Teti Nurhayati and Dina Fatima wanted to highlight the diversity and quality of fashion in their home country when they started Indonesian Fashion Gallery, a brick-and-mortar store in New York City last year.
This New York Fashion Week (NYFW), the pair went a step farther, curating a fashion show featuring six Indonesian designers as part of NYFW's First Stage, a new program for international designers to present at the fashion event.
"I hope to share the fact that Indonesia has rich cultures [due to] its different tribes. ... However, despite its differences, Indonesia will always stay united in its diversity."
For all six, the event, which took place Sept. 7, was the first time they had presented a runway in the U.S.
"We started Indonesia Fashion Gallery to help designers from our country find the right opportunities here in the United States to grow their brands," Nurhayati told NBC News. "We feel so passionate about the talent in our country, and we want to share our love of Indonesian fashion with the world. There is no better platform to do this than the global fashion capital, NYFW."
Entitled "Indonesian Diversity", the showcase was aimed at demonstrating the different styles and approaches Indonesian designers have toward contemporary fashion. The designers exhibited traditional craftsmanship such as batik — a type of fabric whose dyeing process involves hot wax — as well as modest fashion trends that have grown from Indonesia's large Muslim population.
One of the designers, Catherine Njoo, presented a collection dedicated to the Balinese prada batik (the traditional fabric of Bali), as distinguished by its solid gold embossed motif. According to Njoo, her work is also inspired by the traditional dance from Bali, called legong.
"This [presentation] draws from [the characteristics] of the Legong: the intricate finger movements (represented by beading), complicated footwork (represented by the patchwork of batik patterns), expressive gestures (translated into flexible, comfortable materials), and facial expressions (demonstrated by the embroidery)," Njoo said in an email. "My hope is that people will acknowledge and give appreciation to the batik."
Designer Melia Wijaya also drew on Indonesian traditions, specifically by an Indonesian folk story featuring the character "Sawunggaling."
The character has the energy of the rooster and peacock, which was represented on her catwalk through feather-adorned headpieces, gowns, and separates, according to Wijaya.
For her runway, Vivi Zubedi aimed to promote the awareness of the abaya, a garment worn by Muslim women.
"This season, I will present my Abaya collection made with traditional Indonesian fabrics (batik, tenun, and tie dye)," she said. "This isn't just an ordinary Muslim clothing collection, because it represents the diversity of Indonesian culture through the fabrics. The design is [also current so that it is] ready-to-wear for all people, not just Muslim women."
Her collection's theme stems from her personal belief in equal love between all cultures, she added.
Other designers who showcased their wares included Dian Pelangi — an influential force in global Muslim fashion with more than 4.8 million Instagram followers — and Barli Asmara, who presented a collection of white-lace, cold-shoulder dresses and gowns inspired by Middle Eastern architecture.
The designers accessorized their looks with handbags made by Doris Dorothea, whose business is founded on promoting fair trade and economic sustainability among artisans.
"Despite our variety of cultures, there are many outstanding talents spread out in our nation," Njoo said. "I hope to share the fact that Indonesia has rich cultures [due to] its different tribes. I want to represent them through the fabrics and accessories in my collection. However, despite its differences, Indonesia will always stay united in its diversity."
"This is a once in a lifetime experience that not all designers are privileged to have, so I'm so very proud," Njoo added. "It's an extraordinary feeling."