Tag Archives: review

Indonesia seeks lead in global modest-fashion industry – Nikkei Asian Review

JAKARTA/NEW YORK — The sky looked forlorn on a cold February morning outside Industria, a redbrick building in the heart of the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan. But inside, models wearing the hijab sashayed down the runway in outfits with splashes of bright pink and black created by Indonesian designer Dian Pelangi, on day two of New York Fashion Week.

Pelangi, who has been selling her modest outfits to customers in the Middle East for several years, was enjoying her second showing at NYFW since 2017. Participation in the events has won her a growing number of buyers in the Western Hemisphere. “There have been many more orders,” Pelangi told the Nikkei Asian Review just after the show.

Pelangi is at the driving edge of rising demand for so-called modest fashion, which aims to conceal rather than reveal the body and may or may not include the hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women that covers the head and shoulders.

Such clothing can be worn for religious or cultural reasons, or by women who just prefer to dress conservatively. Indeed, the term “modest fashion” has replaced “Muslim fashion” as its appeal has spread beyond the Islamic world.

Sewing machines line a factory in Sukoharjo, Java: Indonesia’s textile exports are forecast to grow 13% to $15 billion this year.   © Getty Images

“Modest styling is the concept, but anyone can actually wear it, be it those who wear hijab or not,” says Pelangi. “That’s why we call it modest fashion instead of Muslim fashion.” Judging by the crowd at her show, this appears to be true. Only a handful wore headscarves; the rest were the kind of fashionistas that might attend any runway show.

The growing trend can be traced back to September 2016, when Anniesa Hasibuan became the first Indonesian to show in New York and presented her entire collection on models wearing the hijab. (Hasibuan has since been jailed for fraud in relation to a Hajj pilgrimage business she ran with her husband.) It was a milestone for modest fashion and since then Indonesian designers have made regular appearances at NYFW.

It stands to reason that Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, would be a leader in this booming multibillion-dollar industry. But the country has struggled to achieve its ambition of becoming the world’s Muslim fashion capital, faced with challenges ranging from poor production capacity and lack of professionalism, to vigorous competition from megabrands such as Nike, H&M Hennes & Mauritz and others that are jumping into the market for modest wear.

Jakarta-based designer Dian Pelangi shows at New York Fashion Week in February.   © Getty Images

The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report 2018/19, produced by Thomson Reuters, a mass media company, and DinarStandard, a research and advisory outfit, highlights “significant growth potential” in the sector, with Muslim spending on modest fashion forecast to grow 5% annually to $361 billion by 2023 from $270 billion in 2017.

“Modest fashion has become de rigueur. [It] is moving into the mainstream, from luxury brands to high street stores, albeit with much more room to grow,” the report says. “Online retailing and influencers have helped drive the popularity of modest fashion, alongside models in hijab gracing the covers of Cosmopolitan magazine … and Vogue.”

Room to grow

Demographics also suggest the market for conservative clothing will continue to expand. According to Pew Research Center, a fact tank based in Washington, Muslims are the world’s fastest-growing major religious group. By 2050 it estimates there will be 2.76 billion Muslims worldwide, making up 29.7% of the world’s population, up from 1.6 billion, or 23.2% of world population, in 2010.

But Indonesia has struggled to penetrate the global modest-fashion market. Heavy focus on its large domestic market and a lack of attention to exports have caused the country to perform poorly in the Thomson Reuters/DinarStandard report’s modest-fashion ranking, which tallies countries mostly based on exports, relative to their size, to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a grouping of 57 mostly Muslim-majority countries across four continents.

It finally cracked the top ten this year, jumping into second place behind the United Arab Emirates, and trumping Singapore, Malaysia and Turkey, respectively. A stronger presence at international events, including NYFW, London Fashion Week and Modest Fashion Week, a biannual international outing launched in Istanbul in 2016, likely contributed to its rising profile.

The report does not give data on exports for the individual countries; nor does Jakarta break out export volumes for modest fashion alone. However, its overall textile shipments are forecast to rise 13% this year to $15 billion, and anecdotal evidence suggests demand for Indonesian modest-fashion products is improving.

Industry insiders say demand from the U.S., Middle East and Europe is improving. And the consumers are not exclusively Muslims, but include conservative Jewish and Christian women, artists, musicians and others.

Teenage models pose in Muslim wear in a Jakarta studio. (Photo by Dimas Ardian)

Not everyone is upbeat. Franka Soeria, a modest-fashion consultant, says Indonesian designers may be enjoying the limelight at international fashion events, but they are often unable to follow through when it comes to fulfilling orders from the shows.

