KABAKIL by Edward Hutabarat: An Inspiration from the East

KABAKIL by Edward Hutabarat: An Inspiration from the East

By vira

Story by Vira Tanka | Photos by Davy Linggar, Vicky Tanzil, Panji Indra, Edward Hutabarat

Fashion designer and a cultural practitioner Edward Hutabarat (Edo) respects and appreciates local culture, particularly traditional ikat weaving. His love of the Sumbanese cultural heritage was reflected in his winter collection, named KABAKIL Collection.

Indigo blue blanket from Waikabubak, West Sumba

When visiting Sumba, in East Nusa Tenggara Province, about 20 years ago, Edo could not help but fell in love with almost every aspect of the island, from the traditional market, nature, children, foods, to ceremonies. But, as a fashion designer and cultural practitioner, he was mostly amazed by Sumbanese traditional ikat weaving.

Ikat weaving is commonly defined as a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles that employs resist dyeing on the yarns prior to dyeing and weaving the fabric. Unlike in the past in which traditional woven fabric was mostly used as part of religious ceremonies, today people use the fabric in daily activities and in other important life events such as natal ceremonies, weddings and funerals. The fabric is also used to show one’s social status.

KABAKIL Collection

Falling in love with Sumba has led Edo to frequently visit the tourist destination, mingling with local people, including the weaving artists, who often invited him to attend important traditional ceremonies in which traditional woven fabrics are commonly used. “To me, Sumba’s ikat weaving is more than just reflecting the importance of traditional values. But it’s a cloth of civilisation because it’s made to complete a ceremony and every piece has its own meaning,” Edo told Indonesia Design.

The use of woven fabrics for religious ceremonies, especially by adherents of MARAPU, local original belief, remains common until today with animal motifs, mainly buffalos, pigs, horses and chickens commonly found in the woven fabric designs. This has made the ikat weaving highly special to Edo.

The Sumba House, erected in the Borobudur compound

In 2022 Edo was invited by Hilmar Farid, Ph.D, the director general of culture, and Ahmad Mahendra, S.Sos, the director of film, music and media, both of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology, to take part in the campaign, themed “Nusantara Weaving: Keeping Traditions for Sustainable Earth” that the government has been running. In response to the invitation, Edo created 50 pieces of female, male and unisex attires under the collection named KABAKIL. “I have taken the inspiration from the Sumba ikat weaving. Commonly, the horse, chicken, turtle and lobster are the motifs that most local weaving artists use in the designs. But I wanted to create something new by highlighting KABAKIL because, apart from its distinctive feature, we didn’t need to go through the complicated woven fabrics-making process,” he said.

The name KABAKIL is taken from the finishing technique that’s applied to a Sumba cloth, which is weaved in a reversed direction and then twisted. It’s a technique applied to keep the threads intact with the cloth, which keeps it neat. KABAKIL adds a value to the cloth because only few weavers have the skill to do it. Normally, KABAKIL is only 8 cm long at the end of the cloth. For this collection, Edo had the KABAKIL weaved into a cloth of 4-5 m by 80 cm, which is then made into a piece of fabric, combined with ikat weaving cloths that Edo has been collecting. The weaving process was conducted in Rende, Pau, Kaliuda, Prailiu, Kanatang, Haumara and other villages in East Sumba.

Tiduhai Kea, crown combs for the royal women

In the fashion show, natural stone path right in front of the temple was used as a stage where models wearing kimonos, jackets, dresses and trousers, with several bringing a bag designed by Christian Graciel, walked the runaway gracefully. The rain which fell unexpectedly did not deter visitors from watching the show that was directed by the eminent Jay Subyakto.

Meanwhile, the exhibition, called “Edward Hutabarat Living”, drew a large crowd. A Sumba’s traditional house was erected in the temple area, displaying a variety of Sumba’s combs, wicker rugs, baskets, cloths and other handcrafts. Several Sumba’s women with their respective loom were present to demonstrate their skill in weaving. Also displayed, the only one in the world, a 50-metre seamless mat made of pandanus leaf, adorned with scales at the ends, which took 12 months to create.

The Sumba House and everything in it, topped with thatched roof, were all made with natural materials. Being in the house made you feel like you were transported to a Sumbanese kingdom village in the midst of its pristine nature.

The KABAKIL collection, the fashion show and the exhibition presented as a unity illustrated Edo’s minds and experiences as a fashion designer and an admirer of civilisation, who tried to document his journey from the Land of Sumba through diverse mediums, two and three dimensional. He expressed the hope that Edward Hutabarat Autumn Winter 2023 KABAKIL collection could show the world another greatness of Indonesian culture, which would drive the younger generation to respect and preserve the cultural heritage.

Edward Hutabarat, the artisans and the models

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