Designs for Success
Maggie Tiojakin, WEEKENDER | Wed, 04/04/2012 11:51 AM |
Indonesia’s young designers are turning the local fashion industry into a vibrant business with the potential to go international.
Indonesian designers have been making their mark for more than a decade now. Local icons such as Biyan Wanaatmadja and Farah Angsana have made waves abroad, but it is the younger, newly minted designers who are currently infusing the Indonesian fashion industry with the charm and passion of a rapidly growing industry.
Nina Karina of “Nikicio”
Nina Karina is one of Indonesia’s most accomplished young designers, with a ready-to-wear collection that is highly anticipated by both local and international fashion observers. Best known for her detailed and unpredictable approach, Nina is creative director of her own brand, Nikicio (established in 2007). Now in her late 20s, Nina’s rare talent has been praised by various publications, including Elle and Rolling Stone Indonesia, which selected her as the “best young designer of the year” in 2010. Today, her brand has a presence in such foreign markets as Singapore and the Netherlands.
I fell in love with fashion at a very early age. I was a toddler, in fact. My maternal grandmother was a seamstress who owned a textile shop in Jakarta, while my mother knew the ins and outs of the shop very well and she also inherited the love of sewing. I remember my mother making me different styles of clothing and I was just blown away by them. I cherished her designs, and I wanted to be good at what she did. The first thing I ever sewed was a handkerchief.
So it was no surprise that by the time I finished high school, I had decided to pursue a career in fashion and applied to study at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore. I had the best time there, and I was even more certain of what I wanted to do with my life. My first job out of college was at a boutique in Singapore, and there I learned how to best approach elegant designs. During my time at the boutique, I had told my mentor of my desire to create my own brand. The brand is Nikicio (which is a combination of my parents’ names and our family’s Chinese surname); my mentor thought the name is so special I should go with it. And I did.
In my designs, I always strive to create timeless pieces that are elegant and multifunctional. I like to challenge people to develop their own fashion sense in a way that they feel is best for them. A while ago, I released a unique design called Signature Dress, which is a dress that you can wear in 34 different styles. It was pretty popular and people loved the creativity that they had, as users, to modify their own look. Most of my designs are open to further creative touches by the wearers, in that they can always do a little bit of this and that to enhance or make the designs even more personal to them; really, I think this is one of the strongest points in Nikicio’s products.
I am inspired by different things, but a great deal of my designs are influenced by my father’s sense of style. This is also why most of my products are considered androgynous in nature; they represent both sides of the gender equation. I like to create items that live past the trends and seasons, because I believe every design should be practical and personal, with a touch of playfulness and humor.
I hope to one day have my own store where people can buy different types of clothing and accessories. Indonesia’s ready-to-wear market is very promising, yet not a lot of designers are tapping into it. I want to provide a one-stop shopping store where people can come and search for party dresses as well as casual attire. It will be like a small department store, in a way. The main element of all my designs, regardless of style, is that they make those who wear them look neat and presentable. I think it’s important for people to choose items that make them look presentable on all occasions.
Didiet Maulana of “Ikat Indonesia”
Batik has enjoyed a remarkable resurgence in popularity as urban chic, beyond its traditional function as formal fashion attire. For Maharditya “Didiet” Maulana, ikat is where it’s at in fashion. The architect-turned-fashion-designer uses it in simple, elegant and attractive designs for his Ikat Indonesia label. Hailed as one of the most talented designers to have successfully turned classic materials into modern and chic designs, Didiet, who is a deal-making major fashion brands marketing executive by day, is eyeing distant runways.
I actually don’t have a fashion background. I liked to draw as a child, but I never specifically pursued a career as a designer during my school years, even though I have always considered myself a fashion observer. Following high school, I studied architecture at Parahyangan University and, right after graduation, I decided to try the broadcasting industry. I’m a very visual person, in that I always see the value of a product from a visual point of view, but it wasn’t until a few years back that I finally managed to gather the courage to work as a full-time fashion designer.
In my career, I have had a lot of help from those who are better acquainted with the world of fashion, such as Edo Hutabarat and Isabel Yahya. They convinced me that I have the talent to become a credible fashion designer. And when other people trust your talent, there’s very little reason for you not to do the same. Right from the beginning I wanted to modernize batik materials, and about 10 months ago I decided to establish my own brand, Ikat Indonesia. With Ikat Indonesia, I would like to promote traditional materials from Indonesia – it doesn’t necessarily have to be ikat fabrics. It could be other traditional fabrics, such as songket or ulos.
