Step up

Simone Rocha Autumn/Winter 2013

 

 

Fashion probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city. To most of the world Bali, Bintang Beer and Mie Goreng are probably the strongest associations they have with the fourth most populous country. But an emerging, well-heeled folk are changing things up.

As a frequent visitor and avid contributor to the local retail sector, I have witnessed the rise of a new Asian consumer superpower hungry for a piece of the international fashion scene. With super malls consuming every chunk of Jakarta and delivering a pre-packaged collection of Zara’s, Prada’s and Starbucks’ to feed its brand-obsessed citizens, a new breed of independent boutiques are beginning to make their mark.
“We want to educate the market about up-and-coming labels” says Emmelyn Gunawan, Brand Manager of Potato Head and co-founder of Eleven boutique in Bali and the newly-opened Escalier boutique in Jakarta. Gunawan is no stranger to Indonesia’s burgeoning retail and hospitality industries. After studying fashion design at Melbourne’s RMIT, Gunawan ran the PR department for Potato Head bar and restaurant, the grand-daddy of the now hugely popular beach club version in Bali (which boasts Snoop Dogg, John Legend and MIA amongst its growing guest list).
Eleven By Potato Head, Bali
Four years on, and one boutique later, Gunawan is on to her second project in the form of Escalier (French for stairway), a boutique catered to shoppers who “know what’s coming next”. Carrying innovative designers like Simone Rocha, House of Hackney, JW Anderson and Tatanaka (to name a few), Escalier houses the kinds of labels Zara and H&M would be copying 6 months down the track. As its name suggests, Escalier is always evolving, stocking a collection of different brands each season. Gunawan points out that “the market here is fashion-forward. They’re very picky and know what’s on trend right now”, a stark comparison to the tourist-heavy market in Bali where the demand is for beachwear and batik.
Although consumer tastes have increased in complexity, local designers are struggling to keep up. Gunawan explains that “as much as we support Indonesian designers, they are inconsistent. Sometimes they won’t even have a collection ready. We want to support them but if there’s no collection we can’t buy from them.” With hundreds of other labels fighting for coveted shelf space from the world’s top stockists, it’s no wonder that even the more established designers, from London to Tokyo, still have to assume the role of salesman during buying season, “Simone, Tatanaka, House of Hackney – all those designers still do the selling in their own showrooms, even despite being carried at Colette, Net-A-Porter or Barney’s”.
Escalier by Potato Head Garage, Jakarta
When it comes right down to it, retailers hoping to make it in Indonesia in the long run will have to appeal to the 74 million people who make up the country’s middle-class and affluent consumer market (MAC), a population that is estimated to double by 2020 (Boston Consulting Group, 2013). As Gunawan puts it, “Indonesians are very materialistic. Especially middle to high income earners. As much as Indonesians are proud of being Indonesian, they see big brands as a way to become more equal with Westerners.”
With its decadent marble walls, pristine glass cabinets and crisp white interior, Escalier is a step up in the right direction. While e-commerce continues to batter bricks-and-mortar establishments in modern economies around the world, retail spaces in Jakarta continue to provide shoppers with a vital source of escapism, away from the scorching heat and frustrating traffic jams that characterise the city.

Who knows, maybe some day Indonesia will be known for more than just Mie Goreng and megamalls. But for now Gunawan is adamant her new baby will take off, “It’s like a unicorn; something totally new.”

Visit Escalier: Jl. Jendral Sudirman, Kav 52-53, Jakarta Selatan 12190, 
Jakarta, Indonesia

Follow Escalier on Instagram: @escalierstore

x Grandma AL
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