Cloth Vender
    Category: Forbes Life By : Shintya Felicitas Read : 634 Date : Thursday, January 04, 2018 - 15:04:24

    Ahmad Zamroni / Forbes Indonesia

    Josephine Werratie Komara, 62, better known as Obin, prefers to call herself simply as a tukang kain, or a cloth vendor. She lets others describe her as one of Indonesia’s legendary batik designers, who has dressed the likes of former President Megawati Soekarnoputri and celebrity Julia Roberts. In 2010, she also designed the uniforms worn by the cabin staff of national carrier Garuda Indonesia, which are still worn today. She pioneered putting batik on silk, a material thought unusable for batik making.

    Obin actually did start her career as a tukang kain, selling furnishing fabrics in the 1970s. She first supplied raw silks for upholsteries and drapes for the big hotel chains in Indonesia. During that time, she was the only local silk supplier when big international hotel chains starting opening in Jakarta, in the early years of the Suharto era.

    In the 1980s, her interest moved to local textiles, and she was producing silk in Indonesia, since all silk was imported at the time. She started to study batik, even though it was in decline, seen as fuddy-duddy clothes worn only by older generations at formal occasions.

    Her late husband, anthropologist and archeologist Roni Siswandi, also shared her interest in batik, and also tried to put batik on fabrics such as silk and cashmere. Their combined interest in cultural heritage and fabrics was the inspiration for Bin House, established in 1986.

    Currently, there are four Bin House boutiques in Jakarta, located at Menteng, Grand Indonesia, Plaza Indonesia, and Kemang; and a few outlets in Bali. She plans to open another outlet in the Fairmont Hotel Jakarta this year. She also has a display in Takashimaya department store in Singapore and a representative office in Japan. She has nine factories throughout Java, employing over 1,800 artisans to make her fabrics, all created by hand. In the workshops, the artisans spin, weave, draw, wax and dye using only their hands and traditional instruments.

    Preserving the traditional skills and techniques of Indonesian textile production is extremely important to Obin. “Our pieces are made by heart, and such product can speak for itself,” says Juliana Siswandi, Obin’s niece who runs the marketing and finance division.

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