Few Indonesian-born fashion designers have achieved what Farah Angsana has on the international stage. Farah has successfully established her self-named brand in Switzerland and in the fashion capitals of Paris, Milan and New York. Her buyers include luxury department stores like Neimann Marcus and soon, Bergdorf Goodman.
Along with 90 of the world’s best established and up-and-coming designers, Farah, 39, recently showcased her Spring and Summer 2011 couture collection during the prestigious New York Fashion Week held on Sept. 9-16 at the Lincoln Center.
This is not Farah’s first fashion show nor will it be her last. With Fashion Week barely over, the designer, who divides her time between Paris and New York, is already busy preparing for more shows, one of which is a bridal event in New York next month.
The Jakarta Globe recently caught up with Farah at the Surrey Hotel in Manhattan. During the hour-long conversation with her, she talked about her recent collection, her road to success and her observations about fashion in Indonesia. Here are excerpts from the interview.
What inspired your collection for New York Fashion Week?
My theme this season is exotic Indonesia. I’ve always loved my own country. I’m not an ethnic designer, but I just want to bring out a little bit of Indonesia and introduce my country to the world.
There’s a lot of traditional and ethnic elements [in Indonesia] and I’d like to explore that. Blending Indonesian and Western themes [must be done] carefully and nicely. Not everyone, for example, can wear batik.
But if you know how to do it well, [by making it into] a cocktail dress, for example, it becomes wearable. You can change the color and make it [into a] more modern, Westernized outfit. It’ll look just like a printed flower dress.
The “It” dress [as labeled by the media] was one made from sarong kebaya [used during Indonesian] weddings.
I thought it was a beautiful silhouette and I [created it into] a dress and not something to be worn just in Indonesia. I wanted to translate that more to European wear.
You are one of few Indonesian designers to go international and the first and only Indonesian to ever take part in haute couture fashion shows in Paris and New York. Why do you think that there are not more Indonesian designers who have had the same success?
I’m just lucky, hard working and passionate.
When I was very young, my dream was to become the first Indonesian designer to go international. I achieved my dream.
But success? Success is still a long way away. I am not successful; I am just achieving my childhood dream.
I have achieved certain things in my career life, when I show my collection in Paris, London, Milan, New York. But [I’ll only] be successful when my company gets sold to the public and when I retire at the peak [of my career].
You are clearly at the highest point of your career so far. Does the limelight overshadow the more trying moments that have shaped you to become who you are today?
When I changed from a couture designer to menswear, I didn’t have any order for two years … I was wrongly influenced by my press office in Paris and the people around me [who were] telling me what to do. I lost the sense of Farah Angsana.
Studying in Paris was a wrong step for me, but I never regretted my four years there. There, I learned so much about how to mold a cloth to a dress and I learned the meaning of luxury products and couture, [where] every single quality or feeling comes into one clothing.
London is where I learned the basics and Paris gave me the opportunity to learn and to grow to [become] a designer.
Milan was the place I started to see buyers and New York is the place where I explore all my experience for the past 12 years. It is the best platform of all — America is very open and has given me lots of opportunity to grow [and] to show my work.
Your experience in each country must have exposed you to their different markets and made you a versatile designer. How is fashion in Paris and New York different?
Each country is a different ball game. [American fashion] is more wearable and people are more body conscious — they want to look thinner. In Europe, women want to look stylish and trendy.
[European women] don’t care if you have a huge flower on your shoulder or huge, bulky ruffles on your tummy as long as it looks stylish.
What about Indonesian fashion?
I’ve never designed in Indonesia, but it is another world of its own.
There [are] a lot of variety of women — sexy, elegant, madame [types]. It’s very extreme because it is a society that is still exploring fashion.
Indonesians are very stylish. They love fashion and they are the most fashion forward, up-to-date about fashion and brands … Indonesia may not be as progressive as Singapore, but the majority of [Singapore’s] buyers are from Indonesia.
What I have to point out is that the Indonesian society should buy luxury products in Indonesia [instead of buying outside Indonesia in places like Paris] to help the Indonesian economy.
This includes foreign companies like Dior, Valentino and all the luxury products based in Indonesia.
Source: The Jakarta Globe