Quite at the beginning when I started DEWI, I found the Batik label Guave on Instagram and immediately fell in love with the way Guave presented batik and their thoughts on identity and Indonesian culture. Therefore, I am very happy to share Guave's story and the two women behind this inspiring label with you. They'll also talk about their approach on sustainability and how to sustain Batik. Have fun reading!
How did you guys come up with Guave? What's the story behind it?
Guave has its origins in our friendship. We have known each other for 11 years now. We met each other back at Art Academy, where we both enrolled for fashion design.
After a year, we both quit but we remained friends. We found out that we are both from the eastern part of The Netherlands and that both our dads are Indo-European or Indonesian Dutch. Our friendship bonded over that subject too. About six years ago we moved together to Amsterdam sharing a small apartment.
Here, we started a research on our family history so that we could share our stories together. Along with that research, we were also thinking of starting a business together, maybe in fashion since we never lost this passion.
Our interest in our cultural background grew, but along with that also the interest in Indonesian textile, specifically batik. We wanted to wear batik more, so we started making our own clothing. Also because we couldn’t really find the designs we like ourselves in stores. When we got a lot of positive responses from friends and family we decided to turn it into a brand.
We wanted to wear batik more, so we started making our own clothing.
Why the name “Guave”?
We came up with the name Guave after a brainstorm session at home. Myrthe came up with this really nice personal story about the first time she went to Indonesia. The pink juice was handed out by the stewardess and it was just the colour that did it for her.
So we thought the name guave would be nice. Also, this fruit also grows in different continents. You can create a bigger story around it if you want too, but it is not really necessary for us to have many layers behind a brand name, we just liked Guave.
What are you offering with Guave and why?
We are offering limited collections of ethically made clothing made from Javanese batik.
This really started from our own interest in wearing batik, in a new way that matched our personal style. Also, we were inspired by the African diaspora, people with a cultural background that can be traced back to Africa, taking African wear as a way to express their identity.
At that time we were doing a lot of research into identity and ways of expressing this through clothing. We wanted to offer the same kind of brand in which people could identify with.
At the same time we really wanted to introduce the craft of batik to a larger public. To show people not only the classic patterns but also the new artistic developments from makers, patterns that are less tight to Indonesian culture but are a more artistic expression.
To us, this is a way to make batik accessible not only for people with a relation to Indonesia, but for a broader public.
What's your relationship to Indonesia?
As mentioned before, via both our dad’s family line we have roots in Indonesia, mainly Java. While Myrthe’s dad was still born in Surabaya, Romée’s dad was born in The Netherlands, but we both still have family in Indonesia with whom we are connected.
We both visited Indonesia several times. Our last visit was in 2020, just before the pandemic hit Europe, and this was the first time we went there together.
We are both very interested in our family history, colonial history and Indonesian culture in general, so these topics are often discussed.
What do you like about Batik so much? Do you have any favorite batik style/pattern? What kind of batik do you work with?
This is a hard question, cause we really love batik! We are mostly impressed by the capacity of the batik makers of making detailed batiks by hand. The process of batik making is very intensive, and you need to be really skilled to make the beautiful batiks that for example we work with.
It knows a tradition of centuries and is often handed down from mother to daughter. It used to be something that was done by women at their houses to earn money.
For us, it is the history, the amazing craft and the many stories it entails that makes it special. Especially talking about batik to people who don’t know about this craft, we get very enthusiastic to share the stories behind.
It used to be something that was done by women at their houses to earn money.
During the last years we both started to appreciate the bright colors and style of the Northcoast batik tulis more and more. Also the long history of cultural encounters which affected the style of batik is what triggered us to learn more about these batiks.
For Myrthe, she really likes the Buketan batiks, for Romée it is the Pagi-Sore batik that caught her eye. Most of these batiks are of such a high quality that we don’t actually use these for our collections. For our collections we use Northcoast batik tulisses with one or two colors, but also batik caps. We like to work with both batik tulis and batik cap, since both can look different and are appealing to one’s taste and style.
What do you think is important to do in order to sustain batik?
We think it is very important to learn about batik and the difference between batik print and the (real) batik that is made by the craftsmen and women.
Purchase batik from the batik makers themselves
Often, people are familiar with what they think is batik, but most of the time this is actually batik print made in big factories. In fact, it doesn’t have anything to do with the actual craft of batik.
However, they are a big competition for the batik makers and the craft. If you know all these things, you can make the choice to do different and purchase batik from the batik makers themselves and in such way support them and the art.
Before we started our business we had different talks with different people, one of them is Sabine Bolk, who informed us to a large extent about the difference between batik print and real batik. We quickly decided that we wanted to support the batik makers and their craft. To make a fair product was one of our main goals, and this can - in our opinion - not be done when using batik print.
In your instagram profile you mention “sustainability” – can you share a bit about your procedures on this? How is sustainability a value of Guave?
We do not want to be a label that brings numerous new items into the world without any awareness for the planet or people.
We try to be really critical towards ourselves, with every step in our process to see what is the most sustainable option. It is never a hundred percent.
With batik, we work with chemical dyed fabrics instead of natural dyed batiks. The natural dyed batiks might fade in colour after wearing them for some time. In that way, it doesn’t last long enough for us to consider it a real sustainable investment. Based on that point of view, we decided to work with the synthetic dyed ones.
It is not that we are just saying “okay we’re going to do this” and then not taking any actions. For example, we are working on a plan to see if we can work together with batik makers to make the process of batik more sustainable.
Next to the batik, we often use other textiles in combination with batik to reach a wider range of people. These textiles are made of recycled garns and produced locally in the Netherlands. We combine them with batik for our reversible skirt, for the Guave suits, which we made almost two years ago already.
Besides the bigger parts of our production chain there are smaller things that are easier to implement such as using recycled packages and paper as far as possible. Another way to minimize the impact on the environment is to minimize waste. We try to go zero waste. All the small leftovers, we use for accessories or packaging or other stuff.
What is the meaning behind your slogan “We see differences, We embrace differences”?
The meaning of this slogan refers to our key values of embracing all people as they are and how they want to present themselves.
In a world where (cultural)identity plays a bigger and bigger role we think it is important to highlight that we are a platform where all identities can be seen and celebrated.
we are a platform where all identities can be seen and celebrated.
We believe that these values are often not recognized enough within the fashion industry, we need so much more diversity on many levels. This slogan is also a way to remind ourselves to this reality and try to contribute to a more inclusive way of working.
What are you currently working on? What are your wishes for the future - for Guave and the world?
Recently we started working on a new made to order collection, what follows on former collections we created and existing designs. From the beginning on, one of our values was to not overproduce, and create as little ‘waste’ as possible. By producing clothing in a made to order system, we can prevent from ending up with a large stock of unsold items. Within the fast fashion system this is a big problem and something we don’t want to contribute too, or as little as possible.
By offering made to order items, customers can also have a say in the clothes they are buying; they can choose the batik themselves. This makes it more personal and therefore you can make a more conscious choice.
That’s something we also wish for the future, to shift our mindset within the fashion and textile system. To really value the craft of batik and all other handcrafts that already exist for centuries. Value these crafts in terms of fair wages, human rights and appreciation for the makers.
Back to basic in a way, in our own style and with our own ideas.
If you have any questions for Guave or if you simply want to let us know what your take aways are from this interview, feel free to write it in the comments below!