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Indonesia's King of Bling

Farah Fitriani Faruq
Farah Fitriani Faruq
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Indonesia's King of Bling
Indonesia's King of Bling
(The Jakarta Globe): Designer Rinaldy Arviano Yunardi’s accessories have graced runways in the world’s major fashion capitals, including Paris, London and New York. Rinaldy’s iconic metallic chokers, bangles and rings, encrusted with crystals and gemstones, can be spotted adorning Indonesia’s top stage performers, from diva Titi DJ to singer-songwriter Melly Goeslaw and actress and singer Agnes Monica. That success didn’t come overnight. “It took me more than 15 years to arrive where I am now,” the 40-year-old designer said. “I’m not ashamed of my humble beginnings.” Born in Medan, Rinaldy was the youngest of three siblings. His artistic streak comes from a father who was a leather handbag maker and a mother who taught handicrafts to schoolchildren. In 1982, the family moved to Jakarta, where Rinaldy continued his education through to senior high school, but formal studies disinterested him. “I never liked school,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was doing there.” Having had enough, Rinaldy went straight into the workforce instead of continuing his education at university. His first job was as a marketing consultant for a tire company in Jakarta. “I learned a lot from my first job,” he said. “I learned how to deal with different kinds of people and sell products. These skills would later prove invaluable for running my own business.” Besides working at the office, the young Rinaldy also enjoyed clubbing with friends. “I was a party animal,” he said with a laugh. “I could hang out four to five nights in a row in one week.” Little did he know that his party lifestyle would eventually lead him down an entirely new career path. While clubbing one night, Rinaldy was introduced to the famous bridal fashion designer Kim Tong. Seeing Rinaldy’s affability and sharp mind, Kim asked him to join his marketing team. Eager to try something new, Rinaldy said yes. “My job was to sell bridal accessories, such as tiaras, necklaces and bracelets [imported by Kim Tong from abroad] to fashion designers in Jakarta,” he said. The new job opened the gates to Indonesia’s fashion industry for Rinaldy. Through his job, he became acquainted with famous local fashion designers, including Sebastian Gunawan, Didi Budiardjo and Widhi Budimulia. But when Rinaldy’s elder brother established his own electronics factory, he needed someone he could trust to run the day-to-day operations for him. “My mother said I should help my brother manage his new business,” Rinaldy said. So he quit his job with Kim Tong to work for his brother. “I did everything,” Rinaldy said. “I was in charge of the human resources, administration and accounting. I didn’t know it at the time, but these were the skills that I needed to run my own company.” One day during his lunch break, Rinaldy went into the factory workshop and played around with soft wires and a soldering iron. “My mind went back to the tiaras that I sold at Kim Tong’s,” he said. “I tried to re-create them with what I had in my hands.” Rinaldy made his first simple tiara in only half an hour and enjoyed the process so much that he decided to take it on as a hobby. He was soon experimenting with different wires, crystals and gemstones to make his own accessories. “After work, I’d return home and start working on my own project,” he said. It was not an easy start. For his experiments, Rinaldy bought dozens of crystals and gemstones from jewelry shops and was ridiculed by the owners. “The shops looked down on me,” he said with a smile. “They were used to big orders [of crystals] in the hundreds and thousands, so they looked disdainfully on my small orders. I didn’t really mind.” Rinaldy then contacted his old clients at Kim Tong’s and asked if they would like to take a look at his designs. “I packed my tiaras, necklaces and bracelets in plastic boxes and chartered an ojek [motorbike taxi] to pay a visit to each designer,” he said. Some of his earliest designs were sold for only Rp 75,000 to Rp 100,000 ($8.50 to $11.50) apiece. Some were left unsold. “I took the clients’ feedback onboard and worked to improve my designs,” he said. In 1997, designer Didi Budiardjo was the first to feature Rinaldy’s accessories in a major fashion show. “I was both anxious and proud,” Rinaldy said. On stage, Didi introduced him as Indonesia’s first haute couture accessories designer. “At that time, there weren’t any haute couture accessories designers in Indonesia,” Rinaldy said. “Most accessories designers focused on mass production to supply malls and department stores in Indonesia. Singers, actresses and fashion designers usually bought their pieces from abroad.” Newspapers and magazines were interested in the new face on the design scene. They featured his designs in their fashion pages and wrote profiles about him. Rinaldy’s solo fashion shows in 2000 and 2002 were big successes. In 2004, A+ fashion magazine named him the best designer of the year. He is still the country’s best-known accessories designer, but Rinaldy said he felt the competition from industry newcomers. “There are now so many accessories designers in Indonesia,” he said. “Some of them have a much better education than me. I really have to be creative and come up with something new every single day.” The self-confessed workaholic truly enjoys what he does. Not a day goes by when he does not draw a new design in his sketchbook. “My mind is most active at night,” he said. “I normally take my sketchbook to accompany me in bed.” His mind does not take a rest on vacations either. “For me, a vacation is a chance to discover new exotic materials and get new ideas for my accessories,” he said. Today, the prices for his top-line accessories start from Rp 10 million. These are exclusive, one-of-a-kind pieces that he creates personally for his clientele. Second-tier works start from Rp 1 million. Despite the competition and demands of his craft, Rinaldy’s spirit is undiminished. “If you really love what you’re doing, you’ll never feel tired or bored,” he said with confidence. “But when you do [feel tired], it’s a sign for you to challenge yourself a little bit more.” In 2009, Rinaldy expanded his business into modern lamp fixtures and mirrors. He uses unconventional materials, such as guitar strings, raffia, seashells and rubber hose. Lamps start at Rp 3 million and mirrors at Rp 4 million. Today, the designer employs more than 40 artisans in his shop in Gedong Panjang, West Jakarta. So how does he define success? “It’s so simple,” he said. “When you’re happy with your life, you’re a successful man.” But he’s not there quite yet. “Not yet,” Rinaldy said. “I want to establish a museum for my collections, so that everyone can see and enjoy their beauty.” For Jakarta Globe readers, Rinaldy divulges some tips on how to mix and match your accessories. “Accessories should enhance your total look,” he said. “They should definitely match with your outfit and not go against it.” There are several ways to achieve this: 1. Dress up for the occasion. When you are going to a formal event, wear elegant and subtle — not oversized — accessories to complement your look. 2. You don’t have to wear just one set of accessories to look nice, but each of the set —whether it’s rings, bangles or earrings — should at least have the same color tone to present a tasteful look. 3. Wear appropriately sized jewelry according to your physique. Women with short necks, for example, should avoid long, dangling earrings and chokers. 4. Last but not least, dress up to your level of confidence. Never wear anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Accessories & Lighting Jl. Gunawarman No. 30 Kebayoran Baru South Jakarta Tel: 021 7279 2291

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Andrea Hirata

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— Andrea Hirata