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Indonesian fashion designer stirs controversy with ‘ethically sourced human spine’ handbag – Coconuts

If you think you’ve seen all there is to see on the internet, think again: an Indonesian fashion designer recently gained international attention for his controversial personal style ⁠— which purportedly involved human remains, no less ⁠— and his eyebrow-raising travels that are well-documented on Instagram.

The designer is Arnold Putra, who, for the most part, is only known from his posts on Instagram, photos from which have made their way around the world wide web and sparking backlash from netizens. He is believed to be in his mid-20s and reportedly from a wealthy family, the latter providing a viable explanation for how he has managed to fund his luxurious lifestyle.

As seen from his Instagram account @arnoldputra, he seems to be spending most of his time out of Indonesia with his fiancée Ariel Brasali ⁠— daughter of property mogul Budi Brasali ⁠— with reports suggesting that they’re based in LA.

Arnold has an eponymous fashion line that specializes in leatherwear and outrageous elements, in line with his personal sense of style. Aside from the usual posts of lavish getaways and outrageous outfits, Arnold has traveled to some of the world’s most least-visited places, which includes villages where indigenous and tribal peoples live, as early as 2016. 

Last month, Arnold gained online notoriety after a handbag he designed in 2016 resurfaced, which was purportedly made of alligator tongue and an “entire child’s spine who had osteoporosis” as its handle ⁠— both of which he claimed were “ethically sourced.”

The bag was a one-off item he sold for US$5,000 marketed on numerous contemporary designer platforms, including the UK-based site The Unconventional. Photos of the bag were also uploaded to both @arnoldputra and @byarnoldputra, a secondary Instagram account for his fashion line.

Screenshot of Arnold Putra's post on Instagram from 2016, which detailed the human spine and alligator tongue handbag.
Screenshot of Arnold Putra’s post on Instagram from 2016, which detailed the human spine and alligator tongue handbag.

No one paid attention to the bag for a long time, possibly because Arnold and his fashion line had a pretty niche audience, but the whole thing took off after a student/online curator named Maxim posted screenshots of the item on his Twitter, @wqbisabi, in mid-March. It snowballed from there, with many people sharing the photo accompanied with angry comments.

Not long after the furor, a Twitter thread from user @SuperiorGab highlighted Arnold’s knack of bragging about giving fake designer watches to indigenous or tribal peoples, purportedly to be exchanged with prized items from their culture. Another tweet in the thread showed Arnold posing among the dead bodies in Toraja, supposedly to flex his outfit, and other questionable behaviors exhibited among the tribes he’d visited.

As soon as the story took off, The Unconventional took down the bag from their website with Arnold setting his Instagram account to private, although he has since made it public again without deleting posts related to the outrageous item.

In a report published on April 13, two child osteopaths told Insider that the handle of the handbag was “almost certainly a real human spine,” although they did not confirm that it belonged to a child.

Speaking to the outlet, Arnold said that the spine “was medically sourced from Canada with papers,” explaining that it’s possible to buy bones from “licensed companies that receive human specimens donated to medicine and occasionally sell them as surplus.” However, he didn’t confirm if the spine came from the aforementioned medical surplus.

As for the alligator tongue, Arnold claimed that they were “byproducts of the alligator meat and leather industry.”

It isn’t clear what sort of role, if any, Arnold plays in the fashion industry. He has been sighted in a number of leading fashion events, with the latest instance being Paris Fashion Week in February.

In one post, Arnold appeared in what seems to be a photoshoot with Michèle Lamy, a French culture and fashion figure, as well as wife and muse of American designer Rick Owens, draped in a fur coat designed by the latter.

Coconuts has reached out to Arnold Putra for a comment and will update this story as soon as we get a response.


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