Ever since she was a teenager, Katrin Pasha liked to discover and explore new places. Over the years, her travels brought her to Australia, South America and South Africa. After she completed her studies in tourism management, Katrin decided to take some time for a trip to Asia.
“Asia was basically still missing on my list,” she says with a laugh. “I instantly liked Indonesia, it felt like getting to know a completely different part of this world. There’s magic in the air.”
While in Indonesia, Katrin unexpectedly fell in love. To give her new relationship a chance to grow, she decided to stay in North Sumatra, near Bukit Lawang, where she also volunteered at a local school, which helped her to learn the Indonesian language.
“When my mother came to visit me, she instantly fell in love with batik,” Katrin recalls. “I come from a family of tailors and dressmakers, going back to my great-grandmother. My mother continued this tradition, and I also seem to have inherited this skill as well as a passion for fashion.”
Two years later, Katrin got married in Sumatra, and it was her mother who made the wedding dress: the fabric she used was Indonesian batik, but the style was Bavarian – a dirndl.
The dirndl is a traditional Alpine folk costume for women, which is typically worn in southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Italian province of South Tyrol. It consists of a close-fitted bodice over a blouse as well as a full skirt and apron. The dirndl is a popular attire in Bavaria, especially for the Oktoberfest and other fairs, where many women can be seen wearing this traditional outfit in various lengths, styles and shapes.
“It was around my wedding that the idea for ‘Dunia Dirndl’ first took shape,” Katrin explains. “It is such a beautiful combination. It is colourful, and it gives me the chance to bring together two different cultures.”
When Katrin again spent a few months in Indonesia last year, she finally decided to take the plunge: “I told myself that I just needed to get going, because if you don’t dare to try something new, you will never get anywhere.”
With the help of a trusted friend, Katrin began shopping for batik and was also introduced to Gusnelly Anwar, a well-known Indonesian fashion designer based in Medan.
“Together with Gusnelly, I developed the various designs,” she says. “The batik fabrics that we use are mainly from Bali, Java and Sumatra, and are handmade by Gusnelly and her team, with lots of passion and love. In Munich, I am responsible for the finishing touches of the dresses. For instance, we use original Bavarian accessories, such as buttons and clasps, because they are available here in such a high quality.”
In her online store “Dunia Dirndl”, Katrin offers dresses in various styles: there are different patterns and styles, some vary in the neckline, others in length.
“I choose the batik fabrics in Indonesia and then design the dresses myself,” Katrin explains. “I simply let my creativity run free and see what kind of fabrics and patterns fit the best. It’s important not to always follow the same style, because women have different bodies as well, and some styles might fit them better than others. In the end, the most important thing is that they feel comfortable.”
When Katrin officially launched “Dunia Dirndl” in March, she didn’t anticipate that just around the same time, a global pandemic would change the world as we know it. While Covid-19 has definitely led to some start-up difficulties, it also gave her the chance to focus on something else: instead of pouring all her energy into making dirndl dresses, Katrin began making masks.
“The demand was – and still is – so high that it is actually my main activity at the moment,” she says. “In fact, the batik masks were so popular that I had to order more fabrics from Indonesia.”
For every mask she sells, Katrin sets aside 10%. She donates the money to people in need in Indonesia.
“In Medan, I am working together with a local mosque, and the imam helps to choose people and families in their community who are in dire need of financial support,” she says. “There are unfortunately many people in the region who live in poverty, even before the Covid-19 crisis.”
The annual Oktoberfest, the world’s largest Volksfest with countless imitations across the globe, would have been the perfect occasion for “Dunia Dirndl” and her unique dresses to get a fresh boost. Unfortunately, the Oktoberfest was cancelled due to Covid-19. But Katrin doesn’t trouble herself too much about it.
“Initially, I planned to design a new collection of dresses every year, but in the current climate, I think it’s best to wait,” she explains. “Since I only started earlier this year, I don’t have too much pressure yet anyway.”
Putting any doubts aside, Katrin has already made plans for the future. She would like to add to more custom-made designs to her collection.
“I can very well imagine a potential customer making special requests or giving her input on the final design,” she says. “It would be great to work together on the dress to turn it into a true one-of-a-kind piece.”
“Dunia Dirndl’s” target group are fashion enthusiasts who are interested in Indonesia and Asia – those who have maybe already travelled to the region themselves, are open-minded and enjoy a multi-cultural approach to life. Due to the fact that she primarily designs dresses, Katrin’s customers are predominantly women – for now.
However, this may change soon, as Katrin also wants to expand her brand to include items for men, such as the traditional “Trachten” waistcoasts – the male counterpart to the dirndl dresses – as well as an extra line of accessories.
“I already started to create yoga eye pillows and add more items to this line I’d like to call ‘Dunia Sports and Relax’,” she explains. “Of course, it’s still in the early stages, but I already have a lot of ideas and inspirations. I also have a young son I need to take care of, so it will definitely be a balancing act – but a beautiful one at that.”
In the end, “Dunia Dirndl” is a passion project and its slogan “because we are one” is a message that is close to Katrin’s heart.
“I founded ‘Dunia Dirndl’ to make a statement by combining two different cultures,” she says. “We are all connected, regardless of our origin and our background.”
Visit www.dunia-dirndl.com for more information or follow @duniadirndl on Instagram.