If the bad news is that the days of tropical vacations have been suspended for many of us, the good news is that fashion has provided an interim solution, courtesy of the classic-with-a-twist tropical fabric batik.
This boldly printed, bohemian material that has its roots in south-east Asia, made a head-to-toe appearance (including tights and shoes) at Givenchy in spring 2007, and guest-starred in the collections of Etro, Yigal Azrouel and Oscar de la Renta this season. But not all batiks are created equal, and the more you know, the more intelligently you can shop this season.
Batik (which literally means where “the dot falls” in Javanese) is a form of dyeing using wax. Its precise origin is unknown, but the practice is believed to have begun centuries ago when cotton cloth from India was traded for spices from Indonesia. Indonesia’s current president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his wife have introduced “batik Fridays”, the local answer to Wall Street’s “dress down Fridays”, prompting a national fashion renaissance for the fabric.
Ade Kartika, vice director of Jakarta-based company Allure, one of Indonesia’s largest suppliers of prestige batik, explains that locally, far from being just decorative, batik designs carry subtle social signals. “Among traditionalists, the print you wear should identify your social position and honour the occasion,” she says. For an engagement, for example, the intended groom could wear an arrow motif to “target” his love interest, while his bride might sport a print that symbolises commitment. Military and government officials, meanwhile, wear patterns portraying everything from strength to protection from evil. Guards at the Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta wear batik trousers with the native “kris sword” pattern.
How batik is printed