anandia putri makes modest wear about fashion, not politics
"I want to make people see a different side of my religion, one that says being muslim doesn't mean you can't also be modern and fashionable."
Anandia Putri's first memories of dressing were through the eyes of her mother, a woman who understood the personal power behind her sartorial choices. One of the first women in their native country of Indonesia to choose to wear the hijab with pride, she remembers: "In 1990s Jakarta, Muslim women didn't want to be wearing the hijab but my mum really embraced it. She would work with a tailor to create outfits because there wasn't much retail in our city at that time. So she was always making her clothes and the hijabs to match."
Putri's own relationship with fashion was realised a little later in life. Following a career in advertising and art direction, she formed her own brand, I Know, You Know (I.K.Y.K for short) in 2011. The name was inspired by telepathy and Monica's catchphrase from Friends. Six years after she launched, she's working to allow other women to craft identities through clothes.
After taking out the top prize at the Young Designer Awards at Jakarta Fashion Week, I.K.Y.K showed at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival last month and debuted their latest collection, BUMI. The name comes from the Bahasa Indonesian word for earth. Putri and her team took inspiration from natural colour palettes and focused on experimenting with eco-friendly, natural materials.
Moving into the next stage of the label's life, Putri is focused on addressing the broader conversation surrounding modest wear and its place in the Western-dominated fashion industry. She's working to take the stigma out of modest dress, and hopefully her culture in the process. On her return to her home city, Jakarta, we caught up with Anandia who was keen to chat about how modest wear allows people to have an identity close to the heart, and remind us how fashion has the power to change the industry, and the world.
After watching your show at VAMFF, it was interesting to learn you identified as a modest wear designer. Your pieces felt completely fashion orientated with lots of your looks referencing this oversized, layering trend. What does modest wear mean to you?
We try to keep our designs close to fashion because we want everyone to be able to wear it. But because I wear a hijab, it's also important for me to sell my collections as modest wear. I've always been really conscious of not marketing I.K.Y.K as Muslim wear because I believe that everyone can wear it. I always thought, "if we make the statement that our brand is Muslim wear, maybe people won't buy it?" But ultimately, everyone can enjoy it. While I.K.Y.K is about being modest and not showing too much skin, it's also important for us to show that modest wear can be trend driven. It can be cool and worn around the world.
What place does modest wear have in non-muslim women's lives?
So many people are wearing modest wear already, not necessarily intentionally. Even when I travelled to Japan recently, people were more modest in their dress than in Jakarta. Our customers have always come from different backgrounds and identified with different religions. This autumn/winter, we are selling the scarf, but there is a choice for how you wear it. People can wear it as a scarf or hijab, or just as a way to cover yourself in winter. It's about functionality and giving our customers the choice.
Fashion often leans on labels like 'modest wear' or 'plus size.' Do you think it's necessary? Isn't fashion just fashion?
Sometimes I don't feel it's really significant to use the term 'modest wear' because everyone can buy it, but we don't want to risk intimidating people by labelling it 'muslim wear.' Nowadays, people are really interested in understanding what is fashionable for Muslim identifying people. They want to know the difference between Muslim and regular fashion. I just want to tell people that when you are modest, you can also be on trend and fashionable, like everyone else. There is this worry that if you're not sexy, you're not cool. But you're still cool if you aren't showing skin!
It's interesting because often hijabs are presented as ultra feminine. And your collection was full of precise and considered tailoring which is generally perceived to be quite masculine.
Exactly. It's my way of saying that being a muslim woman and covering your head with a scarf or hijab is something that shouldn't be intimidating. I want to make people see a different side of my religion, one that says being muslim doesn't mean you can't also be modern and fashionable.
How do you see I.K.Y.K changing the fashion industry?
I really do want to achieve more visibility for the brand by having stockists around the world. It would mean that people would be really open to I.K.Y.K and our version of modest wear as modern and inclusive wear; wherever you're from, you can wear it and style it as your own. And, with modest wear, people are forced to see more personality, more character. They see the way you think, act and your attitude. They see you from the heart, and our clothes are designed to portray an identity close to the heart. I dream of I.K.Y.K being a pioneer of modest wear around the world, which could help change people's idea of the Muslim religion. Like, you don't have to wear a hijab to embrace I.K.Y.K, but if you are wearing a hijab that's cool too.
Text Hilary Bourke