Soeria says products are sometimes rejected because they fall short on quality, with sloppy workmanship such as poorly finished seams and stitches among the most common complaints. “[Indonesian designers] do so much branding. The only problem is we don’t focus too much on selling. After shows, we need to follow up,” says Soeria, who is also a co-founder of Modest Fashion Week, which was hosted by Jakarta in July last year.

Soeria blames a lack of production capacity for Indonesian designers’ inability to scale up output to meet growing overseas demand. Established textile manufacturers are more interested in mass production than producing smaller runs of designer clothes, she explains, while highly skilled seamstresses are scarce.

This is in stark contrast to Turkey, a major competitor for the modest-fashion consumer and consistently placing in the top five in the Thomson Reuters/DinarStandard rankings. The industry there is “very much professional,” says Soeria, who divides her time between Istanbul and Jakarta. In Turkey, she says, designers have well-thought-out production plans even before they decide to participate in a fashion show. They are also supported by garment makers with more modern equipment who are willing to produce on a small scale.

Soeria also warns that the global modest-fashion sector is “very much a jungle.” While the broader fashion industry is well-developed and professionally managed, modest fashion is new, with many inexperienced players, as well as those trying to take advantage of them. She cites e-commerce companies that fail to pay designers as well as unethical event organizers who ask clients to pay upfront for a show, then fail to deliver.

She adds that Indonesian designers’ typical focus on ethnic wear and bold colors, although appreciated by the domestic market, often doesn’t resonate with customers in more conservative Middle Eastern countries, or with those in Muslim-minority Western nations who don’t want to stand out from the crowd more than they do already, due to wearing the hijab. Indonesian designers would do much better if they diversified away from these typical designs, she says.

Indonesian designer Vivi Zubedi in her boutique in Kemang, an upscale neighborhood in South Jakarta (Photo by Dimas Ardian)

Designer Vivi Zubedi is well aware of the problems. After appearing three times at NYFW since 2017, her dresses and separates are now well-received by customers in the U.S., the Middle East and Africa. The shows have also given her a boost at home, resulting in contracts to supply high-end department stores in Jakarta, including a local outlet of upscale French department store Galeries Lafayette.

But Zubedi admits she is not ready for large-scale production, despite tempting offers such as a partnership with Macy’s or a U.S. franchise. For now, she says, she is focused on consolidating her business and improving quality.

“We’ve been shipping to retailers, but we want to expand by exporting to wholesalers. The challenge is, however, quality control,” Zubedi says in her boutique in Kemang, an upscale South Jakarta neighborhood. “There are actually many investors who want [my brand] to become bigger in several countries, like big, well-known global brands. But that is not currently our focus.”

Competition from global brands poses another challenge for Indonesian designers. Italy’s Dolce & Gabbana, Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M, U.S. sportswear company Nike, and Japanese casualwear chain Uniqlo, as well as U.S. department store Macy’s and British retailer Marks & Spencer, are just some of the names that have showcased clothing aimed at women who want to cover up.

Major investors are also getting involved: Goldman Sachs bought a minority stake in Turkish modest-fashion e-retailer Modanisa in January.

Some Muslim designers bristle at the involvement of these big players. Shazia Ijaz, founder of U.S.-based modest-streetwear e-tailer Seek Refuge, suggests their interest borders on hypocrisy.

“There’s a long history of designers who make racist remarks about Muslims, about black people, Asians, Hispanics, saying, ‘I don’t want them wearing my things,'” she told the Nikkei in a March interview, “then taking their money and targeting them in fashion shows just because they want to increase the bottom line.”

Soeria talks of the grasping attitude she says is often displayed by mainstream fashion players. “Modest fashion is a big, billion dollar-industry and everybody wants a piece of the pie, including those not even in the industry; they don’t even know what modest fashion is.”

Models pose in Nike’s exercise-friendly Pro Hijab, released globally in 2017.   © Getty Images

Global brands asked to comment mostly failed to respond: Nike noted only that its Pro Hijab sportswear sells well in Indonesia, and that it will continue to cater to the “needs and wants” of athletes; H&M declined to comment.

The presence of megabrands “does present a challenge for small and medium-sized enterprises,” the Thomson Reuters/DinarStandard report says. But, it argues, “Mainstream fashion’s adoption of modest fashion is helping to counter negative perceptions toward Islam.”

Despite her criticism, Soeria agrees. Involvement of the big brands helps people to understand that many women “cover themselves not because they are being oppressed, but because they choose to,” she says. “If women can choose to wear revealing clothes, they can also choose to be covered.”

