RIP: Pande Krisna, Creator Iconic T-Shirt

A sad footnote in the development of Bali as a tourism destination was marked on 29 February with the death of Pande Ketut Krisna – the man credited with creating the iconic “Barong T-shirt” in the late 1960s.

As reported by, T-shirt designer and souvenir shop operator Pande Ketut Krisna died after a brief illness on 29 February 2024 at the Professor IGNG Ngoerah General Hospital in Denpasar.

Pande Krisna’s son, Pande Nyoman Yudi Sutrisna, confirmed that the remains of his 77 year-old-father will be cremated at the Setra Beng (Cemetery) on 10 April 2024.

In interviews preceding his death, Pande Krisna explained that the ubiquitous Barong T-shirt was invented almost accidentally. “The Barong T-shirt was invented by accident as we experimented with dyes and colors for Endek Cloth. I was trying to create a colorful Bali Endek Cloth at that time. 

At that time, Endek was limited to only two colors – a black cloth intermixed with blue, green, or brown,” explained Pande Krisna.

The “Kaos Barong” was first created in 1969. He was experimenting with introducing more colors in manufacturing by imposing multiple colors on each thread to be woven into the finished product. In the end, Pande Krisna expanded the color scheme for his shirt from two to five colors.

Over the intervening 55 years, the design for the Barong T-shirt has remained simple and unchanged.

In 1969, the Barong T-shirts were sold in large numbers at tourist attractions and souvenir shops across the island for only Rp. 1,500 per piece.

Before his death, Pande Ketut Krisna acknowledged that the massive demand for the shirts represented good fortune for him and his family. Adding: “Back then, my business in Gianyar was small. The Barong T-shirt made me successful. These T-shirts were sold in many countries as unique, handmade handicraft items.”

A patent or copyright never protected the Barong T-shirts. “I never thought about a patent, thinking only two years of successful sales were enough. Members of my (extended) family learned how to make the shirts. We were unable to keep the manufacturing process a family secret. But if considered needed, maybe the government can assist in patenting the Barong T-shirt to ensure it remains the property of the people of Bali,” shared Pande Krisna before his passing.

More than 50 tears since its creation, the Barong T-shirt remains a popular souvenir with high demand among domestic and international visitors to Bali. 

The shirts now sell at prices of between Rp. 15,000 and Rp. 30,000 per piece.

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