I remember one time I was in a room filled with a group of women somewhere in Jakarta. I was immediately drawn to their matching tops: Woven fabric with white irregular stripes, draped around them with a technique that looks simple at one glance, yet not so easy after a closer look, which reminded me of Japanese kimono.
I found out later on that the Yogyakarta-based Lulu Lutfi Labibi is the designer of the tops I had seen the other day. Made out of Indonesian traditional fabric called lurik, combined with the elegant moulage (draping) technique, Labibi's designs have captivated many, myself included.
Lurik or lorek means "stripes" in Javanese, and it's commonly made from cotton strands. Although each motif of lurik is considered sacred and believed to have mystical powers, the fabric has had a few non-magical moments; the main cause being the rise of cloth factories and hi-tech machinery that could produce various modern motifs in a cheaper price.
Thankfully, this didn't stop Labibi's undying love with the textile; in fact, it made him commit to lurik even more. Whether it's the unique texture, the weaving process, or the richness of its history, he was eager to make the traditional fabric more known internationally. He managed to do so when he showcased his collection at the 2016 MQ Vienna Fashion Week.
An admirer of Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo, Labibi is highly interested in Japanese design aesthetic. He embraces the ancient Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi, or finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature. He personally believes that there is something exquisite in imperfections.
Perhaps that's also the reason he applauds individuality and personal style, as evidenced by his engaging Instagram feed. Through social media, it seems that he wants to convey the message: "Everybody can wear Lulu Lutfi Labibi." Taken in his warm concrete-floored studio, with an alluring dark-tone, most of his photos feature his wide-ranging female customers—from 17 to 40-ish year old—in his effortless and timeless pieces.
Labibi's draping technique allows the women to freely express themselves and dare them to create more looks than one! By merely adding a leather belt, a simple rope on the waist or a formal long skirt, one piece of fabric can turn into a day-to-night attire.
Turning a thick fabric like lurik into a ready-to-wear piece using the draping technique may not be a simple task. But judging from the brand's success, there's no doubt that the designer has successfully overcome the challenges.