For forty-five years, the British Women’s Association (BWA) of Jakarta has been offering community support and friendship for UK citizens and other expatriates. Many strong bonds formed continue decades on, separated only by time zones.
Their social welfare programme contributes to charitable causes through a range of fundraising events, including its annual Fashion Show, which is the biggest charity fundraiser in Jakarta. Now in its 33rd year, it is one of Jakarta’s most anticipated shindigs and the height of the social calendar. It is a black-tie sartorial spectacle, complemented by a three-course supper and garnished by a fashion show and dance extravaganza performed by BWA members. Many months of blood, sweat and tears are spent perfecting their craft.
Those who value their social standing scramble for a ticket. They will prep and preen, going to the ends of the Earth to look their best.
In 2015, the theme entitled ‘Space Odyssey, beyond sight and sound’ transported us to the constellation of stars. Ambitious, you might think, but 9th May saw the Hotel Shangri-La look its stellar best.
This year I became part of the rookie team, thrown in right at the ruddy deepest. We swam for our lives and made it to the other end, surviving to tell the tale and live another day! For my sins, I was part of the design team and also debuted my foray into fashion. It would not be an understatement to say it was a Jurassic challenge.
The design team’s brief was to blandish and serenade Jakarta’s finest robe-makers to turn their wears over for an evening, and for us to interpret a novel way to fashion-show their amazing designs.
Although it is termed a fashion show, it is more a fashion cabaret extravaganza extraordinaire!
The planning of this evening was a mammoth task. From the organising committee to the back stage, producers, hair and make-up, choreographers, models, designers, fittings, culinary preparations and the helpers who went unnoticed in the wings, all helped make it a most splendid night of a thousand stars.
This year we were fortunate to have some new fantastic designers taking part, introduced to a completely new audience of well-heeled and ebullient expats. There was the flamboyant and exuberant Ivan Gunawan, the gracious and pulchritudinous Aurelia Santoso, the vampish and stylish Kiki O’Donnell, classically featured and classy Erika Weinzinger, along with the deliciously camp and fragrant Kiki Adam. The wonderful Dini Pratiwi Irawati’s clever use of denim and twist of embellishment drew admiring cheers during a performance with her designs.
Biasa Boutique, whose laid back, easy designs have served the stylish beach bums of Bali and Jakarta, donated a bumper gift voucher and clothes for the show. We had Galeries Lafayette, Jakarta’s equivalent to Saks on Fifth or Selfridges of London, generously providing us with great labels to choose from. They carry some funky European brands like Zadig & Voltaire, Sandro, Maje and The Kooples. Galeries Lafayette are also incredibly supportive of local brands and have a Fashion Lab corner dedicated to highlighting up-and-coming designers, one of whom dressed the eccentric Lady Gaga. The jovial and licentious designer Yudhistira, whose mantra is sexy, created designs for the models group allocated to him that were deliciously tasty and libidinous – a perfect match made in heaven.
The night was in a word frabjous! To see Jakarta’s finest in their most splendid regalia was truly a beautiful sight. The foyer entrance to the ballroom was bedecked with space theme lighting and highlighted all the designers, each allocated with a mannequin to drape a show-stopping dress. One designer, who came to deliver their robes for the show, saw what the other designers had on display, promptly and swiftly turned back on his heels and brought back another splashy dress to compete for the crowd’s attention!
As the evening proceeded and guests were ushered into the grand ballroom, the atmosphere became electrifying! The Space Odyssey theme had begun to take hold. Special effects of laser beams and atmospheric sounds turned the ballroom into a sexy Star Wars meets Avatar, Apollo 13, Star Trek and of course 2001 A Space Odyssey experience!
With the meals served and speeches done, including one by the British Ambassador’s wife, show time exploded upon the stage. Months of rehearsal, interspersed with grit, tears, image issues, impossible egos, vacillation, laughter and camaraderie made for an alchemy that bore a show of sensational visual bewitchment. The make-up, hair and clothes exploded into a Molotov of entertainment, never before experienced. In one and a half short hours, it was all over, with the finale heralding the start of throwing some intricate shapes on the dance floor! Dance we did, continuing at Bats nightclub. As the evening ended, having consumed an ocean of amber nectar, many resembled a querulous parrot or an inebriated newt. The morning after, with much laughter, they reminisced how liberating it is to lose one’s inhibitions if only for a night!
In the name of charity, we raised money for the BWA social welfare programme. Designers Ivan Gunawan and Yudhistira donated red carpet gowns for auction, likewise the stylish menswear Laxmi, whose captivating electric blue tuxedo stood proudly between the two gowns waiting for a new owner. The sponsors were extremely generous by way of prizes, and we all gave the most expensive yet least costly of all gifts – our precious time and ourselves.