Embroidered jute, tailored secondhand bedsheets and rope. This is the eclectic mix of materials that forms the basis of fashion designer Sarah Devina Sustanto’s collection, Dirgahayu.
Showcased at The Eco Chic Design Award 2017, Sustanto’s work captures the cultural significance of Indonesia’s Independence Day traditions whilst highlighting the importance of recycling and caring for the local environment. We chatted to her to find out more …
Where abouts in Indonesia did you grow up? What impact does the city have on your design?
I come from Jakarta, Indonesia and my country is the biggest inspiration behind my collection for the EcoChic Design Award 2017. The title of the collection itself – Dirgahayu – comes from the Sanskirt word, Dirgha meaning “long” and Ayu meaning “life”. Inspired by the struggling historical story behind Indonesia’s Independence Day traditions.
Your fashion illustrations are gorgeous, where did you study? How did your university affect your designs?
Thank you so much. I study and graduated as Advance Diploma in Raffles Jakarta. In my opinion, Raffles graduates are divided into two broad groups, those interested in bridal and those in ready-to-wear. My designs are more ready-to-wear, with less hand stitched details and embroidery. I put emphasis on silhouettes and fabric textures in my collection, rather than full handcrafted detailing.
What drew you towards designing sustainably?
Fashion has always excited me with how fast it changes and I am really grateful that fashion exists.
Fashion waste has always been one of my concerns as a designer. Since my first project, I have always been aware of the amount of wasted fabrics that we produce for a single piece. With this awareness of the amount of waste created in the production process, I have discovered the potential for turning this waste into a new garment or detailing throughout my work.
I think as a designer, I must be responsible for what I create – and I have made the decision to be more ethical. There are many ways to be more sustainable in fashion and this competition has offered me the opportunity to demonstrate my learned techniques in sustainable industry and prove to myself that I can recreate beautiful clothes using old clothes and damaged textiles.
The silhouettes and shapes throughout your EcoChic Design Award 2017 collection give reference to Victorian and Japanese style, yet it was inspired by the Indonesian Independence Day. We love how you have merged these cultures into one. Was this always your intention?
In some way, yes I wanted to create this juxtaposition. My EcoChic Design Award 2017 collection is inspired by the struggling historical story behind Indonesia’s Independence Day traditions. The infamous competition of this celebration is a jute sack race based on the time under the colonialism of Japan, when Indonesian workers were forced to wear jute sacks as clothing. Jute sacks have become the focal of my collection, coexisting with Japanese inspired silhouettes and elements, such as kimono shapes, obi belt and pleats. The ropes and braids details throughout the collection resemble the tug of war tradition also taking place as part of the Independence Day celebration.
The concept of this collection is the cross-over between the modern-day Independence celebration and the historical utility wear. I hope this collection will deliver a heart-touching tale and evoke the emotion of Indonesian people suffering and struggle before the country’s independence.
Dirgahayu, the name of your collection means long life. Now that your collection has been on the catwalk, what will happen to it?
Some pieces of my collection are currently being exhibited alongside the other finalists around the world by the competition’s organiser, Redress. I have also brought a few pieces from the collection back to Indonesia with me which have been borrowed by fashion stylists for editorial shoots and commercial usage. Also, I’ve been keenly promoting my collection on my official social media account.
Your materials of choice were jute and used hotel bed sheets. Tell us more about why you chose these fabrics?
Nowadays, jute sacks have become one of the most popular sustainable fibres used in crafts, especially for bags. I want to expand the availability of creating new things from this environmental-friendly industrial waste, such as the kimono coat, cullote pants and corset in my collection.
My designs are actually quite basic and very wearable as separate pieces. The sources of the textiles are also easily available, such as jute sacks from the supermarket or around the home and secondhand bed sheets from hotels.
Now the award is over, what are your next steps?
I’m planning to continue my study for my bachelor’s degree next year. I also want to focus in developing my own brand, so stay tuned!