Celebrating The Color of Nature: A Glance at Alfira's Semilir Ecoprint with Exotic Lantung Fabric

Eco-friendly products are becoming more relevant in today's world. The planet is suffering from environmental damage and immediate actions are to be taken. While people aim to obtain profit from economic activities, they're more concerned about environmental protection. That's why lantung fabric is special owing to its sustainability that challenges the fast fashion industry.

Fast fashion gains its momentum when social media is favorable to modern people. The rise of TikTok has undeniably opposed the traditional market since the latter offers higher prices. TikTok shop has made a lot of fancy products accessible to potential buyers with a few swipes and taps at unbelievably affordable prices.

Photo: Semilir Youtube

The phenomenon clearly gets the economy to roll but at the same time presents a new problem. More and more stuff is purchased due to its affordability but ignores durability and thus sustainability. With low-quality fabrics, clothes have begun to pile up in many households even before their first use.

On lantung fabric

It is in this sense that lantung rises to fame. Lantung is a fabric made of the bark of particular trees, mostly terap and ibuh. It is so named due to the sound of tung produced when the bark is pounded to flatten and smoothen. History has it that the fabric was first made in 1943 during the Japanese colonization. Lantung was known as "Kain Terjajah" (colonized fabric) as it reflected people's fight against the invader back then.

Lantung is especially connected to Bengkulu, a province in Sumatra. People were both socially and economically deprived during the colonized years in the area. Not only were local people terribly suppressed, but they were unable to buy appropriate clothes so they turned to bark for clothing. The bark was chosen as it was widely available in Bengkulu owing to its vast forests.

To be an ideal fabric, quality bark should be obtained from trees that are at least ten years old in age. The selected trees are then cut down and chopped. After the outer layer of the bark is peeled, the internal layer (with a softer texture) is used to make the fabric. 

Peeling is a vital stage in preparing the bark for fabric (Photo: Semilir Youtube)

In the initial stage, the bark is pounded consistently using a tool called perikai. The tool is normally made of buffalo horn or hardwood. The pounding is done continuously until the bark becomes thin, large, flat, and soft. The pounded bark is then aired for approximately two weeks before it is ready for production.

Alfira's Semilir Ecoprint that empowers

People in Bengkulu wouldn't allow the local treasure of lantung fabric to disappear. Even when Indonesia has gained independence, local people continued to preserve the traditional way of fabric making in honor of historical value. More to the point, lantung fabric was declared the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Warisan Budaya from Bengkulu.

Among those who care for the local treasure is Alfira Oktaviani. Driven by a sustainable lifestyle, this woman from Yogyakarta initiated the making of Semilir Ecoprint in 2018. She argued that semilir derives from the Javanese word “silir” which literally means a cool breeze. The brand is so named with the hope every product she makes conforms to environmental values while helping local people economically. With Semilir Ecoprint, happiness will be for human beings and the planet as well.

Alfira in search of unique patterns in nature (Photo: Semilir Youtube)

As for Ecoprint, it is a technique of printing and dying with the use of natural materials including parts of plants that contain color pigments such as leaves, flowers, twigs, and bark. With this method, Alfira is trying to communicate with the whole world that the exotic color of lantung fabric made of organic elements does have an outstanding look. She suggests that sustainable fashion that promotes eco-friendliness is possible while also making a profit.

Semilir Ecoprint has made it clear that local richness, i.e. that found in Bengkulu, Indonesia, can be made into consumers' products in the form of kebaya, outerwear, handcrafted wallets, and a variety of astonishing accessories. With this business type in practice, we can expect greenhouse gas emissions to decrease in the coming years. It is said that the fast fashion industry has resulted in 1.2 billion tonnes annually, exceeding the emissions caused by the maritime industry and international aviation.

Distinguished award

Alfira will continue to spread the message of eco-fashion while making every effort to hold workshops and join exhibitions to empower others in the spirit of environmental protection. Semilir Ecoprint is committed to helping other SMEs and housewives in particular to engage in producing sustainable products, including fashion. 

Her commitment and dedication have led her to the reception of a distinguished award from PT Astra International, Tbk. For the sake of the beauty of lantung fabric from Bengkulu that she preserves as a local treasure, she was awarded the Satu Indonesia Award in 2022 highlighting her as an inspiring figure in entrepreneurship.


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