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‘Asian Bohemian Chic’: Indonesian Ghea Panggabean celebrates 40 years of fashion

Josa Lukman The Jakarta Post Sun, November 1, 2020  

Iconic: With four decades of experience, Ghea is a mainstay of Indonesia’s fashion scene. (Courtesy of Ghea Panggabean/-)

JAKARTA – For someone to withstand the fashion industry’s test of time is certainly a testament to their shrewd business acumen as well as iconic designs — more so in Indonesia, where influences can come from every corner.

Just ask designer Ghea Panggabean, who just celebrated 40 years in the Indonesian fashion scene with the launch of a book chronicling her journey over the years.

The 320-page book, which retails for slightly over Rp 1.5 million (US$108.64), is a two-year project in the making, published by the New York-based publisher Rizzoli.

Titled Asian Bohemian Chic – Indonesian Heritage Becomes Fashion, the book encompasses all of Ghea’s collections over the course of four decades, from her very first lurik creation to the jumputan batik she is well-known for.

The book’s title is a nod to Ghea’s signature style: breezy, airy silhouettes reminiscent of the psychedelic hippies of the 1970s.

Milestone: Designer Ghea Panggabean’s book ‘Asian Bohemian Chic – Indonesian Heritage Becomes Fashion’ is a two-year project celebrating 40 years of being in the Indonesian fashion industry. (Courtesy of Ghea Panggabean/-)

Born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on March 1, 1955 to a multicultural family, Ghea spent her childhood years in Europe for elementary and middle school, before moving back to Indonesia for high school.

For higher education, she enrolled in Trisakti University, majoring in fine arts. 

However, her studies there lasted only one year, after which she went back to Europe to study at the Lucie Clayton College from 1976 to 1978, with a focus on fashion design and dressmaking. After graduating, Ghea was hired as a teacher in London’s Chelsea Academy of Fashion in 1979.

During the era, punk fashion was all the rage in London, championed by designer Vivienne Westwood and her then-boyfriend, boutique owner, band manager and musician Malcolm McLaren.

Even so, leather boots and ripped T-shirts are not something you’d see in Ghea’s collections, as she stays true to her signature bohemian vibes.

Intricate: One of Ghea’s hobbies is collecting antiques and textiles, which is also well documented as a major source of inspiration. (Courtesy of Ghea Panggabean/-)

In a virtual press conference held on the book’s launch date, Ghea said she had loved tie-dye and antique shawls from a young age, which explains her penchant for the aesthetic.

However, her first design, a lurik set modeled by the supermodel Janice Dickinson, was actually a design choice influenced by her own pockets.

“The jumputan from Java [was used] because it was affordable for me as a very young designer,” she recalls.

Aside from Dickinson, Ghea has also socialized with many global stars, including Mick Jagger, Muhammad Ali and Diana, Princess of Wales. 

These memorable moments can also be seen in the book, along with other tidbits of her life story, like her relationship with her twin daughters Amanda and Janna, her antique collecting hobby and being one of the founding members of the Indonesian Fashion Designers Council (IPMI).

“We wanted to have a place where we can gather and express our aspirations as a designer and being recognized that it is a profession – we are not just dressmakers at home,” she says of the council’s founding in 1985, then known as Ikatan Perancang Busana Madya Indonesia.

Ode to culture: The 320-page book is filled with Ghea’s journey throughout the years, from her very first designs to memorable moments with global stars. (Courtesy of Ghea Panggabean/-)

When asked about her four-decade-strong career, Ghea says that what really motivates her is simply passion for what she is doing.

“I am very passionate about Indonesian culture with all of its diversity. What makes me still have this passion is my first inspiration, which is Indonesian textiles. I started collecting them in my earlier years and until now I still haven’t stopped getting inspired. When I see them, my soul becomes alive and I start thinking, ‘what can I do with this?’

“There is this enduring love affair with the beauty of Indonesian textiles, and I hope I can inspire many young designers to do the same.”

Of her book, she says that her wish is for the book to be a glimpse into Indonesia’s rich culture and lively fashion scene.

“I want the book to be a window to the world for Indonesian fashion, where people from around the world can see the beauty and richness of Indonesian arts and culture through my works.” (ste)

Source: Jakarta Post, Indonesia Sun, November 1, 2020  

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