Sylviana Hamdani explores BIlly Tjong's prowess in mixing photos with fashion
By Sylviana Hamdani on 12:00 pm July 18, 2013.
These days artists often possess an array of talents that, when used collaboratively, create beautiful and unique pieces. Fashion designers are great examples.
Indonesian designer Billy Tjong is an up-and-coming fashion talent whose work reflects this mixed-media trend. Combining his two loves — photography and fashion — the 30-year-old has produced “Portraits,” a pret-a-porter collection that features his own photographs printed onto garments.
“I was first a photographer before and I’m now a fashion designer,” said Billy, who developed a passion for photography while conducting dark room experiments during his teens.
Billy’s favorite subjects are people, panoramas and buildings, which have motivated him to travel to many parts of Indonesia to find new, interesting pictures.
One artistic talent then led to another. Billy also loved to draw and design clothes, an interest supported by his family’s garment business.
After finishing high school in 2000, Billy studied fashion in the United States while also taking a course in photography.
“As a young man, I was galau [confused] between my passions in photography and fashion design,” Billy said with a laugh.
When he returned home in 2001, he established the Billy Tjong Wedding & Photography workshop in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta. It was during this time that Billy began to discover he could combine his talents designing custom-made wedding attire with photography services for his clients.
In his spare time, Billy won several local and international fashion design competitions, including the Concours International de Jeunes Createurs de Mode (Paris, 2003), Mercedes-Benz Asia Fashion Award (Singapore, 2004 and 2005) and Lomba Perancang Mode Femina (Femina Fashion Designers Competition, Jakarta, 2005).
“[After winning these competitions] I realized that I indeed had a great talent in fashion design,” he said. “I should really focus my life and career on fashion.”
Billy now operates five fashion labels, including Billy Tjong for custom-made items, Billy Tjong Menswear and Tailor for his ready-to-wear designs, Dress Code and Inbie for ready-to-wear collections targeted at women aged 18 and 30, as well as Millie Shoes for handmade women’s footwear.
Billy’s new collection, “Portraits,” part of the Billy Tjong Tailor label, was recently unveiled in the designer’s first solo fashion show at The Foundry 8 in South Jakarta.
“I’ve been waiting for the right moment for the solo show,” he said, adding that a solo fashion show represents a designer’s commitment to his or her chosen career path.
“It shows their seriousness in the fashion industry and their readiness to produce collections for a bigger market.”
Preparing the collection and solo event took Billy more than six months, demonstrating his commitment to the industry.
For the fashion show, the function hall on level two of The Foundry 8 was transformed into an expansive runway with a series of photo stops for the models.
Each stop resembled a small photo studio with a colorful background and strong spotlights shining on the models.
In the first session, Billy presented chic and sassy outfits for semi-formal evening occasions.
Billy’s vibrantly colored pictures were printed on the outfits, made of sheen satin silk and Indian Dupion silk.
Some of the prints were very detailed, creating a realistic three-dimensional effect.
The crop top and tailored palazzo pants in black were simple but enhanced with a gorgeous picture of Central Java’s Borobudur Temple at sundown. It invited guests to savor the beauty of the photograph depicted on the shiny blouse.
“That picture was taken during the Vesak ceremony at the temple,” he said, referring to a Buddhist celebration in May.
“It was raining heavily and there were thousands of people [at the ceremony]. I took that picture from afar from under my umbrella.”
Billy uses mobile phones, single-lens reflex (SLR), pocket cameras and a Phase One camera to create his images. The Phase One camera offers resolutions as high as 60 megapixels, but Billy said it was not always easy to translate his photographs into wearable designs.
“It’s really been a learning experience for me,” he said.
One difficulty was finding fabrics that would allow perfect depictions of the photographs.
“Some materials wouldn’t take certain colors [during printing],” Billy said. “Thus the pictures would look dark and subdued.”
After much trial-and-error, Billy found the right fabrics with which to create his new collection.
“I had to also consider the cost of the fabric to ensure affordability for my customers,” he said.
The fashion designer also had to think carefully about the position of the prints so that they would not overwhelm the designs.
One interesting example in the show was a cute sleeveless dress that featured a colorful print of the Kota Tua train station in North Jakarta. The station’s arched dome around the neckline was juxtaposed with a series of colorful trains running parallel across its balloon skirt.
Overall the dress presented a feminine hourglass figure with artistic flair.
Another outfit is composed of a simple crop top and fitted flared pants on which Billy featured his picture of Jakarta’s skyline. The prints of the jutting high-rises in the city against the gray skies made the already-tall model cut an even taller and slimmer shape as she sashayed down the catwalk.
In the second session, Billy presented a series of elegant flapper dresses, made with silk satin, silk organza, lace and tulle.
A simple black dress was enchanting when embellished with the print of a traditional jamu (Javanese herbal medicine) peddler on the front.
This simple photograph was transformed into a piece alive with movement and activity due to Billy’s layering over the entire dress of thumb-prints of morning activities in Yogyakarta’s iconic Beringharjo traditional market.
Another dress, an elegant bubble ensemble cut-out at the shoulders, portrayed pine trees captured in Bogor’s Mount Pancar forest. These soaring trees, pictured among thick, white mountain mist, created an alluring streamlined silhouette.
The show’s finale presented wedding gowns in creamy white shades.
Top Indonesian model Paula Verhoeven concluded the fashion show with a simple beige mini wedding dress enhanced with a bridal fashion sketch.
Among the 300 people who attended Billy’s show was Melissa Karim, a TV presenter who is also a friend of Billy. Melissa beamed with pride over the designer’s latest achievement.
“It’s finally the long-awaited show of Billy Tjong,” Melissa said after the show. “And his new collection is exquisite. The photographs on the dresses give us an interesting insight into Billy’s personal journeys and make them very special.”
Billy Tjong Boutique
Komplek Hotel Orchardz
Jl. Pangeran Jayakarta 44/19
Tel. 021 626 4245billytjong.com
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