Khalil Akashah and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.

Held at the beautiful Dharmawangsa hotel in Jakarta, the two-day event featured designers from Malaysia and Indonesia.

This year’s theme was “Cita Nusantara” and according to IFF chairman and founder Raja Datuk Rezza Shah, it had three concepts: “From Minimalist to Maximalist”; “A Collaboration”; and “Love of the Malay Archipelago” (In Malay, that would be “Cinta Cita Nusantara”).

The cover of the programme was quite amusing with an old photo of a Malaysian woman and Indonesian woman bersalam (clasping each other’s hands in a greeting), both dressed in batik. Raja Rezza had explained humorously earlier that he chose it because it showed the muhibbah spirit between the two countries. Indeed, there are a lot of similarities between us, and we are often said to be serumpun (same grouping of people).

Hence the theme was an appropriate one, and it saw the melding of several well-known local and Indonesian designers, and even the entertainment featured singers from both countries. Local singer Aizat and Indonesian singer Rossa performed during the Gala Night and Indonesian singers Yolanda Yusof and Zero Nasyid on the second day.

The Gala Night featured designers such as Malaysians Datuk Tom Abang Saufi and Melinda Looi and Indonesians Ghea Panggabean, Milo and Samuel Wattimena.

Tom, who said her collection was inspired by the Orang Ulu motif of the circle of life, called her collection, “Romance of Borneo”.

Her designs stayed true to form with lovely, flowy garments of swirly patterns in a lot of black and white – perfect for any occasion – and black turban-inspired headgear. Tom’s designs have always been wearable and I have to say that this collection was one of my personal favourites, along with Ghea Panggabean’s designs.

Milo, another name that would be quite familiar to most Malaysians, also featured black-and-white designs. Milo, an Italian residing in Bali, had the theme “Milo Internazionale”, with his collection of Batik Alambra (inspired by the Kalimantan), Batik Wajik (modern geometry) and Batik Cactus (modern abstract).

Looi’s collection, “Batique”, was very interesting as it was all abayas. Inspired by Middle Eastern culture, her interpretations were beautiful and enhanced with a touch of glitter from Swarovski Elements.

As someone who has a lot of Muslim clients, Looi has an understanding of Islamic fashion and her clothes were understated but elegant. And, of course, there’s always a touch of drama somewhere in her work – this time, it was in the headdress, a sort of big, fantastical piece that looked like it was made from masses of tulle or netting.

Samuel Wattimena of Indonesia was the only one who showcased menswear in a collection called “The Passion of Diversity”. The collection had a diverse range of fabrics and a silhouette is inspired by the traditional outfit of Indonesia. Among the fabrics he used were songket and endek hand weaving from Bali, ulos weaving from Batak and batik from Madura.

Ghea was celebrating 30 years in the industry and her pieces have always featured beautiful prints in gorgeous hues. Her collection in Jakarta was no exception, coming off as something like a retrospective in the familiar looking prints. It showcased traditional dance and songket as well.

With the theme, “Spirit of Indonesia”, the European-Indonesian designer showcased her passion for her Indonesian heritage with touches of Western influences. For Ghea’s 30th anniversary celebration, which she calls “Journey of Textiles from the Indonesian Archipelago”, inspiration came from the islands of Java, Bali and Sumatera.

On the second day, a total of 16 designers from both countries presented their collections. The Malaysian designers/brands were Noraini (Jarumas), Khadani, Kraftangan Malaysia and Mona Din (Hajaba), while the Indonesians were Merry Pramono, Iva Latifah, Erni Kosasih, Hannie Hananto, Alphiane Chandrayani, Anne Rufaidah, Jeny Tjahyawati, Savitri, Ida Royani, Zainal, Nuniek Mawardi and Ian Adrian.

One thing I noticed particularly were the amazing colours – if you ever wanted to know what it’s like to wear bright yellow Muslim clothing, there were several choices on show.

And the textiles were amazing. The Palembang songket shown during Zainal of Zainal Songket’s collection were gorgeous and intricately detailed. The richness of the songket really stood out; this collection was my absolute favourite for the sheer beauty of the fabric.

Another Indonesian designer I must mention, a personal favourite of mine who was doing Muslim clothing way before anyone else, is Ida Royani.

Now here is a designer who understands completely the kind of everyday wardrobe the average Muslim woman would want to have. Tasteful, elegant and discreet, her collection paired plain loose tunics, like baju kurung, with patterned sarongs. Using antique woven fabrics from Nusa Tenggara Timur (Sabu, Rote and Maumere), I would say hers would be the collection that would resonate closely with Muslim women looking for something relatively simple and lovely.

Malaysian designer Khadani, who had the theme, “Islam, The Sea and The Malay Archipelago”, also had a wearable collection that was all flowing and graceful. With Islamic motifs, the blend of soothing colours in the hand-painted batik matched the theme and the designs are perfect for the upcoming Raya season.

As in any show, there will always be some outlandish, exaggerated and extravagant designs, but that’s what fashion is all about, be it Islamic or not.

But judging from the striking colours and designs ranging from the wearable to the eye-catching, and gorgeous fabrics, Muslim women would have plenty to choose from.

Who’s to say you can’t wear yellow or fuschia just because you’re all covered up? Fashion is fun and being beautiful in the eyes of God is a must – and at this year’s IFF, there was a good mix of both the elegant and beautiful, fun and fashionable.

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