Indie Designer Kleting Fills Indonesian Fashion Gap


‘Jakartans have their own style,’ says Kleting Titis Wigati, an Indonesian fashion designer with KLE. ‘They are looking for quirky things to add with a white T-shirt, leggings or with a jacket.’ (Photo courtesy of KLE)

When fashion designer Kleting Titis Wigati launched her own clothing label in 2009 she had one goal in mind — to fill a gap in Indonesian independent fashion.

After studying at Esmod Jakarta before heading to the Istituto Marangoni in Italy, Kleting returned home to Indonesia unsatisfied with a status quo that lacked originality and local flare.

“Young professionals … didn’t have much choice from Indonesian designers in the market,” the 31-year-old explained, “Of course there are the chains like Zara, but at the end of the day there is more of a chance to find someone else wearing the same thing.”

More importantly, Kleting, a former fashion editor and stylist, wanted to make her mark in a market that was in the midst of exciting changes and expansion.

“In Southeast Asia, I think that the fashion is growing so fast. The people in Jakarta, Bandung, Bali and Surabaya are so stylish and fashion forward. The young professionals are also quite dressy and aren’t typically following the stereotypical dress code of the office.”

The capital-based designer remarked: “Jakartans have their own style. They [consumers] are looking for quirky things to add with a white T-shirt, leggings or with a jacket. They don’t just look for a blazer per se, they look for pieces that they can take from work to the outside.”

With the stars of supply and demand aligned, the label KLE was born.

Described as “high-streetwear,” a label that comfortably straddles classy and casual, the Indonesian-made brand comprises a full range of modern staples. Each collection includes a broad choice of tops, skirts, shorts, pants and dresses, but produced in limited supply, giving the pieces an exclusive air.

Kleting’s work holds a distinct character, deviating from the conventional cuts or patterns one would find in the mainstream fashion chains — think oversized dress shirts, asymmetrical blouses, ruched wide-legged pants and a kimona-style jumpsuit, just to name a few from her latest collection.

When it comes to finding inspiration for each collection Kleting draws first from her emotions.

“I twist ideas from emotions into images,” said Kleting, who has already produced more than a dozen collections.

“I use nature as well, as it connects and can relate to the flow of how I choose the fabric and how I make a line.”

And even though the the bi-seasonal Indonesian weather does not align with the spring/summer and fall/winter divides elsewhere, Kleting varies her collection in accordindance with the rest of the fashion world.

“In Jakarta, for example, even though the climate is pretty warm, the colors will change in winter,” explained Kleting, who has worked in product development with Italian-based labels Miss Sixty and Energie.

“I make things darker. Jackets are still light but there will still be hoodies, cardigans and sweaters in the collection. I also design overcoats for the rainy season. I’ve brought some of my winter pieces to Europe and they can still warm you up. The only difference is while the real thick coats have thermals and lining, I just don’t add those to the coats here.”

While Kleting primarily stocks her label in Indonesia, selling in Jakarta and Bandung and also in Singapore, her work is getting exposure in other countries. She has also sold some of her pieces in Dubai and Amsterdam.

Beyond a talented creator, Kleting is also an entrepreneur, using the knowledge from her fashion degree in Italy to run her brand on her own.

“A lot of the subjects I took focused on managing your own brand,” Kleting said. “It was very industry-heavy rather than just making it all about high fashion.”

Her experience in Italy colors a lot of the designer’s practice.

“The Italians make a lot of ready-to-wear labels rather than high fashion couture. I took a lot of knowledge from the Italian industry, about how cuts work, how to develop a concept and how to make everything connect to each other,” she said.

“I was able to work with some Italian-based labels and then back in Jakarta I met someone from Hong Kong, which led me to work for an Italian company in Hong Kong.

“A lot of European countries do their production in Southeast Asia so I worked with Italians a lot and I picked up their strategies.”

Even the name of the label, KLE, was inspired from her time in Italy: it was a nickname she picked up from her peers when they had difficulty pronouncing her full name.

Despite the European influence, KLE is distinctly Indonesian. In order to keep up with local demand and requests from customers, Kleting produces a holiday collection specifically for Idul Fitri.

Styles from KLE’s 2013 spring/summer collection designed by Kleting Titis Wigati. (Photo courtesy of KLE)

“I make kaftan-style pieces, oversized tops, jodhpur pants, that don’t scream baju Muslim [Muslim clothing] but the clothing does cover you.”

While Kleting uses fabric made from all over Asia, she keeps her production local in Jakarta and Bandung.

Her workshop is based in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta, and Kleting spends her days sketching out designs in preparation for her next collection. She also enlists the help of three sewers, a pattern maker and a cutter to bring her designs to life.

Besides expanding her collection, Kleting has also created bespoke items for weddings and for men. “I haven’t done a menswear collection but a lot of my friends ask me to make them suits. I design the cuts, which are suitable for a guy, and then make them with our team,” she said.

Her primary focus is to build up her label in Asia, but Kleting is keen to bank on her experience in Italy to help her brand gain global exposure. “Asia has a big market and it is very good to explore. Maybe the next step for me will be to branch out to the rest of the world once the economy improves,” she said.

The collection is priced fromRp 180,000 ($18) for a T-shirt to Rp 1.8 million for a dress.

Check out the print version here.