Jakarta. Batik, the handpainted, wax-discharged traditional Indonesian fabric and the country's unofficial national uniform, was declared part of Unesco's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2009. The fabric has always been famous, but since that moment Indonesian designers have made a more concerted effort to promote it overseas.
In June, it's Oscar Lawalata's turn to take hundreds of batik from Sidoarjo, Madura, Trenggalek, Ponorogo and Tuban in East Java to "Batik for the World," an exhibition at Unesco’s headquarters in Paris.
Oscar said he wants to show batik with unique patterns that not many people have seen.
"There are still many unique batik patterns that we don’t really see in the market. I want to show them in the [Unesco] exhibition," the designer said.
"In East Java alone, there are more than one hundred unique batik patterns, and each has its own philosophy," Oscar said.
Aside from Oscar, another designer to take part in the Paris exhibition will be Edward Hutabarat.
Edward plans to show five wedding gowns made from batik from Cirebon (West Java) and Pekalongan (Central Java).
He will also combine Cirebon's Mega Mendung patterns with Pekalongan's Saung Galing patterns for his ready-to-wear collection.
The 59-year-old designer, who has been doing a lot of work to preserve and promote traditional Indonesian textiles, said batik cannot survive without the right ecosystem.
"Making batik demands a lot of craftsmanship and skills that require love and dedication from the makers. An exhibition like this is part of the ecosystem that will encourage them," Edward said.
The Tarutung-born designer has been researching traditional textiles in Indonesia since the beginning of his career in the 1980s.
"I've been a fashion designer for 36 years now," Edward said. "I've been privileged enough to have had the opportunity to see for myself Indonesia's many cultural riches from Sabang to Merauke."
Edward has also helped local governments in Jambi, Bali, West Java, Yogyakarta and East Nusa Tenggara to improve the livelihood of traditional artisans.
"All the works I've done are for our artisans. Without them I am nothing. I love traditional textiles but I can’t make my own," he said.
Edward wants to encourage younger designers to continue his work to preserve traditional fabrics.
"Batik is more than just a cloth. Each step in the process of making it has its own history and emotional journey. We have to keep those going," he said.
Denny Wirawan, a designer known for his sexy-but-luxurious androgynous creations, will show a ready-to-wear collection made from batik from Kudus (Central Java) at the Paris exhibition.
Denny will use clashing patterns in multi-layered outfits that take cues from local cultural heritage.
"I love to play with colors and patterns and batik is perfect for that," he said.
The Unesco exhibition – running from June 6 till 12 – will also feature art installations and discussions with 30 Indonesian batik artisans.