Alvin Tjitrowirjo: Taking Indonesian design international

 

Alvin Tjitrowirjo began his career with an ambitious dream: showcasing exceptional Indonesian products to the world. Thirteen years later, with his schedule packed with world-class furniture exhibitions, he is living that dream.

Interview by Yani Lauwoie

 

We talked to Alvin at the Indonesia International Furniture Expo 2019, held in Jakarta’s JIExpo in March. Joining VIVERE an Indonesian premium furniture and accessories brand as their creative director, Alvin was appointed to art-direct VIVERE’s exhibit at the event.

“VIVERE and I have the same objective, which is to promote high quality Indonesian products to the world. A few months ago, we had an exhibit at Maison et Objet Paris. We expect to enter the European market,” says the 35-year-old Jakarta-born product and interior designer.

Aside from the collaboration with VIVERE, Alvin has his own creative consulting company, AlvinT. Founded in 2006, the company provides services in product design, interior design, art direction and design strategy.

While AlvinT’s clients include cafés, restaurants and hotels, its furniture has been showcased in several international exhibitions, such as Milan’s Expo 2015, Germany’s Frankfurt Book Fair 2015 and Sweden’s Stockholm Furniture Fair 2019. This month, AlvinT’s work will be on display as part of Milan Design Week for the leading lights in the industry.

“I will showcase my new design, which is tropical and contemporary. The target is to seek international exposure rather than selling products. I expect to have collaborations with international stakeholders,” explains Alvin, who honed his skills at Melbourne’s RMIT University and the IED European Design Labs in Madrid.

While exploring a variety of materials, Alvin admits he has a soft spot for rattan, a material with a long and rich heritage in Indonesian culture. His preference is not only based on practicalities – rattan is strong, light, flexible, sustainably produced and easy to combine with other materials – but also on the philosophy behind it.

“I see rattan as being similar to us Indonesians; we are talented and beautiful but sometimes we undervalue ourselves. That is the thing I want to change,” says the designer, who is in demand as a guest lecturer and speaker at international universities from Japan to Peru.

One of Alvin’s unique and impressive rattan designs is the Linger Bench, which has been displayed internationally on numerous occasions, including at the Wicker Basket Museum in Coburg, Germany, the Salone del Mobile.Milano in Milan, and London’s iconic Harrods department store. Handmade, the eye-catching piece at once embraces Indonesian tradition and a contemporary approach through the innovative use of languid, sensuous curves.

Alvin’s designs can also be found in Claude Cartier Decoration store in Lyon, France, the Personal Space MB store in Manhattan Beach, California, and The Artling, an online art gallery based in Singapore. His body of work was recognised with a prestigious national accolade in 2017, when he was named the IDEAFEST and Samsung Indonesia Awardee for Indonesia’s Most Influential Person in Creative Industry for Product Design, following on from his 2010 Australian Alumni Award for Design and Creativity.

As a proud Indonesian, Alvin always infuses his work with a sense of national identity.

“Indonesia is known for its ethnic, vintage and traditional crafts, but we also produce many contemporary designed products that maintain Indonesian characteristics,” he says.

Although he is already at a level that many designers his age could only fantasise about, Alvin is not stopping anytime soon. He still has plenty of dreams to achieve.

“My future goal is to work together with international as well as local brands, including Garuda Indonesia, to make Indonesian products more popular internationally,” he says, adding that he has collaborated with TOTO Indonesia to design an exclusive bathroom collection, TOJA.

Being a globetrotter, Alvin flies frequently with Garuda Indonesia. “As the national airline, Garuda Indonesia is definitely showcasing Indonesian hospitality,” he says.