the story of the black panther batik

March 14, 2018

interview by: Bere Wangge

words by: Bere Wangge


The success of Black Panther has transcended many aspects beyond the box office. Fashion-wise, in addition to numerous cosplays it’s inspired, the movie has been celebrated at New York Fashion Week with an event called Welcome to Wakanda. Dated February 12, the event saw a fashion presentation of Black Panther-themed pieces, designed by Cushnie et Ochs, Chromat, Fear of God, Ikiré Jones, Laquan Smith, Sophie Theallet and Tome.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world in Jakarta, Indonesia, a sister event took place a few days earlier on February 7. At the event, six local fashion brands had the chance to show off their own take of Black Panther

A collection from one particular brand stands out to us for its creative interpretation of the movie. Known as one of the purveyors of modern Indonesian batik, Populo Batik has successfully translated a part of Africa into the brand's signature style.


Helmed by Ba'i Someriono and Joe Lim, Populo launched its first batik collection in 2013. Since the brand's inception, the founder duo has been very clear about their mission to preserve and develop the traditional art of handmade Indonesian batik; as a side note, due to the authentic hand-drawn batik's (batik tulis) long process and premium price, both customers and designers nowadays usually prefer the factory-made, less costly printed batik (batik print). By using monochromatic colors and mixing the textile with other fabrics like wool and linen, Populo intends to make handmade batik a relevant fashion item, while keeping it traditionally Indonesian and globally recognized. 

Populo Batik sure finds a fan in the multinational name that is Disney. Previously, the brand has collaborated with Disney to design their Star Wars collection in 2015. For the Black Panther collection, Populo Batik draws their inspiration from the titular character's assertiveness and sharp wit, as well as his compassionate and protective leadership style.

In an email to Globetrotter, Joe Lim talks about interpreting those traits into Indonesian batik, and also gives insight into its difference with its African counterpart. 


Globetrotter Magazine: How did this collaboration come about?
Populo Batik:
We were approached by Walt Disney Indonesia to develop a collection for the new Marvel movie Black Panther. When we saw the trailer and read about the story of Black Panther, we immediately took a liking to the character and values of King T'Chlla. Moreover, since the Black Panther's costume has a black-on-black pattern, we also spotted similarities between it and the non-contrast batik motifs that we are currently researching and developing.

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Example of the non-contrast batik in the white-on-white Princess Shuri-inspired dress


Globetrotter Magazine: Can you tell us about the batik motif in this Black Panther collection?
Populo Batik:
We searched in our archive for a motif that could symbolize strength, power and protection, and we finally chose our gunungan pattern (gunung is Indonesian for "mountain" - Ed.), which precisely represent those characteristics and are equal to those of the Black Panther's. In Indonesia, the mountains are a part of the volcanic chains that are spread across the islands—a symbol of natural power and the mythological throne of goddesses. Meanwhile, the fictional country of Wakanda is home to a mountain made out of the miracle Vibranium mineral, the source of wealth and strength of Wakanda. So in both cases, the mountains have a major impact on the countries.

Globetrotter Magazine: What do you know about African batik, and how does it differ from the Indonesian one?
Populo Batik:
The Dutch merchants brought batik to Africa in the 19th century. Nowadays, the African wax resist batik is usually designed and produced mainly in Europe (the Netherlands). 

Design-wise, there are significant differences, as African Batik are usually much bolder, more vibrant and colorful.

Furthermore, originally, [the motifs in] African batik were not created with any specific meaning behind them, as they were designed to meet the taste of the various regions, while the traditional Javanese batik motifs have deep meanings, symbols and even their own power. Over the time, many of the motifs in African batik were given stories and meanings by the locals to represent their cultures and traditions.


Watch the making of the black-on-black Black Panther batik in the video below:

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Keep up with Populo Batik by following them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!



Images c/o Populo Batik