January 28, 2021

Cinta Batik & Dual Heritage - Introducing Lara of the brand Dewi

I have been following Lara on Instagram for a while now. When she asked me for an interview on her site (read it here '#DewiMeets: Sabine Bolk), I thought it would be nice to also make a blogpost about her and her brand Dewi in return. Her love for Batik and how she shares it online is wonderful. It was also great to talk with her in person, we talked for 2 hours and honestly probably could share Batik stories all day. So I am happy to introduce Lara of the brand Dewi here on my blog.

Lara grew up in Germany and actually grew up with Batik. Her mother use to dress her up in it. She has old photos of her wearing all kinds of clothing made with Batik. Her mother often went to Indonesia and really liked Indonesian textiles. But Lara’s more clear first encounter with Batik happened a few years ago.
In 2015 when Lara was studying International cultural and business with the focus on Southeast Asia she did an exchange semester in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. During this she did a study project in Bogor where she asked people about their relationship with Batik. It was a great experience because everyone told her they really loved batik, also the young people. And although they loved it and think it is beautiful, they also told her they mostly bought the printed textiles. The main reason these printed textiles being more affordable than handmade Batik. This is especially true for Bogor, near Jakarta. In Jakarta Batik prices can get pretty high. Handmade Batik sold there is often 3 times the price of what it was at the Batikworkshop. 

In 2018 Lara re-discovered the Indonesian fabrics her mother collected and wanted to make something with them. She made some small things first like a bag. About a year ago Lara became more active with her brand Dewi and it is lovely to follow her process on Instagram.
She went to Yogyakarta (and the small island Una-Una, Sulawesi) during the Winter months end of 2019, beginning 2020. She luckily returned right before the Pandemic started. She had the plan to buy Batik in advance so she could start-up Dewi when she returned to Vienna, Austria. 
She ordered her Batiks from Batikworkshop Winotosastra in Yogyakarta. Winotosastro is for many a first and very welcome introduction to Batik. They have a wonderful working-space and produce both Tulis and Cap. She explained the process took about 3 weeks. She picked motifs and colours she liked and made first a big sample piece with all the motifs in Cap. 
She ended up with a suitcase full of Batik Cap in reds, blues, browns and black with motifs like ‘kawung’, ‘pilin’, ‘hujan’ and my favourite ‘Beras tumpah’.

Lara with Batikcap printer at Batikworkshop Winotosastro in Yogyakarta (ID)

One of Lara’s favourite patterns is ‘Parang’, she feel this motif can provide the wearer strength during specific occasions. She also likes the more modern looking motifs like ‘Rattan’, or ‘Rotan’. I know ‘Rattan’ as a filling pattern used on the Northcoast that refers to the walls made from bamboo that look exactly like these squares in the motif. You can find these different patterns in Lara collection with also explanations behind every motifs.
Lara makes all kinds of accessories like hip bags, scrunchies, hair ties and since last year face masks. I have a lovely face mask by her with ‘Beras tumpah’ in black.
She focus on accessories for now so she doesn’t have to work with different sizes. She does want to experiment with clothing that doesn’t just fit a certain body size in the near future. I love this, because the Batik clothing I have, made in Jakarta or made by Guave, are also like this. I can wear them regardless my own weight or the layers I might want to wear underneath. This make them wearable for a long time and through many seasons. 

Photo of the package with the Batik mask gift Lara send me last year

Next to Batik, Lara will add some other Indonesian textiles to her brand. She will make items from Ikat, Songket, Lurik and Tenun. Some of these pieces were collected by her mother, some she bought new. She found a Lurik weaving in Jogja. It was run by one family. They did everything, from the dyeing to the weaving on a loom (partly mechanical, in Dutch ‘trapweefgetouw’). She wants to show Indonesia is more then just Batik, however Batik will always be included.

Lara is currently based in Vienna and here she noticed that not many people know Batik. It is very different from the Netherlands, many people know Batik here, and not just the people from the big Indo-European community.
There is in Austria a big interest in craft, so there is a market for handmade products. Lara uses her site and Instagram, and before the pandemic craftmarkets, to introduce people to Batik. When she was in Jogja a friend of hers, who is a videographer, made great footage of her and the making process of Batik. Check out the videos on her Insta and Youtube

Lara uses her brand Dewi not just to share about Batik and other Indonesian textiles, but also to share on her dual heritage as she nicely calls her being of Indonesian and German descent. Her mother is German and her father is Indonesian, from Bandung on Java.
Her dual heritage was a topic that was and maybe still is very sensitive to talk about. She recently shared her story on her experience in an article on Indojunkie (an English version will be published on Lara’s blog soon). 
She tells me it took her two months to finally be ready to share it. She got great respons to it and also messages from many people that had similar experiences.
We talked about how strange it is we live in a world were we ourselves do not get the freedom of identifying as we want. We get put on labels by the outside. It is too common to question someone’s beloning. Which is very hurtful. 
You should be free to express which heritage, roots and gender you feel you would like to express at any point of time. And not be confronted by others that just want to point out they think you are different. 
Growing up myself I was told a lot I was ‘the other’, yet I always felt accepted in some way and I believed that being different was actually a plus. Being the same as everybody else never got anybody anywhere… This being said, I do wish I was made aware of discrimination and racisme more clearly. I never understood when I was young why some of my friends were being picked on, to later find out why. When I learned more about this, I felt so ashamed that I at that time I wasn’t aware and it made me so sad. Being raised so called ‘colourblind’ sounds idealistic, but we should really teach our children about racisme and discrimination. We should acknowledge this factors play a big role in our society. So it is good that this topic is being discussed more and happy Lara also shares her story through her brand Dewi.

During Lara’s longer stay in Jogja in the Winter of 2019/2020 she not only bought Batik, she also  learned Javanese dance. She had the wish to at least learn one traditional Javanese dance. 
She studied with a teacher for two months and learned the dance ‘Nawung Sekar’. It is a basic dance that is often the first dance you get taught. Although it is a basic dance, it turned out it was very precise. Every placement, even of each toe, had to be exactly right. 
Lara not just studied the dance, she also made an amazing short video at a temple complex near Jogja. She bought a full traditional outfit for it including a made-to-fit headpiece. She looks absolutely stunning! You can watch the video on her Instagram 

Dance lessons 

Dance Nawung Sekar performed by Lara in traditional dance wear

For more on Lara and her brand Dewi check out her website www.laradewi.com

And aNERDgalery just posted an interview with Lara also in the aNERDspective series ‘aNERDspective Ep. 27: Dancing the Winter Away, One MM at a Time

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