Iwan Tirta: Preserving Luxury

“Each pattern, each fabrik, has a story, like any other form of art.”

Widharmika Agung, 35, took over as chief executive of Iwan Tirta Private Collection last year. Although many brands go into decline after the passing of their founders, Iwan Tirta is doing better than ever, even though Nusjirwan “Iwan Tirta” Tirtaamidjaja passed away at age 75 in 2010. Iwan Tirta Private Collection batik is now sold in 11 galleries in Jakarta and Surabaya. Three years ago, Iwan Tirta Private Collection also started selling over the Internet, and now online sales are up to 50% of store sales. Although Widharmika refuses to disclose revenue, he does say that repeat costumers accounted for more than half of sales.

With a background in consulting and human resources, Widharmika knows how to position a brand within a market. For the Iwan Tirta Private Collection, established in 2003, it means extending its luxury status. “Why are people willing to pay more for foreign luxury products? We must make an effort to place Indonesian goods in the right position,” says Widharmika.

Widharmika focuses the quality traditions established by the founder. By using luxurious materials such as silk, linen and superfine cotton, each Iwan Tirta Private Collection batik products can be considered a unique work of art, as no two pieces are exactly the same. The brand produces only one color for each pattern combination. New collections are created annually and come in an array of read-to-wear items, for both men and women—ranging from formal shirts to evening gowns—as well as home accessories, and other products using batik motifs.

Iwan Tirta Private Collection Creative Director Era Soekamto is now responsible for carrying on the legacy set by the founder Nusjirwan “Iwan Tirta” Tirtaamidjaja—each new collection has a special symbolism. For instance, the motifs in the current Dewaraja collection represent the relationship between God and the king, and those in the Condrosengkolo collection illustrate the alignment between human and the universe as based on the Javanese calendar.

Iwan Tirta Private Collection batiks are expensive, ranging from Rp 4 million to Rp 60 million. Widharmika says this is a fair price, since each batik is labor- and time-intensive, needing at least six people and three months to be created (the company has a total of 800 artisans to make batik). The brand has not, and will not, make batik prints, says Widharmika. The entire process of making each batik fabric, including drawing the design, waxing and coloring, and final washing, is all done by hand. To add a final touch of luxury, all fabrics are given a gold emboss coloring called prada. The more colors are used, the more expensive the batik’s final price.

“Each process is very meticulous, so it has to be seen as a luxury good. Each pattern, each fabric, has a story, like any other art form,” says Widharmika. As its prices are relatively high, the brand want to build perspective that wearing Iwan Tirta Private Collection becomes a symbol of success. Its target market is group age start from 35 years old. Beside local clients, the buyers also come from other Southeast Asia countries such as Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.

Published on Forbes Indonesia Luxury Business issue. Read full version of the article here.