Oka Diputra, A Monologue

As part of Bali Fashion Week 07 Media Campaign, we’d like to feature this talented Designer.

Fashion has always been a passion for me. Having four siblings meant that when I was young I always had to wear hand-me-downs which I transformed into new and outlandish outfits that got people asking.

At first I did not think that fashion would give me the fulfillment that I was searching for and therefore I took a course in graphic design at Bali’s Udayana University. Rest assured, I never completed the four year course as my passion eventually gravitated towards fashion.

The number of people who were interested in my clothes gave me the confidence to start my first boutique, catering solely for men. I opened my first boutique with hardly a penny. A friend supported this venture financially and another by teaching me all there is to know about pattern making and sewing. This friend with his incredible skill in sewing and pattern cutting was my back bone and the only force in my production. He was my chief dressmaker who understands my designs and sketches.

Initially I started with men’s collection only as at the beginning my limited understanding allowed me just that. As I went along, I realised that women spend more money on clothes and indeed, my women’s line sells faster than I can produce them.

During the first years I also learned that it is hard to design a dress that will fit most sizes. I ended up with 12 different sizes for each design to guarantee sales. This system was very counterproductive as some sizes were going slower than the others. I decided to search for cuts and styles that will fit a wide range of sizes. My habit in cutting the pattern 3 dimensionally (on a tailor’s dummy) helps a lot in this search. I use a lot of bias cutting technique and for fastening, I use knots instead of buttons and zippers. Unwittingly, my silhouette become very Asian, as most ethnic Asian clothing use the same principals.

The solution I found in solving the problem of sizes has become my signature and happily the new line flies out of my boutique faster than I expected. I began to expand my production but as I have aversion to mass produced clothes, I made a point to only engage tailors that will work individually at their own pace and environment. This production system is well appreciated by my customers who wish to own dresses that have not been made in an endless assembly line.

My signature is sleek, clean and avoids complicated frills and therefore is easy to be copied. At first I was furious for being copied so blatantly but I eventually take it as a compliment. I always strive to be a step ahead by using exotic materials that are not easy to obtain. I travel around South Asia like Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand for fabric ‘hunting’ every few weeks. These trips give me the chance to source accessories and artifacts that compliment my clothes.

My signature proves to be very popular with my international buyers who are mainly visitors to Bali. Retail was my main interest but by opening my 3rd boutique in Legian, I was exposed to international wholesale buyers. Bali as an exotic holiday destination attracts buyers who like to mix business with pleasure. My buyers often come in a very good buying mood after a relaxing swim or sun tanning on the beach. Through these buyers my designs are sold in exclusive quantity in six countries : The USA, Spain, Italy, Greece, Brazil and Australia.

So far, I have not met difficult or cheating buyers apart from one particular buyer operating from Germany. They treated my designs as mere merchandise and took the liberty to peel off my label to accommodate their own. Learning from this experience I offer my buyers a chance of using their own label as long as I have the right to claim the intellectual rights over my designs. Hence I have a line called Exlplora by oka Diputra sold in Tarifa, Spain.

“………………………… I was considered as one of three promising designers of the year in 2004 by Dewi magazine. Participating in the Bali Fashion Week 4 years in a row also allows me a wide exposure to numerous publicities, including Fashion TV.

My Design was featured in Elle Spain and is enjoyed by numerous celebrities, both local and international, some of whom make special trips to Bali to purchase my latest collection.”

One of my goals in life is to bring my designs to Paris. A little boutique in Le Marais would be just splendid. Hopefully in 5 years time I would be able to find a trustworthy agent and partner to reach this goal. At the moment I am focusing on improving the quality of my clothes. It is quite difficult to find good tailors in Bali.
However, my biggest hurdle is to find interesting and inexpensive fabric in Bali. It is easier to buy them in Vietnam or Cambodia or even in Little India in Singapore! I learn that most manufacturers in Indonesia prefer to export their products.

“Pricewise Indonesia can’t compete with countries like Vietnam or China. But as most of my customers pointed out, we have abundant talent in fashion. Unfortunately, our government often underestimate this fact. Supports on the fashion industry have been very sporadic if not almost non-existent. Bali alone exported million dollars worth of clothing (unfortunately most of them are not properly recorded for fear of tax people banging on their door). Imagine if this untapped potential is given full attention! Bali is the perfect window for us as it is exposed too many different kind demography through its tourism industry. Selected small scale industry should be given a chance to showcase their products more prominently in events like the Bali Fashion Week.

Indonesia should be more proud of what they have otherwise other countries will claim its heritage.”