As designer Edward Hutabarat spoke animatedly about his passions of Indonesian textiles and empowering women artisans on Wednesday, he quickly had reporters enraptured.
Ebullient, impassioned Edo is always a hard act to follow, but Nadya Hutagalung did her best with charm and modesty. After the designer introduced her as the new icon for his Part One collection, the Indonesian-Australian model announced to the media that she would speak campur (mixed English-Indonesian).
And so she did, opening with a few words of thanks in Indonesian, with a joking aside about her paternal ancestors being from a neighboring village to Edo in North Sumatra, before getting serious in English in expressing her respect for the designer’s commitment to his craft and Indonesia.
“Edo has a passion that is unrivaled in anyone I have met in recent years,” Nadya said separately. “His drive to bring not only batik to the mainstream but also traditional crafts is not only inspiring, but also ultimately highly beneficial for the small circles of traditional craftsmen and villages.”
She says she has always tried to promote Asian designers by wearing their creations.
“Wearing Part One gives me a story to tell, to share the history of batik, how time consuming it is to create, and Edo’s passion. I am proud to wear Edo’s designs when I am outside of Indonesia, just as I am happy to carry the name Hutagalung.”
Edo, speaking separately, said he selected Nadya not only for her ageless beauty, but also because of her commitment to ethical living and environmental activism.
“Of course, there is no doubt she is a very beautiful girl, but more than that we have a shared vision about Indonesia and our concerns,” he said.
Nadya, who turned 37 on Thursday, is considerably older than Edo’s previous icons, including actress Dian Sastro and model Mariana Renata, both in their 20s. But her profile is perhaps more in keeping with the well-heeled customers of Part One, women who are savoring and embracing their maturity.
The spokeswoman for a leading anti-aging skin cream, Nadya certainly did not come up short in the gorgeousness stakes in comparison with the united nations of models who skipped up the catwalk in debuting Edo’s fun, frisky resort collection (however, the designer describes the collection, titled “Reflection”, as a “sad” one, because he was in his beloved Japan only a couple of days before the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March).
She had described herself in The Jakarta Post WEEKENDER in February as, “a girl who is not ready to grow up, who wants to explore everything without the fear of failure, but is still fighting the procrastination monster.”
Does being a year older make a difference?
“When I woke up on Friday, I did not feel any different, although in the grand scheme of things these days I guess I am a lot calmer, and perhaps even more unaffected by the mundane goings on in life,” she says.
“I focus on the things that are of real importance, such as the well-being of my family members … Sometimes we need to be selfish in our focus to be able to develop ourselves in order to best support those around us.”
She says she does not fear so much the fine lines that aren’t so fine that come with aging; prevention is the key to staying away from the plastic surgeon’s knife. But she is alarmed by the physical and mental deterioration – and loneliness – of getting older.
“I recently spent a lot of time with my now deceased maternal grandmother who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, my mother was looking after her in her final years. I see elderlies who are left in nursing homes and the like, and that scares me. I would be scared to have to suffer physically for the last few years or even decades of my life, which is why I focus so much on trying to lead a healthy lifestyle.”
Many 30-something affluent Indonesians and others in the region grew up with Nadya. Born and raised in Sydney, and a model from the age of 12, she was the prettiest MTV VJ when the music channel arrived in the mid-1990s, signaling the advent of the youth culture that is today so entrenched in Asia.
“We were wild and free, vibrant, passionate full of life and ridiculously tenacious, there was no stopping us,” she recollects of that period, adding that she keeps in touch with fellow VJs such as Sarah Sechan.
Married since 2006 to Singaporean Desmond Koh, a champion swimmer turned banker, she has three children, ranging in age from 17 to 3 years. She juggles many hats today, with her environmental activism through her green kampong website, an eco-jewelry line, as well as her endorsement and hosting commitments.
Fortunately, earlier this year she completed construction of her eco home in Singapore, which she has described as a three-year labor of love that sapped her patience and creativity. She says balance is the key to making her life work.
“Actually, aside from parenting, I try to space everything out so that I don’t get overloaded. I choose what I focus on from time to time and then shift priorities based on my need. I work from home a lot so manage to get quite a bit done in the mornings when the kids are at school and then I am free when they get home.”
As well as running www.greenkampong.com, she is active on Twitter with advice on ethical and eco-friendly living for her followers. She credits two generations of her family – her Australian mother and her children – for spurring that environmental commitment.
“My mum planted the seeds of living in a more conscious way when I was very young, speaking of being self sustainable, her wish of having her own water source, living off the grid and such things before I even understood what they meant. When I became a mother, the future of mankind scared me even more. I felt a deep sense of guilt mixed with the urgent need to do whatever I could to help make even the smallest change for better.”
She wants to expand her reach with Green kampong, believing food can serve as a good common connector.
With a busy professional and personal life, and with her own causes for concern, what makes her happy?
“It’s being able to do a little of everything and still have time to breathe, being able to be content without chasing for more,” she says.