How I started my own business with Indonesian textiles, what's the story behind "DEWI" and what it means to be mixed. This and more you will read in this blog article.
What and who stands behind DEWI?
I am Lara Dewi. As you can already see from my name, I have a personal connection to Indonesia. Growing up as a 'mixed' (German-Indonesian) was very difficult for me in the past, today I appreciate it and see it as a gift.
For a long time now, I have been traveling to Indonesia almost every year and I love being there.
With the vision to create a connection between tradition and modernity and to entrust the value of traditional textiles to as many people as possible, I founded DEWI in spring 2018 - a label for accessories made of traditional Indonesian fabrics (mainly batik).
DEWI combines traditional crafts with modern patterns, colors and designs.
Each pattern carries its own symbolic meaning and is thus intended to support the people wearing the accessories in their respective life situations.
Do you wish for more strength and assertiveness? Then an accessory with the pattern "Parang" can support you.
If you wish for more connection, "Ceplok Grompol" will fit.
So there is a suitable pattern for everyone.
I buy the fabrics directly from the artisans in Indonesia and the accessories are sewn by hand.
A part of the income I donate to different organizations in Indonesia.
How did the idea for your own business develop?
I have always been fascinated by beautiful fabrics and crafts. During my studies in Passau (Cultural Industries with a focus on Southeast Asia), I dealt with traditional Indonesian fabrics again and again: in study projects, assignments, and finally also in my Bachelor's thesis.
After quitting my Master's in Copenhagen at the end of 2017, I found myself in an emotional crisis and didn't know what I wanted to do in my life.
Then one thing led to another: By incidence, I found traditional textiles in one of my parents' closets that they had bought about 20 years ago while traveling in Indonesia. I wanted to finally get out of my head and do something with my hands, so I taught myself how to sew and started making little bags out of my parents' fabrics.
I then posted the results on Instagram and when I realized that they were getting interest, I decided to start DEWI.
"DEWI" is my middle name and also stands for a Javanese goddess - I thought that was fitting.
Gradually, website, online shop and exhibitions were added ☺.
What fascinates you most about the craft of batik?
What fascinates me most is the creation process. I love watching the artisans apply the wax with great passion. I'm also very interested in the history and symbolic meaning of the fabrics.
For me, this is another perspective from which you can dive into Indonesian culture and history - I find that exciting.
How do you choose your fabrics and materials?
I buy my fabrics from a batik factory in Yogyakarta, which has been dedicated to traditional handicrafts for 70 years.
There I choose patterns that I like and watch the whole production process, which usually takes several weeks.
First, I have sample fabrics made with a selection of patterns. Then I try different shades of colors and finally it comes to the actual order.
I love the focused and meditative atmosphere in the factory. I like to spend a lot of time there chatting with the batik artisans and watching them in the making process.
I also love the fact that all the wax used in the production is recycled and used for the next batik process. In general, hardly anything is thrown away, but something nice is created from all the leftovers.
The meaning of the fabrics are quite different. There are very traditional patterns and casual, modern patterns - each with its own meaning.
What are typical tasks in your everyday life?
My tasks range from choosing fabrics, designing new products, production (sometimes I get help with that) to marketing and accounting.
I would say that I spend most of my time processing customer orders, adding new products to my store and keeping my followers on Instagram (@laradewi) up to date!
What are the biggest challenges in your work?
The biggest challenge is probably dealing with the ups and downs. There are months when I'm totally in my flow and things are going super well, and there are months when things aren't going so smoothly. The unpredictability makes the work exciting, but sometimes exhausting.
Another challenge is not to get too caught up in the little things. In part that's good, because a unique customer experience is very important to me, but in other areas I sometimes get stuck for too long.
What inspires you to create new products?
I work very intuitively. New ideas often come to me in everyday moments, like when I'm brushing my teeth or riding my bike through the city. Sometimes I see something that I would like to create myself, or someone around me gives me a new idea.
Since I don't have that many different designs and only create a new product every few months, the focus is more on fabric variation. If customers don't find what they are looking for in the finished products in the online store, they can also choose their favorite fabric on my website and I will then make the desired design with this fabric for the customers directly.
The selection of the fabrics is - as described above - a longer process. In general, DEWI differs from other batik labels in that I prefer simple patterns and the fabrics are only one or two colors.
I try to give my customers a mix between very traditional patterns (e.g. parang, ceplok grompol, kawung) and modern patterns (e.g. pring, pilin, kipas) to choose from.
Which plans do you have for DEWI and your own life?
I would love to spend the winter in Indonesia every year - as soon as the Corona situation allows it again, I would like to realize that.
Otherwise, I don't really have any fixed plans. It would be nice to have my own store with a workspace at some point, where I can also offer workshops.
Otherwise, I wish to continue to be happy and healthy, to express myself and also to encourage others to pursue their dreams.