Emerging Indonesian designer Ria Miranda thinks global brands “close the distance between Islam and fashion,” and make Muslim fashion “no longer a foreign thing” among the international public. “Their presence is driving me and other modest-fashion industry players to keep innovating, and [to] create original and quality design that can compete with them.”

Capital of fashion

The Indonesian government has promised to help the modest-fashion industry, but has been slow to get involved. A plan to transform the country into the world’s Muslim fashion capital by 2020 has been pushed back to 2025.

Apart from sponsoring modest-fashion shows in Jakarta, it was only this year that officials, through the Creative Economy Agency, or Bekraf, launched a program to fund the local industry through partnerships with Shariah-compliant banks, which follow the principles of Islamic law.

Yuke Sri Rahayu, director for banking access at Bekraf, says select designers will be trained in business management, which will include helping them to draft financial reports so as to make their businesses more bankable.

“We’ve learned that they have really good designs, but they haven’t managed their businesses well,” Rahayu says. “Most have never approached [banks for loans]. So when they have projects … they rely on family members to borrow money, thus the difficulties to run large projects.”

Young Indonesians in hijab walk in the university district in Jakarta. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)

The government is hoping that increased modest-fashion shipments will lift its textile exports and help narrow its trade deficit. The U.S.-China trade war has hurt overall exports while imports have become more costly due to a weaker rupiah. Since last year, it has been striving to increase shipments in particular to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation countries, as demand from China, its main trading partner, slows.

Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto, speaking at the Muslim Fashion Festival in Jakarta in May, said that making Indonesia a global modest-fashion capital would also help to create jobs; the industry employs 1.1 million people, or nearly a third of total workers in the textile and garment industry.

Meanwhile, Soeria, the fashion consultant, last year co-founded the Council of Modest Fashion to address challenges faced by designers. It will help creatives in countries spanning Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East to connect with clients overseas. “Our goal is to make modest fashion sustainable,” she says. “We don’t want it to be just a trend that fades out.”

Elon Musk wants to hook your brain directly up to computers — starting next year – NBC News

Elon Musk, the futurist billionaire behind SpaceX and Tesla, outlined his plans to connect humans’ brains directly to computers on Tuesday night, describing a campaign to create “symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” He said the first prototype could be implanted in a person by the end of next year.

Arriving at that goal “will take a long time,” Musk said in a presentation at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, noting that securing federal approval for implanted neural devices is difficult. But testing on animals is already underway, and “a monkey has been able to control the computer with his brain,” he said.

Musk founded Neuralink Corp. in July 2016 to create “ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces[1] to connect humans and computers.” The company said in 2017 that its initial goal was to devise brain interfaces to alleviate the symptoms of chronic medical conditions.

It’s widely presumed, however, that Musk is characteristically after something much larger. He has frequently warned that the rapid advance of artificial intelligence, or AI, threatens to leave humanity in the dust, calling it an existential risk.

Elon musk speaks at a Neuralink Livestream event Tuesday night at the the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.Neuralink via YouTube

Musk repeated Tuesday night that one of the goals of Neuralink was to treat brain disorders, saying, “We can solve that with a chip.”

But he went on to say that it also sought to help you “preserve and enhance your own brain” and to “create a well-aligned future.”

As he has before, Musk warned that as it stands, humanity is at risk of being left behind by the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence, or AI — “even in a benign AI scenario — hopefully, it is a benign scenario.”

Addressing that, Musk said Tuesday, will require finding a way for the brain to “merge” with AI, most likely through tiny wireless chips implanted in the brain through a 2-millimeter incision to create what he called “some sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” with a goal of no less than securing “humanity’s future as a civilization relative to AI.”

The biggest technical hurdle is bandwidth, Musk said, meaning the tools humans use to interface with computers, like current hardware systems and smartphones.

While Neuralink “aspirationally” hopes to implant the first chip in a human patient before the end of 2020, Musk acknowledged that the larger goal will take a long time. Still, the ultimate hope is for “some sort of symbiosis with artificial intelligence,” which he said would take root “at the civilizational scale.”

“With a high-bandwidth brain interface, I think we can have the option of merging with AI,” he said.

Asked how Neuralink could make such an advance system affordable and widely available, Musk said the infrastructure would be so simple that it wouldn’t need expensive neuroscientists to implant and maintain.

“I think it’s safe to say you could repay the loan with superhuman intelligence,” he said. “I think it’s a safe bet.”

In November, Musk touted “an AI extension of yourself” in an interview with comedian and podcast host Joe Rogan, saying: “If you can’t beat it, join it.

