Int'l, local markets demand bags

Colorful bags created by the island's artists are becoming more popular among foreign tourists and domestic consumers here.

And as the demand for these bags increase, producers are becoming more and more innovative with their creations.

The island's artists currently use various raw materials to create these eye-catching products, from water hyacinth fibers (known locally as eceng gondok) and bamboo strips, to fragrant roots and coconut shells.

"The foreigners are usually more interested in products that are made of natural materials, that's why we use natural materials in the production of our bags," Komang Mariani, a local bag producer, said.

Mariani owns a shop in Gianyar that sells and exports the bags. She also runs a small bag factory.

"Foreign markets are still our biggest consumers. Each month we export as many as 3,500 bags to different countries," she said.

Mariani added the biggest markets for the island's bags were Australia, Japan and Italy.

Besides using natural, raw materials, local artists have also explored the use of batik.

"Batik gives a touch of exoticism and uniqueness to the products," she said.

"We need to continuously innovate our line of products to attract market interest."

Continuous innovation, Mariani said, also had a positive impact on the pricing of such products.

Currently, the bags are priced at Rp 45,000 for a batik bag; Rp 50,000 for a coconut-shell bag; Rp 25,000 for a fragrant-root bag; and Rp 100,000 for an intricately woven bag.

Another bag maker, Swasty, agreed that innovation was the key to the future success of her products.

Swasty owns a company that specializes in bags made from pandan and palmyra leaves.

"Each month, my company comes up with five to eight new bag models," she said.

Swasty said her staff got ideas for the new models from three main sources; foreign fashion magazines, observing the current trends and from discussions with her loyal customers.

Swasty's company produces up to 5,000 bags per month. It also produces a large quantity of wallets and fashion accessories.

"The prices of our bags range from between Rp 25,000 to Rp 40,000 per piece," she said.

The trade brings Swasty a monthly net profit of Rp 15 million, and the success of her bag industry has inspired her to establish a community cooperative aimed at assisting local artisans in improving their financial conditions.

The cooperative now runs a workshop in Belega village, Bona.

"Each month we receive a delegation from other region in Indonesia that wants to learn about this industry," she said.

Separately, Mariani said the domestic market had shown an increasing interest in the bags created by Balinese artists.

"Recently, demand from the domestic market has increased. I now receive a regular monthly order of 2,500 bags for the domestic market.

"Perhaps this is a sign that Indonesian people are beginning to appreciate the products made by their own artisans," she said.

source: http://www.thejakartapost.com