The Jakarta Post
Young designer Stella Rissa embraces the highs and lows of the fashion world.
Back in 2003, enrolling in fashion school was not a popular move. Although having displayed an artistic talent since junior high school, promising Indonesian fashion designer, Stella Rissa Winata, had to work harder to disprove the disparaging remarks.
“Graduating high school, I decided to go to a fashion school, simply because I was pursuing my dream,” the alumni of LaSalle College International Indonesia, shared with The Jakarta Post recently.
“The most common remark I heard was that I was just some coquettish, dumb girl who was too lazy to learn science. As a matter of fact, I was a straight-A student back in high school.”
She has worked hard to prove the doubters wrong. Stella, who is among the brightest and most talented of young Indonesian designers, has been appointed an icon for the Lux soap campaign, which profiles inspiring youth figures.
As an award-winning designer, her products have spread to Malaysia and Singapore. The 27-year-old has her own fashion boutique, which focuses on luxurious ready-to-wear products, at Grand Indonesia shopping center in Central Jakarta.
Stella is focused and knows what she is doing, yet elegant, a personality trait that is evident in her strong and confident hand shake without detracting from her graceful persona.
Starting to develop her career at the age of 14, Stella, who was born and raised in an arty family, said that her petite figure became the main inspiration for her to produce her own clothing.
“As a girl, I loved unique things, and it was fun to always have a brand new dress which fitted my size,” she said.
“We had these pieces of fabric at home, which I found suitable for me to make my own dress, so the creative work began,” said Stella. Having a family with close links to art and design — her father Hadi Winata is a civil engineer, her mother Natalia Widjaja is a homemaker with big interest in arts and craft works, while her older sister is an architect — brought great advantages for her.
“I think, those are some of the important factors that brought me to where I am now,” she added.
Stella’s fashion designing activity got more serious in her junior high school years.
“In high school, we had a number of Sweet 17 parties, and I continued wearing my own clothes, until some friends began to notice them. They thought my dresses were unique, and they started to place orders for their birthday parties. It was pretty much word-of-mouth — it was so powerful,” said the woman who is really fond of art and music.
After high school, Stella refused to enroll at a university. Instead, she picked LaSalle fashion school to pursue her fashion dreams.
“For most people, it was a weird decision going to a fashion school, because it wasn’t a popular choice — even those who were already at the school, many did not become fashion designers at all,” said Stella, who studied in LaSalle from 2003 to 2006.
In 2006, Stella achieved her first goal: finishing fashion school and launching her precious brand, Stella Rissa.
“Having the brand is a dream come true, of course. It’s my vindication, to all those people who underestimated me back then,” said Stella, who showcased her first solo fashion show in 2008.
Of her clothing products, Stella revealed that she aimed at middle class women aged between 25 and 40.
“Yes, it is a ready-to-wear product, but it’s of the finest quality. That’s why I call it luxurious ready-to-wear – a potential market which is not developed yet in this country,” she said, adding that Indonesia had a wide-range market of good and affordable products from other young designers and great couture pieces from distinguished local designers.
Stella Rissa offers various casual and semi-formal collections for those who understand that great quality costs a little bit more. “My clothing is not for those who throw away their stuff just two or three months after purchase. These are clothes that are wearable for years. It’s pretty much an investment,” she said.
As a trendsetter, Stella refuses to climb on the coattails of another designer’s style, even if he or she is a world-class designer.
“For me, each designer has his or her own signature, and I like to keep it that way.
“However, in terms of attitude, I really adore Biyan. He is an example of a good designer and businessman. He has a simple one-package profile, whose business is great while his designs are extraordinary and undeniably iconic.”
Stella is convinced that she has a long road ahead in fashion. “Some of my long-term goals are enriching the Stella Rissa brand with more products, like accessories, bags and shoes.
“I also think of my brand becoming a franchise establishment overseas one day, just like Charles & Keith or Zara,” she said.
Stella realized that creating a fashion brand needs discipline and confidence, which are her biggest challenges.
“The fashion world does not operate on regular office hours. It’s a glamorous world and it’s really demanding with regard to time. I have to go to several places in one day, so I have to be really disciplined to get it all covered.
“In terms of confidence, I sell fashion products. They are different to rice, which is a basic need here. As a fashion designer, I have to convince my clients that my products are great and that they can elevate their confidence. Hence, I have to be confident about myself and my products, too,” she said.
As a normal human being, Stella admitted that she had a bunch of targets to reach in the future. “It doesn’t mean that I’m ungrateful for what I’ve achieved today — I just need to achieve more to refine my skills.”
“Nevertheless, I’m the kind of girl who lives life to the fullest every day. Therefore, I will have no regrets even if I’m gone by tomorrow.”