Dwi Iskandar – The Indonesian Designer In Bali

The 645: What’s your full name?

Dwi: Dwi, means two, it’s Sanskrit.

My last name Iksandar, well a lot of people say it’s Alexander, and yeah Iksander is Alexander, in the Western world.

The 645: 
Where did you grow up?

Dwi: I grew up in East Jaffa, it’s the island next to Bali. I have been living in Bali since 1996. Quite sometime now.

The 645: What was your first job?

Dwi: I worked as a shop keeper in Java, where there is a touristic destination called Mount Bromo. A friend of my dad’s had a company there, he owned small shops, a cafeteria and some rooms to rent out, so my job was to clean the rooms and everything that comes along with that. I did that for around eight months. That’s where I learnt more about Bali, because of a lot of people coming from Bali to Java for a vacation.

I’d meet a lot of tourists, which is how I was able to practice my English and then slowly I started to understand more about Bali.  Then I decided to head to Bali and see what is happening there. And here I am now.

The 645: What is your current job?

Dwi: I have my own company. It’s called Dwico Fashion Studio. I’m a designer and we produce the collection and sell it ourselves.

The 645: How did you get into Fashion?

Dwi: It all started in 2001, that’s when I began the Fashion Business.

So I worked in Bali for quite some time in the hotel industry, more at the back office. Then I started to study hotel management again for a whole year, but I didn’t like it, so I stopped.

I was more on the creative side of things, so I tried to find out what I liked.

I wanted to be an artist, I liked to dance, well my movement, I call it dance (Laughs).
But being creative more so in fashion was what I liked. So I delved into fashion more and then started a simple small boutique, to produce my own designs.

Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645
Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645
Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645

The 645: So we can say you’re self-taught?

Dwi: Yes, self-taught is the right term.

The good thing in Indonesia is I don’t need to cut and sew it myself. I can just design, and then I can bring in someone to do the sewing. That was a good way to start.

From there on, I challenged myself to create more, to find out my identity and to be different.

So, I started with very simple collections, mainly targeting tourists. Something tourists can take back to their own country, nothing complicated or too over-designed.

By that time, I learned simple painting techniques called batik, and I started to use that material to decorate my pieces. Where I come from in Jaffa, that material is famous.

I got good feedback from people for using that technique. From there on I started to understand how to put batik and modern fashions together in a traditional way but with a modern twist.

It took me some time to understand my own style.

The 645: Where did you study fashion?

Dwi: At first, I was self-taught, then I started the business and faced so many challenges from both production and customers. I thought there must be a solution to all this.

I had customers coming to the boutique saying, I like the colours but does it work on my skin tone? I wasn’t sure as a salesman I would say it’s nice, but in my mind, I was thinking I need to learn about this more in terms of fashion, especially when it comes to patterns and colours.

So, I took a short course in Bali with a designer so I could understand more about fashion on a bigger scale.

Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645
Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645

The 645: How did you start the brand?

Dwi: Well, Dwi is my name and Co stands for collection.

Before I had a different brand name with my name like Dwi, or Iksander. So, I divided my brand depending on the client, Dwi Iksander is a brand for more luxury clients, wedding or couturier.

Dwico is my ready-to-wear collection, a very simple one.

Then we have Dwico Smart which is for office wear and uniforms, later on there was Dwico Living, for home textiles, which is extremely different.

The 645: Where are you on Sustainability?

Dwi: One of our projects consists of a selection of dresses that are made of recycled materials, so we cut and put together those materials.

Right now, some friends and I are organising an event called Fashion Revolution. We’re going to be working with companies with the same mission and vision to sell sustainable products, in order to create awareness of mass production.

You might remember years ago in Bangladesh a big production factory collapsed and killed so many people. They don’t really care about the workers.

Fashion is a big industry and we should take more time to care about the environment and the workers.

To me being an independent designer comes with staying conscious, so any leftover materials we never throw away we always try to reuse, which also includes practising circular fashion. Part of that would be reusing old designs to rework them and have them worn again in a different way.

Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645
Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645

The 645: Do you have a brand message?

Dwi: The message is to “keep the culture alive”.

I like to combine ethnic and the Indonesian culture with a modern twist.

So, what I’m hoping for is that the younger generation will like and love batik or Indonesian textiles.

The 645: Who do you aspire to?

Dwi: What inspired me the most is what’s going on around us, you know.

People ask me, do you have an idol, like international designers?

I always say no. When I start to idolise somebody, I would have to constantly think about how I’d like to be and how I should change. You know like he does this and that, so I need to as well. I’m afraid I would follow him and be imitating. So that’s why in the past when I started, I didn’t want to see other kinds of work.

Anything related to the original tradition inspires me most.
I like Bohemian, Spanish and colourful styles.

The 645: So you have no muse?

Dwi: No. I try to avoid that, and that’s why I’m not looking for one.
It’s a way for me to find out my own identity.

The 645: Where would you like the Dwico brand to be next?

Dwi: America for sure. I’d like to extend my business there. Not to New York though, more San Francisco and Singapore.

Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645
Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645

The 645: What music are you listening to?

Dwi: I love Indonesian music. Some people call it low level, as in only low-level people would listen to it. But I grew up with that music, it’s called dangdut.

The 645: Any favourite or least favourite foods?

Dwi: Yeah, I like International food, Thai, Chinese, it’s still Asian but I like it all. Of course, Indonesian food as well.

I don’t like pork, more so because of my religion as I’m Muslim.

The 645: Any book you’re currently reading?

Dwi: I hate this question. (Laughs) I have a problem with getting myself into reading. I tried so many things even comics. I’m jealous of people who can just sit and read a book. I love to buy books. I go to book stores and I could purchase two or three books, I look so smart when I go to the cashier with so many books – novels, business-related- but in the end, I still don’t read them.

The 645: How about favourite movies?

Dwi: My favourite movie is Pretty Woman.
There is a lot of education for me in that movie, and I like the actor Julia Roberts, who also played Erin Brockovich.

As for my favourite show, it’s Friends. Omg, I love it!

I started to watch it in High school and till this day I still re-watch it.

The 645: What is your personal style?

Dwi: I’m more casual. I hate to wear formal jackets. I hate it.

If I have to go to a very official function, I try to always wear formal wear in an Indonesian style with batik.

Discussions with fashion designer Dwi Iksandar at his showroom in Bali, feature for the-645

The 645: Do you prefer women’s to menswear?

Dwi: I still prefer women’s wear, that’s where all the clients are. It’s also a challenge with men’s collections. Menswear is a harder market, especially with heterosexuals and gay men, right now.

If Indonesian men dress differently they are instantly judged and people can be uncomfortable with that.

If you look at Japan, Korea or even European fashion, culture guys can wear a variety of styles and colours with no judgment. But if a man wears a pink shirt in Indonesia there would still be a level of judgement. So it is harder to sell to men

here in our country.

The 645:Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Dwi: I was thinking the other day that I would like to give back to others, and my country. So, I’d like to share my knowledge and experience with small businesses locally. I would take a step back from designing to become more business-minded.

I’m a designer firstly, but also a businessman running my own company.

For the last two years I have stepped back to be more conscious of the business and to improve many things from the back office and my production teams.

So In 5 years, my business will be more stable. I aim to expand the business online with a website that is more established.

@dwicofashionstudio
www.dwi-iskandar.com

Words: Tatyana Chmaissani
Photo: Ioannis Koussertari