The history of Distro goes back to the time when the Internet was not as widely available as it is today. There were only limited resources for Indonesian kids to catch up with trends in the West: Imported music mags and bootleg CDs of British/American bands. Unexceptionally, they have grown up on Western pop culture just like any other kids in Europe and North America. Fashion-wise, foreign fashion labels were not available in their local area or simply too expensive. The Indonesian youths did not have luxury enjoyed in the West. Even if they wanted to wear a T-shirt of their favorite rock bands, they could not afford it or find it in their neighborhood. So what now? The solution was simple: Just make your own!
Printing bootleg band T-shirts started the original concept of Distro and this may explain why many Distro labels seem rock/punk oriented. Yes indeed, the DIY spirit of Distro is also something similar and comparable to that of skaters in the US. Of course, T-shirts were not the only thing they were concerned. T-shirts, posters, CDs (both foreign and local music)… Anything they wanted but couldn’t afford. In rock-oriented Distro stores, you can find not only clothing but also records and other novelties. Many Distro stores still continue selling bootleg T-shirts and designers frequently incorporate the idea of culture jamming, consciously or not. Some of the work will be an infringement of copyright in cases in the western countries (and I am sure it is in Indonesia as well). But fortunately few control measures are taken on Distro in Indonesia, giving designers and retailers a bigger sense of freedom. This DIY easy-go attitude of Distro is the key that distinguishes DIstro from fashion scenes in other countries. Detournement on popular Western pop icons with Indonesian twists creates some amazingly funky and anarchic design that will fascinate you.
Easiness of starting up business with little restriction is backing up the movement of Distro. Furthermore, the increasing availability of computers and graphic editing software is definitely making the whole process of designing a lot easier and allowing designers to be more ambitious and adventurous with their work. Relatively low cost of production and clothing materials in Indonesia is obviously an advantage too, lowering the financial burden on young designers. Lastly, the Internet is giving Indonesian labels the possibility to go across the oceans and appeal to wider audiences (as you will be checking out some Indonesian fashion label now). Although this is controversial and may be opposed to the original spirit of Distro, someday an Indonesian fashion label may become popular worldwide and will be available in your local boutique. Who knows?