01/06/18

How Bali became the creative fashion destination it is today

Ever since the first tourists started visiting Bali, the island has proven to be a fertile source of inspiration for many designers, fashion types and creatives. All of us at Black Book Fashion included! Ushering in a level of creativity and expression, Bali has propelled itself into a center for original beach vibe fashion. The growth of Bali’s fashion industry is a unique story in itself; a combination of the islands’ cultural heritage and nature fused with inspired creative and cross-cultural influences.  

Upon landing one is immersed by the tropical sunshine shining upon clear turquoise waters, lush green tropical landscapes emerging from volcanic soils, and beaches to dream of. Infused with a timeless culture, descendants of ancient Indian-Buddhist empires, Bali is culturally unique in Indonesia and the region. Over the years as Bali was ‘discovered’ by more and more creatives types, the basic ingredients for a creative hub begin to emerge that blends tradition with modern design.

However to understand what ‘Bali style’ is, it is worth dipping into its recent history. The first foreign visitors arrived in the 60’s and 70’s, taking inspiration from the ‘Balinese’ way and fusing it with modern comforts, tastes and styles. From this an eclectic melting pot emerged between traditional crafts, skills and modern designers as both tried to reconcile their backgrounds with Bali’s new direction as a tourist hub.

Balinese craftsmen played a key part. They were able to quickly copy and replicate many of these new imported styles and designs, fusing them with time-honored traditions and local practicalities. With this gradually a new kind of internationalism emerged.

With the arrival of mass tourism in the 80’s and 90’s, the island underwent a huge development push as the island catered for the arrival of millions of tourists demanding the latest luxury and comforts with a touch of ‘Bali’. Bali-style became an architectural buzzword - a type of indoor-outdoor living style with its roots in tropical climates combined with western concepts of furnishings and comfort. With tourism providing the financial impetus for Bali’s economic development, more and more travellers stayed attracted by the bohemian beach lifestyle and the chance to develop their own creative vision. This was felt no less than in Bali’s nascent fashion industry.     

As more and more designers made Bali their home, the island also started playing a bigger role within the global fashion supply chain. The late 1990’s saw numerous factories opening up and servicing mass-production brands. However with the rise of cheaper manufacturing centres elsewhere, especially China, many of these factories have since closed down with some focusing on servicing Bali’s domestic industry.

However, servicing smaller boutique labels rather than high volume brands meant a shift to higher quality production and dealing with more complex styling and design. As international designers developed their collections locally, Bali’s craftsmen and artisans once again played a key role in bringing to life modern designs mixed with traditional influences. Brands emerged specifically utilizing the talents of Balinese craftsmen in jewelry, crafts and carving. Unique in the world, this creative eco-system continues to be productive, inspired and unique. Just like with the concept of Balinese architecture, Bali fashion developed into a distinguished and identifiable style with numerous international brands at its forefront.

Nowadays, the cost of living, business and manufacturing in Bali remains attractive, and quality has improved over the years allowing a bustling industry to grow. With today’s digitization of the fashion industry a new breed of brands is emerging. Those that use Bali as their creative and manufacturing hub, while selling worldwide through digital channels without a retail presence on the island. However as we speak about the Bali fashion industry, what is bali fashion? Is it just a bohemian beach look?

Clearly it is not one style and is open to the interpretation of whoever creatively partakes in this eclectic internationalism. We see boho styles with bold prints, dresses with Parisian style elegance, beachy modern swimwear accessorized with indigenous handmade jewelry. In addition to a wide range of surfwear and embroidered evening dresses, and comfy cottons and linens for those hot days and steamy nights. The choices are endless and inspiring.

Whilst Bali style is not one thing, it has its roots in the Balinese culture, heritage and environment fused with international concepts of style, quality and fashion. Consequently Bali’s creative output has thrived thanks to this coexistence with neither seeking to replace one another. If Balinese style is one thing, it is a symbiotic coexistence that is always surprising, original and fashionable.

We at Black Book Fashion champion Bali-based designers and artisans because we find fashion that can’t be found anywhere else. As a champion of these fashion designers, it was no surprise that we launched Bali as our first shopping destination!


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