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9 Jun, 2014

How an Indonesian Fashionista, 23, Builds Tourism, Busts Stereotypes

The following is the full text of a powerful, inspiring, motivating speech by 23-year-old Indonesian fashionista Dian Wahyu Utami on the subject of “Growing Fashion Business in Halal and Sharia Compliance” delivered at the 1st OIC International Forum on Islamic Tourism, 2-3 June 2014, Jakarta, Indonesia. See the fabulous PowerPoint presentation that accompanied her speech below.

Assalaamualaikum Wr. Wb

It is an honor for me to deliver my thought here in OIC International Forum on Islamic Tourism, a follow up event of previous tourism minister of OIC members meeting in Banjul, Gambia, on December 6, 2013. The visionary tourism initiative is a great idea to boost economy in all countries involved.

First of all, please let me introduce myself, my name is Dian Wahyu Utami, I’m currently 23 years old and I’m a Fashion Designer from Indonesia.SAM_4176

I’m currently a big part of our family business fashion brand called Dian Pelangi. Dian Pelangi was founded by my parents, 23 years ago. The label was established since I was born. From the beginning, my parents’ plan that I will continue to grow the business, and chosen to name it after me as Dian is my first name and Pelangi means rainbow in Bahasa Indonesia

Since I was very young, I was very curious about fashion. After I graduated from ESMOD Jakarta majoring fashion design and pattern making, I joined the family business in 2008.

In early years of my career as a fashion designer for my family’s label, I started blogging about clothing, because I love styling as well as mixing and matching outfits. My motivation was because I feel Muslim clothing in Indonesia was too conservative. I found that lots of Muslim clothing was mainly Abaya neutral or monochromatic colors. So I started wearing my own design so people can get the idea of my breakthrough design. I also used some casual material such as cotton, viscose and jersey. At first, even my parents didn’t agree with my designs because they were afraid that people wouldn’t accept them. But after a couple months, it gained popularity more than the previous design and Dian Pelangi, became nationwide known in Indonesia.

So I received fair recognition from media and external parties such as government. I was interviewed by CNN, received many awards from many organization. My first fashion show was in Melbourne during Islamic Fashion Festival 2008, which was considered success. Since then, many other invitations kept coming.

Interestingly, when we promote Dian Pelangi overseas, Indonesian people see it as a sign of success, and so it boosted our sales in Indonesia. Nowadays, Dian Pelangi has 14 Branches in Indonesia and one in Malaysia. Currently, I’m preparing to participate in New York Fashion Week in September 2014.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Realizing the fact that tourism and fashion business is two things interconnected each other, I am certain about the prospect of this agenda. Tourism is now one of key aspects of every country’s economy, for it’s not only involving core area of industry such as hotels, resorts, restaurants and spas, but also is chaining other locus of businesses, and one of them is creative industry. Creative industry has many subsectors, and fashion industry is in its frontline. Fashion, more than what we wear everyday, can represent a country’s culture and identity. Regarding this feature of fashion, it will play a significant role in representing Muslim countries as well.

At the time when a country decides to focus on its tourism sector,fashion sector, automatically, will be a major absorbent of tourist. That is one of the reasons why many fashion houses launch their resort collection in many prominent tourism destinations all over the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Islamic tourism and fashion industry is inevitably going to promote Islamic peaceful values and is clarifying negative sentiment towards Muslims across the globe.

In Muslim fashion, through my brand Dian Pelangi, I am trying to stop stereotype that goes to most of Muslimah, which portrays them as a sign of backwardness by wearing plain hijab all the time. I create fashionable Muslim fashion with a twist of Indonesian fabric and motives, so that I can show the best of Indonesia and Muslim fashion through my fashion brand.

Speaking about business in the Global Islamic Tourism, we obviously will earn material benefits as well. The cooperation among countries to develop such tourism agenda is good to sharpen Islamic business’ distinction. The distinction and uniqueness surely will strengthen business foundation to complete in the fierce globalization era. Mentioning a fact according to Jakarta Globe, global Muslim fashion industry nowadays is estimated to be worth US$96 billion and is rapidly growing.

Distinguished delegates,

A business is not a business without any threat and challenge, especially if it represents certain identity, in this case, Islam. If we run that kind of business, we are threatened by, again, stereotype. People outside our bubble will think that we are developing a segmented business, thus it is not prospective at all in the future. But this threat is not a big deal if we take a look the fact that Muslim population is predicted to reach 2.2 billion out of 6.9 billion world’s population by the end of 2030. The data means that Muslim population is growing and the market of Islamic business, whether its tourism or fashion, is optimistically blooming as well.

The challenge is not even easier from day to day. Running and developing businesses through halal and sharia compliance means that we are obliged to approach people within the global market wisely to avoid resistance and make products that fit the cultures and climate of our customer. We should create a strong connection between our products with our customer’s cultural value without leaving our identity and signature. Thinking about customers comfort is not less important than the previous tip.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Summarizing my speech today, there are some ways to grow and expand our business through halal and sharia compliance, they are:

1. Be distinct and iconic, because people need something unique. As we have got the distinction benefit of running Islamic business, the only one thing we should do is to differentiate our product with others in the industry. Our products/services can easily be recognized when we are different from others.

2.   Never stop innovating products/services we provide. As I mentioned earlier, we need to get cultural heritage value, philosophy, Muslim identity, and creativity compiled in a products/services. The statement has no meaning without initiative to create something new, to innovate. Take a risk and make a breakthrough. Never forget about high quality materials.

3.   Be cautious about what people in the market need and want nowadays. I develop a fashion brand called Dian Pelangi which is concentrated to Muslims across the globe, so it is essential to know how to make them dress beautifully and feel in vogue without violating Islamic rules, Indonesian culture, and, of course, wearable aspect of my products. Not to mention about seasonal promotion.

4.   Adding one more essential point, be social savvy. Social media platforms are available and it will definitely give tremendous effect to a brand’s selling point, whether it is direct or online selling platform.

5.   Being social is not only taking care of virtual world, but also is communicating and gaining support from external parties, such as ministries, stakeholders, and fashion communities, as our networking strategy. Dian Pelangi was a founder of Hijabers Community, which makes Dian Pelangi as a person remains iconic and inspiring, and the fact is good for the brand ‘Dian Pelangi’.

Those external parties will be looking for us to showcase our product and services, in my case, fashion shows, both national and international level). The media’s role cannot also be denied as they are the milestone tool of a brand’s promotion. The more networks we gain each day, the more buzz we will get eventually.

6. Corporate Social Responsibility is being a balancer of our business. Take and give is important to prove that business is not always seeking profits. Dian Pelangi has been putting effort to empower Indonesian batik artists, especially in Pekalongan City, to boost their batik craftsmanship to the higher level.

Distinguish delegates of OIC Forum in Global Islamic Tourism,

That is the end of my session. I hope I can bring benefit through my speech.

Thank you. Wassalaamualaikum Wr. Wb.

(Here is the full PowerPoint presentation that accompanied this great speech)

Download (PPT, 10.27MB)