As you may notice, we have quite a few batik pieces in our spring and summer collections this year. The pattern is quite popular in fashion (scarves, swim suits, beach dresses and coverups, umbrellas, etc.) as well as in all kinds of wrapping papers, wallpapers, bedding, fabrics etc. Since print, pattern and color is our mantra, the process of creating a batik pattern as well as the pattern’s rich cultural significance presents an especially wonderful and powerful story. In October of 2009 the batik pattern was officially recognized by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization as an ‘intangible world heritage’. Indonesia also erected the first and only Batik museum in 2006 to preserve and chronicle the method of creating a batik pattern as well as to honor the people responsible for continuing such amazing handcrafted art.
Batik can be defined by many different patterns but the look is quite immediately identifiable much like a Hawaiian shirt. However, Batik holds more of a global cultural significance because it appears in the traditional and ceremonial dress of many countries, foremost in Indonesia but also in China, Japan, Africa and India. The batik method can be seen in textiles and art as far back as Egyptian times but a batik pattern always utilizes imagery meaningful in that culture. For example, Chinese batik uses the phoenix, Japanese uses cherry blossoms, Indian uses peacocks and lotus flowers, African uses seed pods, etc. The word batik is from the (Indonesian) Javanese words amba (‘to write’) and titik (‘dot’ or ‘point’) which both refer to the signature lines and dots as well as the method of creating a batik pattern. Batik is basically a resist-dye process using hot wax in which one can either draw or write with the wax onto areas of a handdrawn pattern so that when the fabric is submerged in dye, these areas remain color free. African batik uses flour and water mixture instead of the wax used by other cultures. Once the fabric is dried in the sun, the wax can be scratched or carved away to create a pattern. The process is repeated several times to create a more intricate design of layers of color and pattern. Modern production of batik designs does not use wax resist-dye method since it is such a time consuming process but also because the results are rarely colorfast. The batik patterns that Echo creates are designed in reverence of the traditional process but updated to endure multiple washing and wearabilty.
Most batik patterns signify status, lineage or honor religious iconography. In Indonesia, kebaya is the word for every day clothing and traditionally, batik was worn as a keybaya sarong but it is also on shirts and hats. The Batik pattern on keybaya often carried a message. The symbols on an infant’s batik sling are designed to bring the child luck. Certain batik designs are reserved for brides and bridegrooms, as well as their families. The dead are shrouded in funerary batik. A sultan would wear a batik different than his attendants: wider stripes or wavy lines indicated higher rank. Colors are also a very important part of the message. Javanese traditional batik is made in the colors of indigo, dark brown, and white, which represent the three major Hindu Gods (Brahma, Visnu, and Siva). For special occasions, batik was decorated with gold leaf or dust. This cloth is known as prada (a Javanese word for gold) cloth. Gold decorated cloth is still made today; however, gold paint has replaced gold dust and leaf.
In Indonesia today a batik is worn by men on more formal occasions, even in place of a suit & tie. Batik is also considered formal attire for women as well. In recognition of the UNESCO acknowledgement, wearing batik every Friday is encouraged in all government offices and private companies.
We love the batik pattern for its complexity and for its history and we’ve designed our pieces with a fun, trendy and modern woman in mind. The exotic blend of the rich colors of the batik patterns are the perfect look for our well-traveled fashionistas – for vacation and for every day kebaya. Batik is more than your average pattern. We hope it inspires you too!