POST C: The Traditional Textile Industry in Indonesia – An Interview

As someone from an illustration and graphic design background, when I met with the opportunity to learn about the textile industry – a design industry I am not familiar with – from someone with a strong background in textile design in Indonesia, I immediately took up the chance. Mr M.N. Subramanian, current Senior President and Managing Director of PT. Five Star Textile Indonesia, has well over 40 years of experience working in the textile industry in a number of countries such as the USA, India, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia.  He has worked for a few years in Surabaya, and has been working in Bandung for the past 6 years.

sadfgjhyukj.pngExamples of lace and embroidery work in PT. Five Star Textile Indonesia (Sridharan 2017)

I asked Mr Subramanian about the traditional textile industry and whether it is being overshadowed by contemporary textile companies, such as Unkl347, in Indonesia’s increasingly contemporary milieu. He immediately responded that there is, “no doubt the modern textile clothing industry is gaining popularity, but it is no threat to the traditional textile manufacturing and markets in Indonesia (2017, pers. comm., 27 January).” Steadfastly, he affirmed that traditional products cannot be replaced, though the commerciality of the contemporary textile/clothing scene may make some dents. Further, he went on to describe the differences between traditional textile manufacturing and contemporary textile units, saying, “The product range is different. In traditional manufacturing, the industry concentrates mainly on spinning, weaving, knitting, dyeing, printing, and finishing.  The garment industries buy these products and make ready-made garments for final consumers,” and contrarily, “the newly formed contemporary textile units mostly make branded apparels for the final consumers selling in the retail shops. They mostly buy their raw materials like yarns, fabrics, etc. from the traditional textile companies (2017, pers. comm., 27 January).” He went on to say that contemporary branded items are usually more popular due to their premium prices and saleability.

Youth in Indonesia are now creating indie clothing lines, “that use international commercial culture as the visual vernacular of their designs (Luvaas 2008).” The clothes they design are sold at urban, youthful stores called distro and, “are some of the most popular brands among teenagers and university students (Luvaas 2008).” Mr Subramanian says that although the traditional and contemporary textile sectors seemingly run parallel to each other, they, “are actually interdependent and will co-exist (2017, pers. comm., 27 January),” since contemporary brands purchase their textiles from traditional textile companies.

Further, I wanted to ask Mr Subramanian about the technologies used in textile design and whether modern technologies and techniques are necessary to create prominent textile design. He proceeded to take me on a tour of the PT. Five Star Textile Indonesia factory to take a look at some of the technologies and equipment used.

IMG_8539.JPGemAARO technology from India (Sridharan 2017)

IMG_8560.JPGSaurer 4040 technology from Germany (Sridharan 2017)

Emphasis is placed on design, and the ideas and innovations generated are arguably the most important aspect of textile design. Mr Subramanian stated, “Computerized modern technology only helps in developing such ideas into designs faster (2017, pers. comm., 27 January),” as modifications can be easily made, as per the customer’s wishes. Traditional methods, on the other hand, take many days to modify, which can irritate some customers, making them impatient and disinterested. Mr Subramanian disclosed, “Speed brings business due to modern technology so that we can retain customers.” He also disclosed that his factory in Bandung exports embroidered textiles to around 26 countries all over the world.

This interview helped me open my eyes to the textile industry and allowed me to gain further respect for traditional textile practices and companies. As can be concluded, both the traditional textile industry and contemporary textile/clothing companies require the support of each other to function and are both valid and needed in society.


Luvaas, B. 2008, ‘Global fashion, remixed’, Inside Indonesia, 22 June, viewed 13 February 2017, <>.

2 thoughts on “POST C: The Traditional Textile Industry in Indonesia – An Interview

  1. When industry has been developed in a high level, the hand-made and traditional art crafts will become more treasure. I think we should save and keep the traditional technique

  2. This post was interesting to read in the context of my return to ‘The Froghouse,’ where I spent 2 days working on a batik scarf and learning how to use traditional batik tools. The process was meditative and I know I will keep this scarf for life – not only because of the time I put into its design and creation but because of the memories it evokes. Indonesia seems to have this huge contrast between the industrial efficiency of the textile companies you describe in your blog and traditional, deliberative handicraft. I sincerely hope that Mr Subramanian is right and traditional Indonesian products like Bagus’ batik will never be replaced by blueprint batik textile designs.

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