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Threads of Indonesia weaves together South African and Indonesian relations through fashion

Recognizing the great potential in the African market, particularly in South Africa, the Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria, in collaboration with the Indonesian Consulate General in Cape Town and ITPC Johannesburg, and with the support of Indonesia Eximbank, Bank Rakyat Indonesia, and Bank Mandiri, organized Threads of Indonesia - a fashion showcase, business luncheon and business match-making event to promote Indonesian textiles and textile-based products.

The event took place on Monday 11 September 2023 at the legendary Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. A total of 60 invitees, most of whom were potential purchasers from various companies and merchants, were in attendance.

Indonesian designers, Anita Gathmir and Jessica Febiani, presented beautiful pieces emphasizing traditional Indonesian fabrics as major elements. Anita Gathmir, the owner of Puta Dino Kayangan, whose participation is supported by Bank Indonesia, proudly showed a collection called Motif Tuan Guru, produced from Tidore weaving fabric, while, Jessica Febiani, the owner of Jessica Moretosee, employs batik textiles for her exquisite Act Globally-Love Locally collection.

Kiba Bam, representing TFG, had some congratulatory words for the Indonesian missions in South Africa for organizing the event. “TFG and Indonesian Embassy had a collaboration before and it was a huge success for the designers and TFG. TFG will be in talks with Batik fabric manufacturers on creating sustainable fabrics,” Kiba stated.

Last year, Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria and Indonesian Trade Promotion Centre in Johannesburg, together with TFG, made “Stories of Hope”, a fashion film displaying collaborative works of Indonesian and South African young designers who creatively combined batik and shweshwe fabrics.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa, Saud Krisnawan, stated that Indonesia is the world's sixth-largest textile manufacturer and aims to be one of the top five textile producers by 2030.

Ambassador Saud went on to say that numerous worldwide brands entrust and outsource the production of their products to Indonesian factories, including 35 countries that manufacture military clothing in Indonesia. Furthermore, many original Indonesian brands have made inroads into the international market. However, despite its considerable capabilities, Indonesia does not rank among the top ten CTFL (Clothing, Textile, Footwear, and Leather) exporters to South Africa. "That's why we launched Threads of Indonesia, to promote Indonesian textile and textile-based products to the South African market," Ambassador Saud explained.

A hybrid business-matching session concluded the program. In addition to the two Indonesian designers who flew to Cape Town, the buyers met virtually with 29 additional Indonesian vendors. Vendors who were unable to attend in person in Cape Town provided samples of their products.

The program continues on September 12, 2023, with a talk show at the Indonesian Consulate in Cape Town and on September 13, 2023, in the form of a company and market visit. As the Project Officer of Threads of Indonesia, Arief Ilham Ramadhan, First Secretary for Economic Affairs of the Indonesian Embassy in Pretoria, revealed that the event had begun on July 6, 2023, in the form of a hybrid business matching hosted in Durban. "After this activity in Cape Town, we plan to hold one more hybrid Business Matching activity in Johannesburg or Pretoria," Arief said.

Glamour sat down with Indonesian Ambassador to South Africa, H.E Mr Saud Purwanto Krisnawan to chat more about the event and their objectives for the movement.

Can you please tell us a little about how Threads of Indonesia came about?

We initiated this event to introduce Indonesian textiles and textile-based products to the African markets, with South Africa as a hub. With decades worth of experience in manufacturing textiles and garments, Indonesia is able to cater to a wide range of manufacturing needs, and we have so much to offer to the South African market.

What are some key objectives or goals you hope to achieve with this fashion partnership between South Africa and Indonesia?

The objective is two-fold: First is the cultural objective, and the second is the economic objective.

For the cultural, we want to promote and educate South African public about the connection between the two nations, Indonesia and South Africa, through fabrics and fashion.

Indonesia and South Africa have a long-standing cultural, emotional, and even blood relationship that dates back to the 16th century, when a vast number of royal families and major Ulama (or clerics) from several regions in the Nusantara archipelago (which is the present-day Indonesian archipelago) were exiled by the Dutch colonialists to Tanjung Harapan (Cape of Good Hope). One of them was Tuan Guru from Tidore, whose name is quite well-know to South Africa, especially amongst the Cape Malay community. This is the first connection.

The second connection was created from the unexpected collaboration of two icons, namely:

  • Batik, the icon of Indonesian textiles, and
  • Nelson Mandela, the icon of South Africa’s freedom struggle.

After receiving a gift of batik shirts from the then-Indonesian President, Soeharto, during his first visit to Indonesia in 1990, Nelson Mandela fell in love with batik. He wore it on various occasions, even at official state events and formal international occasions. In South Africa, batik shirts are given a touch of African patterns and re-born with a new identity as Madiba shirts because Nelson Mandela popularized them.

For the economic goal, as I have mentioned in the previous question, we would like to increase the trade volume between both countries for textile and textile-based products. We seek the opportunity of making South Africa as a hub for our products to enter more countries in the African continent. Not only in trade, we also seek opportunity to connect business entities in both countries to establish joint venture in the sector of textile and textile-based products.

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