Malaysian designers put on brave front at BFW

Malaysian designers Tom Abang Saufi and Natrah Hisham put on a brave front at the Bali Fashion Week (BFW) VI despite trying conditions. 

Natrah of the well-known Embun label even booked a booth at the three-day trade fair held at the ballroom of the Kartika Plaza Hotel. 

Melinda Looi showed sand-coloured gowns with elaborate detailing.

“I paid US$1,200 (RM 4,560) for the booth but I’m not happy with the conditions and response,” said Natrah, who also paid US$550 (RM 2,090) to participate in one of the fashion shows. 

Tom had earlier complained of the lack of co-ordination during her fitting session but was somewhat appeased when BFW organising chairman Ika Mardiana apologised to her and other designers. 

Said Tom: “None of my designer friends from Jakarta are participating”. Clearly, none of the top Indonesian designers such as Sebastian Gunawan, Oscar Lawalata and Biyan were there. 

Tom, together with another Malaysian designer Melinda Looi, were invited to participate whereas Natrah Hisham and Che Puan Noor of D’Reka Batik Sdn Bhd were more keen on testing the trade fair. Too bad the travel warnings from the American and Aussie Governments advising their citizens from visiting Indonesia coincided with BFW. 

All the Malaysian designers featured collections that were different from what they had shown in Malaysia recently. If there had been unhappiness backstage among the Malaysians, none of them showed it as they took their bows before a phalanx of mainly Indonesian press photographers.  

While the Malaysians showcased elegant designs in sumptuous fabrics, the Indonesian collections ranged from street fashion to skimpy, risqué outfits.  

Ika’s foreign designer friends, like Hong Kong’s Cecilia Yau and Peter Lau, didn’t fare much better especially with Lau’s see-through outfits, aiming for shock value. While Botezatu’s Catalin collection ranged from eye-catching evening wear to eye-popping dresses.  

Of the 20-odd Indonesian designers – that included Sofie, Putu Aliki, Poppy Dharsono, Afif Syakur and Ninik Darmawan – Oka Diputra showed the strongest style with his menswear collection. His designs and fabrics appeared wearable and comfortable. The 34-year-old designer from Ubud is already exporting to Brazil, Spain, Canada, Greece, Australia and even Malaysia. 

Interviewed at his upmarket boutique at the Istana Kuta Galeria shopping centre, Oka described his clothes as casual with a glamorous touch.  

“Eighty percent of customers are Europeans and the rest Asians. The clothes appeal to artistic people who have the guts to wear my designs.  

“My ladies’ wear doesn’t have zips and comes with minimal buttons. I prefer my clothes to be tied or wrapped around the body. And I have an aversion to mass produced clothes.  

Oka has participated thrice in BFW and is a key member of the BFW VI organising committee.  

“The BFW concept is very good but it lacks the finishing touches. Greater attention must be paid to details like the buyers and the press should have been treated better.”  

The huge stage and catwalk built behind the Discovery Mall in Kuta cost about 400mil Rupiah (about RM174,000) and the whole event was estimated to have cost about 2.9bil Rupiah (about RM1.2mil). Foreign guest designers and press from 40 media organisations, mainly from Jakarta, were flown in by the organiser and put up at top hotels like the Kartika Plaza Hotel. 

Although, BFW was not slickly put together, it does have potential to grow – notwithstanding competition from the Mercedes Benz Jakarta Fashion Festival as well as the Jakarta Fashion & Food Festival.  

Bali itself is a mecca for design consultants. What BFW needs now is a generous sponsor to raise it to a more sophisticated level.  

Ika Mardiana can be contacted via e-mail at

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