Oscar Lawalata: ‘Concubine’ show a jaded variation on a theme

Sunday, March 21, 2004
Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Remove from the equation the acrobatic martial arts performance, the singing diva and the crimson and gold ornaments from the recent couture show of designer Oscar Lawalata — and what have you got?
The long and short of it were clothes barely distinguishable from one another. Drapery-like, baby doll, or with a empire line, the basic construction was identical, making the collection a monotonous stream of the same act.
At the end, there was the unfortunate question if Oscar’s latest collection — themed “The Last Concubine, Dying Gracefully — lived up to the couture definition at all.
Couture presents a highly artistic but still wearable collection which is the harbinger of the next trend, something not evident in this collection. It was disappointing as Oscar, despite his relatively young age, has long been regarded as one of the country’s most promising designers.
He made his breakthrough when he finished second at an international design competition in Singapore in 1999, a prodigy on the fashion scene at the age of 22.
His subdued, ethnic-influenced ready-to-wear designs earned him recognition, leading to the establishment of the first line OSCAROSCAR, OSCAROSCAR and a division for uniform design in his name.
OSCARCOUTURE made its debut three years ago, presenting a modern, daring and gleaming fashion collection with floral-shaped sequined patterns adorned over fine cloth, such as chiffon and lace.
While the first couture collection emphasized loose, draping patterns, the new collection is more sensual and follows the curves of women’s bodies.
Oscar was smart enough not to jump completely into cheongsam and classic Chinese dress, but instead only used both elements in the pattern making technique.
Most were layered ballet skirts with flared and asymmetric lines, and bustiers with modifications. Instead of satin, tulle dominated the collection, giving a light, fluffy effect.
Colors ranged the gamut: subdued pink and green, bright hues (shocking pink, bright red, orange) to simple black and brown.
No motifs were involved, only paillette, embroidery and sequins — in floral, as details.
Several items of men’s wear were presented, mostly inspired by the Chinese suit and in brown and blue.
There were also a few pieces from Oscar’s newest line O2L, a ready-to-wear collection aimed at “cosmopolitan, dynamic and stylish” young people.
But the show was really about the couture line, which was supposed to be glamorous and elegant, but instead showed the stagnation in the young designer’s creativity.
Although it could not be called a rip off of other collections or unoriginal, it failed to inspire, and could not even be called good. It was particularly disappointing because the local fashion scene has singled him out for particular praise.
It seemed that Oscar is another example of a prodigy who veers into realm of the celebrity and gets lulled into a sense of complacency by all the hype.
With his stunning, androgynous look, long thick hair and a beautiful face, he occasionally takes to the catwalk himself and is a regular on the party scene. And perhaps the sideline stuff of celebrity overshadows his talent and profession as a designer.
There is no denying Oscar has an undeniable strength in marketing and image building. He always manages to create a show that is packaged with a flair for the extravagant.
The first couture presentation, for instance, was held at the swimming pool of the Bung Karno Sports Stadium in Central Jakarta.
There, some 50 designs, including men’s wear, were displayed on a runway built around the pool, with entertainment of dancing, singing, diving and water ballet included, and capped off with a fireworks display.
His tie-dye collection was displayed at the artistic Gedung Dua8 in Kemang, South Jakarta, as well as the office of a radio station.
This most recent couture show relied on a theatrical show combining fashion, music and dance. There were wushu martial arts athletes, Titi DJ singing the Mandarin version of her Sang Dewi (The Goddess) and rhythmic dancers.
Unfortunately, even the performances came off as pretentious and unenjoyable.
Thanks to his image, big corporations were willing to be sponsors of his show, including a luxury car company, a department store and an upmarket apartment.
Fashionistas and the city’s cr‚me de la cr‚me swarmed the arena for all that Oscar had to offer.
Unfortunately, the cloak of glamor and high-powered hype could not cover the fact that the creativity quotient was sorely lacking.