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Jakarta Post ( Oktober 1998 )
By. Agni Amorita

    It is very rare to find young Indonesians who are interested in traditional textiles. Yet Nelwan Anwar Chose to major in textile at the Jakarta Arts Institue.

   After graduating in 1979, Nelwan went on to further his studies in traditional textiles on various islands of the Indonesian archipelago.

“I must admit that 75 percent of my skills was acquired during my practice in the field, much more than what I acquire during college.” Commented Nelwan, who is now a renowned textile artist. Nelwan’s Profesional works are being display at Dharmawangsa hotel, South Jakarta, from Tuesday until Friday. A fashion show is also being held.

 “During an economic crisis like this, we must be bold and grab opportunities for promotion or exports that may come unexpectedly.” He said. “I will also hold a similar event  at The Hilton Prague hotel.”

The gowns presented dominantly have the kebaya look, with inspiration taken from the kebaya encim. Nelwan’s latest collection, which is made from silk and other material, has lots of embroidery and glitter.

    The textile exhibition and fashion show is a reflection of his dedication to textile workers, who help Nelwan in his work,” I am concerned with the fate of workers, who greatly support my business.” said Nelwan, who has become a sort of foster father to the hundreds of textile workers in several regions. “There are more than 200 threadmakers in Soppeng, South Sulawesi , Hundreds more fabric weavers in Sengkang, Waju, also in South Sulawesi . Then there are batik artists Troso, east of java. Also there are emboiders in Tasik Malaya, West Java. “With he support of the textile workers, last august, Nelwan Anwar managed to establish a fashion school in his name far people to study textiles.

  At the fashion school, located on jl tebet timur dalam , South Jakarta, Nelwan teaches how to manage a textile product through texturizing, which emphasizes the thickness of silk fabric which influences the degree of transparency. This is later made into batik using a spesial candle.

  “Here we conduct further studies on the use of hand tools on textiles, the skill of which has become extinct in other countries.” The use of the tools is very restricted. And it escalates the price of the product.

 “The whole process is rather time consuming. Making the thread and producing the material may take up to 45 days. Then turning the material into batik cloth may take 90 days.” Nelwan explain while showing his collection, items of which range from Rp. 100,000.00 per piece to Rp. 5 million per piece.

  One of the main strengths Nelwan has in his work comes from his research . Nelwan studied antique ornaments in several museums, including the textile museum in Los Angeles and in large European cities, to then recreated the designs on silk using batik -  making techniques. He chose silk because of the high sales that it invites.

“Because I target high society when marketing my product, silk is the obvious choice.” Nelwan explained. Nelwan’s fabric and ready-made clothes are mostly bought by the middle and upper classes, also by foreigners.

During the exhibition Nelwan also explains the process of making silk, turning it into cloth, batik, or simply sewing sequins onto the fabric. “All my works are always exclusive, they are guaranted to be genuine.” Nelwan said.

  Nelwan is also experimenting with other materials. “Currently, I am experimenting with fiber.” He said and went onto demonstrate how to make fabric using different types of natural fibers. Among the natural fibers are fiber from pineapple plants mixed with silk; wood fiber  which is treated like flax and mixed with silk and later made into batik; and the fiber of a sweet scented wood which is mixed with silk and produces a fragrant material.

Besides experimenting with fibers, Nelwan is also testing a technique which includes using depped leafs to create a more natural color.

“In developed countries this type of research is always backed by the govermment, say under the ministry of education and culture.” Nelwan Said.

“All this time we have been only supported in a personal capacity, not by any official institution. I admit that in order to raise funds and conduct research, I’ve encountered several difficulties. I actually thought that in this field , it would require the participation of all sorts of institution nationally.”

Nelwan has representative office in Kyoto, Japan, where he still uses simple trading system. The bachelor, who was an assistant to fiber artist Harry Darsono from 1981 to1987, has made significant achievements through the years. Among them is winning the 1986 Indonesian Fashion Competition. He has since participated professionally in the world of designing and fashion and has has numerous exhibitions in North America, Latin America and Europe.        

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