By S. Celulari
If you have ever had the chance to visit Indonesia you have probably heard of the famous Sarongs, also known as Kambens. At first, I thought they were merely simple rectangular pieces of cloth. But, after getting more informed about the Balinesian culture, I finally understood the real importance and meaning behind them.
‘Pura’ is the name given to temples in Bali with the predominant religion of Hinduism, where prayers of inner peace and personal development are put in practice. The majority of people who live in Bali have their own temples next to their houses, and even though the architecture of the temples make them look ancient, most of them are approximately aged only about 10 to 15 years. Even if they are not Hindus, people are required to visit the temples with a Sarong tied around their waist covering their knees, as a sign of respect and appreciation. Kambens not only have a religious value to the Indonesian culture, but it has also made its way into the fashion industry. The variety of colours as well as the hand-drawn patterns, catch the eyes of most tourists, influencing them to visit local sarong factories and stores. In this article, I will report the process through which Sarongs are made and some of my personal views upon it, based on my own experience.
Upon our arrival in Bali, my family and I weren’t planning on visiting any Sarong ateliers. To be honest, we didn’t even know what Sarongs were up until our first visit to a local temple, where our guide explained it to us. The factory, isn’t at all what I thought it would be: there are no machines, no noises and there are never over 10 employees working at the same time. It is a humble and ordinary house, divided in two equal parts: the backyard where the fabric is produced, and the inside where it is sold.
In order for the Sarongs to be produced quickly and efficiently, each employee is given a different job: someone creates and draws potential patterns in a piece of paper, so that another person can trace it on the actual fabric, which can later be painted by someone else. When talking to some of the workers, I must admit I had difficulties following what they were trying to say, as their English is not very good, but I could understand that it takes around 4 months for a Sarong to be available for selling. I was mind blown by how much patience is required for them to get the Sarongs ready, as well as by the diversity of styles they are able to create with such a simple piece of cloth.
Overall, it was a unique experience to be able to visit Bali and see up-close how fashion is manufactured there.