Indonesia is hardly a big name in the world of fashion. For people in the West, Indonesian fashion scene must be virtually unknown. The world of fashion has been indeed dominated by European and American brands while names of Japanese or Hong Kong designers may pop up (how many non-European/American fashion labels can you name?) occasionally. When it comes to street fashion, Asian countries seem to get a fair share of attention but everyone’s eyes are on established cities in fashion such as Hong Kong, Tokyo and Seoul. Who would expect to find a vibrating and ever-evolving street fashion culture among the Indonesian youth?
Indonesia is the biggest Islamic country in the world and the majority of the population is religiously strict. Islamic traditions strongly remain in their everyday attire as well. Everyday fashion of Indonesia can be easily characterized as ‘conservative’, though this may fluctuate depending on age groups and especially different parts of the country concerned. With the population of 238 millions, some parts of the country are more strictly religious and some are a lot more ‘liberated’ (whether young women wear hijab or not, may be a good indicator for this). Given Indonesians are comparatively quite conservative and religiously strict, street fashion culture may seem like something unlikely to be flourished in Indonesia. But, like every new movement and trend, ‘Distro’ was begun in the street by frustrated youths.
Distro, derived from the English word ‘distribution’, doesn’t seem to have a concrete definition but it is basically a concept of DIY independent fashion business. The first step is to start designing your clothes (t-shirt is obviously the most popular choice for starters). The second step is to distribute your products by consigning them to local boutiques; they are very likely some distro brand store selling their own label and others. Otherwise, you simply start your own boutique and then you become an owner of your own independent fashion label. In every major city in Indonesia, there are tens of, hundreds of small distro boutiques run by local young designers and their friends. The idea is to design whatever they think is cool. Distro designers seem to enjoy flexibilities and freedom of being DIY that allow them to play around with ever y little idea and be adventurous with designs. They love designing: You find hundreds of t-shirts in a distro boutique and none of them have a same design printed on it. Many distro labels for guys seem to be notably punk/skater-inspired. This may have something to do with the origin of Distro that goes back to the time before the Internet…
To get a better idea of distro clothings, check out Magic Happens, an ambitious Jakarta-based brand.