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Jakarta, "Kawaii" fashion in a Muslim city

KOOLASTUFFA in Jakarta, Indonesia

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日本語

Asian Islamic "Tonkotsu"?

Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, has over 26 million population. The city is the second largest in the world, behind Tokyo, as a metropolitan area. Indonesia has over 250 million population, and it is the fourth largest in the world. People focus on this country as one of the hottest markets.

There is another remarkable thing when we talk about Indonesia. It is the fact that this is the largest Muslim county in the world. Almost 90% people of the huge number of population are Muslims, though you might come up with the middle-eastern countries from the phrase “Muslim country.”

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However, the the Islamic discipline is not very strict here. A young entrepreneur opened even a Japanese “Tonkotsu-Ramen” restaurant. Tonkotsu means pork bone broth. It tastes as well as the original ones served in Japan. But the problem is that eating pork is prohibited in Islamic society. But the owner says “Hmm but it’s kind of OK.”

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What does colorful scarf mean here?

Indonesia’s number of population has increased by about 100 million in the last 30 years. It led remarkable economic development. What happens in such country is expansion of middle-income group market. People become to able to have spare money to spend for things which are not indispensable in their daily lives. Then what do they spend money for? It’s fashion. Same thing is happening in other developing countries, but there is an attentive thing in Indonesia. It is the fact that it is a Muslim and comparatively secular country.

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You can see how the fashion trend is going in Muslim countries especially when focusing on women’s fashion. In Indonesia, most women cover their skin and hair, but the clothes have colorful and beautiful patterns, not like in strictly disciplined countries. The women here seems to enjoy fashion enough without breaking precepts.

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Some world fashion brands find business opportunity in such situation in Muslim countries. For example, a luxury fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana started to design Hijab and Abaya for Muslim women. A fast fashion brand Uniqlo also took Islamic fashion. 

Indoor market and "Kawaii" fashion

We visited a small fashion brand shop located in the suburbs of Jakarta. There is a mid-size indoor market in the residential area. It was crowded by people who are buying vegetables, fish, meet and everything. But it doesn’t seem to be a place where there are usual fashion brand shops.

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We finally found the shop. It was in the same building in the market, but the entrance faces on outside. But the entrance had something strange. There was a Takoyaki stand in front of the shop. The brand’s owner told us later, that one of his relative needed a small place for his Takoyaki stand, and he offered the space in front of the shop. Well, but the problem is that the stand doesn’t seem to be making out very well, rather it seems to prevent customers to come in the shop . Is it okay for the brand shop’s business? (By the way, the Takoyaki tasted very well except the sauce)

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However, in the shop, the brand named “KOOLASTUFFA” displayed various brilliant items. There were not only men’s and ladies’ wear, but also small items like pouches and accessories. The designs of them are cute and warm. It was like the atmosphere when the owner couple, who are designers at the same time, welcomed us warmly.

How to describe the brand’s image in one word? “Kawaii” must be the best word. The Japanese word, which has been becoming well-known in the world, is used in something different way from original one in Japan, as we had experienced in many places in the world. Original “かわいい(Kawaii)” usually means just cute, but Kawaii often means “cute and something strange.”

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A girl character is printed on some KOOLASTUFFA’s items. She is cute, but the atmosphere has something strange. The girl with bobbed hair reminds us of some Anime characters. Yes, the wife told us that she loves Japanese Anime “Chibi Maruko-chan.” Maybe it gave some inspiration. On the other hand, the smiling husband wears a T-shirt of “Kamen Rider Black”, though we couldn’t find any Kamen Rider’s influences in the shop.

New fashion Brand grown by the couple

There was a workshop upstairs. Some staffs are working busily with sawing machines there. It shows the good production capacity for such small space. Not only the workshop, there was a space for babies and infants to play. It was amazing that the small shop has such a nice workplace environment.

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The couple are fashion designers, but entrepreneurs and managers. They founded KOOLASTUFFA in 2008, and has been advanced the business gradually. It is not easy to run a business in the Indonesian fashion industry in this IT era. More and more people are becoming to be able to have access to the Internet in this country now, so the e-commerce market is expanding drastically. KOOLASTUFFA is competing with a lot of rivals. Actually their battlefield is not a real shop, but in the Internet.

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Although running a tough business, the couple are very peaceful and friendly. They gave a lot of extras as souvenir. The nice husband caught a taxi for us all the way, and see us off with a warm smile in a light rain. A girl character with bobbed hair is gazing at us from the bag he gave. She said “Welcome back in Asia.”

□ KOOLASTUFFA

TRANSLATION BY Jutaro KANAZAWA

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