I think it’s important for Indonesian designers to start targeting the international market. There is a sense that the local market will only fully appreciate a certain work of art once it has been validated by the international market. But, at the same time, I think Indonesian designers shouldn’t focus only on capturing the international market – because they also have to tend to the local market. For me, though, the most important thing is to show that Indonesian craftsmanship is just as excellent as its foreign counterparts. One of my objectives is to raise the bar in local fashion designs, so that we can compete on a larger scale.
Some people can look down on young designers. They feel we are inexperienced or that we don’t have what it takes to create great designs. But, in my own experience, I think people are beginning to respond well to the new rise of young creative individuals. So far, I have not had the kind of experience that makes me question my own ability as a designer, or one where I feel inadequate in any way. On the contrary, I have been blessed with a lot of support from a lot of people.
In the near future, Indonesian fashion design will continue to look to the world’s fashion meccas such as Paris, London and New York. The trend is hinting at more glamorous styles in the next year or two. Nevertheless, I have always been told by my mentor to look beyond the current trend and try to come up with something original instead. Besides, it’s hard to glamorize traditional fabric without making it look like I’m overdoing it.
The key to be fashionable is to wear what is comfortable for you. If you’re comfortable with what you are wearing, that already gives your look a 70 percent boost in the eyes of the beholder. Choose simple and elegant designs, but always make sure you love what you’re wearing and that you can breathe easily while wearing it.
This heavily tattooed designer has been praised for the meticulous craftsmanship and elaborate designs that have made him a “rock star” in the local fashion scene. The winner of Elle Indonesia’s “Best Designer Award” in 2011, Sapto graduated from the prestigious ESMOD fashion school in 1998. Despite his self-confessed life-long love affair with the world of fashion, Sapto forged a career climbing the industry ladder as a costume designer, stylist, illustrator and makeup artist. Today, he is one of the most sought-after designers, with collections that always wow audiences.
In high school, I was already a pretty good illustrator. I would draw people dressed in stylish costumes, which I had designed on paper. And I knew early on what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I didn’t know what to do about it. Because I was raised in Solo, I had little idea what was required for a person to become a fashion designer. Luckily, I entered some design contests and won some prizes. After high school, I received a scholarship to study fashion at ESMOD, and there my journey began.
I got into designing bridal collections unintentionally. When my friend and I decided to turn our love of design into a business, the first order we received was a bridal gown. Our client loved it so much, she began to spread the word and people started coming in and ordering more bridal wear. But with this type of design, it’s important to remember that our role in the process is merely to facilitate our clients’ desires in creating their dream wedding dress. Ever since I was a child I have been mesmerized by weddings, and I really enjoy designing wedding dresses.
I think Indonesian designers have what it takes to compete on an international scale. But the problem is that talent alone won’t get us to the competition. We need a good sense of business, as well as a great marketing strategy. Because you can’t go out there and compete with the best of them without having a definite plan about where you are heading in your design and business. It’s one thing to create something unique and amazing; it’s quite another to market and make actual money out of it. So the question is not whether it’s important for Indonesian designers to go international; it’s whether we can get the necessary support to get us there.
Trends are not created on the spot. It takes quite a bit of time to study the market and establish what is going to be trendy and when. I think local designers should be more creative in updating our styles, because we can’t always look to other countries. Some design elements are very specific in their country of origin, such as fur. If it’s fur season somewhere else, it doesn’t mean it has to be fur season here. You can’t wear fur when the weather is as hot and humid as it is in Indonesia.
We have to explore the elements of design beyond fashion and textile, as well as batik and ikat fabric. Indonesia has more variety than that. And if we are only focusing on traditional fabric, it would be difficult to produce ready-to-wear items, which require an incredible amount of fabric. Perhaps instead of the traditional batik, we could start with print batik. So what I’m aiming for right now is, rather than being very, very specific with the material and design, I’m looking to create something that appeals to the mass market.
Indonesian fashion is moving toward more colorful designs: pink, brown, gold, yellow mustard, etc. For me, the Indonesian fashion industry is growing as rapidly as it is now because the local market is a lot smarter today. They know what they want and they are very knowledgeable. My plan for the Indonesian fashion industry is to challenge myself by exploring more deeply what I can contribute to the market. I believe that the market is smart enough to demand more variety; rather than looking at only one specific brand, we are now venturing out into a variety of brands and designs that best represent our styles.