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A revolution in the making

Casual designs are not just revolutionising batik culture, they’re also giving batik workers new choices


Amalinda Savirani

amalinda1.jpg
   These batik shawls, made using the stamped technique, are being
   dried under the sun
   Amalinda Savirani

Indonesian batik production has had something of a renaissance since top Indonesian designer Edo Hutabarat launched his innovative and casual designs under the label Part One in 2006. Edo did not create new batik patterns, as other senior Indonesian designers had in the past. Rather, he successfully matched traditional batik motifs with non-batik materials and more casual designs, prompting a revolution in the wearing of batik. Previously worn by older people, and then for formal occasions, many Indonesians across the generations are now donning batik in the course of their daily lives.

The batik boom has increased production levels and evened out demand at different times of the year. This is good news for workers in the batik industry. However, at first glance, it appears to have made little difference to batik workers in the town of Pekalongan, where pay scales in the batik sector are known to be among the lowest in Indonesia for workers employed by small and medium scale enterprises. But even here things are changing.

Batik basics and cheap labour

There are two basic types of batik products: those using traditional production techniques and those produced using modern machines. Hand-drawn wax batik (known as batik tulis or batik halus), stamped

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