“From a long-term existential standpoint, that’s, like, the purpose of Neuralink, to create a high-bandwidth interface to the brain such that we can be symbiotic with AI,” he said. “Because we have a bandwidth problem. You just can’t communicate through your fingers. It’s just too slow.”

Such an interface, he claimed, would allow “anyone who wants to have superhuman cognition — anyone who wants.” At some point, he said, people would be able to “upload into a new unit, literally,” when they die.

Those high-flying promises have convinced some heavy hitters.

Neuralink’s most recent Form D securities notice to filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, filed in May, disclosed that the company had raised more than $39 million from seven investors — more than three-quarters of its goal.

Musk, 48, whom Forbes lists as the 40th-richest person in the world, founded or co-founded PayPal Inc., the electric car company Tesla Inc., SpaceX (which wants to start commercial space flights by 2021) and The Boring Co. (which seeks to build an underground “hyperloop” allowing commuters to travel between New York and Washington, D.C., in a half-hour).

He also co-founded OpenAI LP, initially a nonprofit venture seeking to “ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity.” Earlier this year, OpenAI shifted[2] from a being a nonprofit to being a so-called capped-profit company, which would allow it to make profits “while including checks and balances to actualize our mission.”

Tesla and SpaceX are widely seen as successes that have fundamentally advanced technology in green transportation and space exploration.

But other of Musk’s efforts have stumbled: Last August, in an attempt to reduce pressure from investors and critics, Musk tweeted that he was taking Tesla private at $420 per share without first consulting his board or notifying shareholders.

The announcement ran afoul of SEC regulations after it turned out that Musk hadn’t struck an agreement with private investors to finance the move. The SEC ordered him and Tesla to pay $20 million each in penalties, and Musk had to step down as chairman for three years.

In September, the significance of Musk’s $420-a-share price became clear when Musk smoked marijuana on the air[4] during his appearance on Rogan’s podcast. Tesla’s stock plunged by 9 percent as investors questioned his stability.

Then, in November, The Boring Company announced that it was withdrawing plans to develop a “test tunnel” of its hyperloop system[5] in Los Angeles.

State and local officials said Musk’s plans hadn’t been submitted for review or permits — formally or even informally.

Toy Review: LEGO Star Wars BOOST Droid Commander – LaughingPlace.com

I was very interested to check out the LEGO Star Wars BOOST Droid Commander set, as it’s not ordinarily the type of LEGO building set I’m interested in owning– I tend to go for minifigure-scale sets– but as a big Star Wars fan with a passing interest in robotics, Droid Commander was intriguing to me. The set (#75253) includes 1,177 pieces and retails for $199.99.

Watch (PART 2) LEGO Star Wars Droid Commander build/review – Mouse and Gonk Droid:

My favorite of the three droids is undeniably the Gonk Droid. I love the way he leans side-to-side as he walks, and it’s pretty amazing to see robots you’ve constructed yourself come to life with gears, turnshafts, and motors, all made of LEGO. R2-D2 has all the personality you would expect from the galaxy’s most famous Astromech droid, and his functions match those you would see in the Star Wars movies. The Mouse Droid, on the other hand, was the least visually interesting of the three, for me, and his abilities feel more limited than the other two.

The LEGO BOOST app works perfectly for putting your hands at the controls of R2-D2, the Gonk Droid, and the Mouse Droid. You can stack commands and build a string of motions and functions, or simply steer each droid via a more straightforward remote control, all within the app. There are also a handful of specialized skills available such as unlocking a door, firing a projectile, and battle actions.

My one major complaint about the LEGO Star Wars BOOST Droid Commander set is the difficulty in removing the motors and sensors from each droid and installing it into the next one you want to use, as this process is a bit more frustrating than I feel it should be. Otherwise, this would make for an excellent gift for a kid (recommended for ages eight and up) who is interested in learning more about robotics and programming, and who also happens to be a Star Wars fan, of course.

LEGO Star Wars BOOST Droid Commander is available now at the LEGO Shop-at-Home website[2].

Toy Review: LEGO Star Wars BOOST Droid Commander - LaughingPlace.com

Mike has been fascinated by theme parks and Disney all his life. He has worked in the entertainment journalism field since 2015, after spending a decade as a film projectionist at one of Hollywood’s most prestigious movie theaters. He resides in Burbank, California with his wife and cat.

Comments

References

  1. ^ LEGO Star Wars BOOST Droid Commander (www.laughingplace.com)
  2. ^ LEGO Shop-at-Home website (www.lego.com)