Local fashion designers aim to turn Indonesia into the world’s Muslim fashion Mecca within the next decade, and in a country with the largest Muslim population, their goal is a realistic one.
More than 85 percent of Indonesia’s population, or more than 200 million people, are Muslim, according to the Central Statistics Agency..
“Indonesia’s Muslim fashion is so unique and varied,” said Muslim fashion designer Nanida Jenahara Nasution.
“That’s mostly because we’re blessed with a wide variety of cultures and traditions. There’s no other country in the world that has as many and as diverse cultures as Indonesia.”
Jenahara is a co-founder of the fast-growing Hijabers Community, a group of well-educated young Muslim women who wear the hijab.
Jenahara started her self-named Muslim fashion label in mid-2011. The daughter of Indonesian actress and fashion designer Ida Royani, she wanted to provide a “chic and edgy” alternative look for Indonesian Muslim women.
Likewise, fashion designer Hanna Faridl said she felt blessed with the country’s cultural diversity.
“Indonesia is so rich,” she said. “As a fashion designer, I just have to look around me to get inspired.”
Hanna is a co-founder of the fashion blog Hijab-Scarf.com. She and two friends, Fifi Alvianto and Anneke Scorpy, also started the fashion label Casa Elana in March last year, offering sleek and modern designs for women who wear the hijab.
But although these designers have established flourishing businesses in their local communities, they said they had struggled to reach a wider market. Jenahara and Hanna both dream of taking their place in the international fashion arena.
“Events like Jakarta Fashion Week and Indonesia Fashion Week do highlight Indonesian Muslim fashion,” Hanna said. “But they mostly feature well-known designers. What do we, as start-up businesses, have to do to get recognized?”
It can be tough to compete with larger labels to get their designs into stores.
“Malls and department-stores expect us to pay very high consignment rates,” Jenahara said.
Young entrepreneur Diajeng Lestari has come up with a solution. Last August, the 26-year-old entrepreneur created an online department store for Muslim women called HijUp.com.
“We’re the first Muslim fashion e-commerce [site] in the world,” said Diajeng. “We aim to promote Indonesian Muslim fashion products in the world.”
HijUp is an abbreviation for Hijab Up.
“We hope our website will help all Muslim women feel ‘up’ when wearing the hijab,” she said.
Last week, the website announced its international e-commerce functionality. By clicking the British flag on the right-hand corner of the website, visitors can read the text in English and see the prices in US dollars.
“The website was originally designed for Indonesian customers,” Diajeng said. “But we’ve received many requests from buyers from many other countries to buy our products.”
At first, Diajeng and her team handled international sales by request only. But as international sales escalated, they believed they needed to create a special feature for buyers in other countries.
“Thirty percent of our sales are international sales,” she said.
“And we’re so proud of this fact. It proves Indonesian Muslim fashion products are much desired internationally.”
Diajeng said the website’s top foreign location for buyers was Malaysia, while the demand-leading Western countries were the United States and United Kingdom.
“Muslim communities are growing rapidly in those countries,” she said.
The website has a clean design that makes it easy to navigate. Its home page features current promotions, favorite products and new arrivals, along with tutorials about how to fashionably wear the hijab.
When visitors click on a product, a new page opens, presenting it from multiple angles. The page also offers detailed information on the item, including its material, size and measurements.
Visitors are required to sign in as members to make a purchase.
Currently, the website has more than 800,000 members worldwide.
Indonesian buyers pay for their purchases with a bank transfer or via Internet banking. International buyers pay through PayPal accounts.
The prices range from Rp 32,500 ($3.50) for accessories to Rp 500,000 for dresses.
Buyers can choose their own delivery methods. Delivery costs are added to the total amount of the purchase.
Deliveries take just two or three days in Indonesia and about a week overseas.
The designers said their presence on HijUp.com has helped boost sales.
“HijUp.com has helped us a lot,” Hanna said.
“We don’t have our own boutique yet. So, whenever we have something new, we just drop it on the website. It’s the one door that leads to anywhere in the world.”
Jenahara also sees the potential for growth.
“With HijUp.com, I believe Indonesia will become the international Muslim fashion Mecca way before 2020,” she said.
Currently, 30 Muslim fashion designers feature products on the website. Most are young, with between three and five years in the industry.
“HijUp.com is more like a bridge or a highway,” Diajeng said.
“We’re an infrastructure that links Indonesian Muslim fashion designers and the buyers.”