It wasn’t my first time talking to this designer. The first time had been through an email interview and I remember being completely perplexed at her painfully straightforward answers (I didn’t have enough fodder for an article). Last Tuesday, I had the chance of watching her newest collection “Alter Ego” grace the runway at Jakarta Fashion Week. I was talking to our junior designer Putri and got caught off guard when the speakers suddenly boomed with music, and models started storming the runway.
The two of us immediately went, Holy. Smokes. To put it simply, it was completely badass in a dark, twisted kind of beautiful way. The clothes featured numerous plays in contrasts of black and white; prints and cracked surfaces; feminine and edgy; and a whole load of intricately designed pieces. We were cheering throughout the show and were so blown away at how good and different her collection was. At the end of the preview, the designer stepped out for a brief moment before retiring backstage again.
Once the adrenaline and excitement from the show died down, the cold sweats started creeping in. Oh no, this one’s a tough one, I thought. From her short answers, to how edgy and dark her clothes were, I thought this designer belonged under the “Designers so good they’re difficult to approach” category. To say I wasn’t anxious or nervous about the interview, which was scheduled two days after the show, was the biggest joke of the week.
Thursday morning came a little too quickly and the office was flooded with so much work that when Natalia Kiantoro came, we looked at each other and went, “Shoot, she’s here”. And this time round, I went ‘Holy Smokes’ again but for a completely different reason. Wearing her best-selling Physalli Top, Natalia Kiantoro was dressed in head-to-toe black with simple culottes and flats. Being with her up-close dismissed all of my previous misconceptions of her being a difficult, cold designer. She was such a sweetheart that the office was buzzing with praises once she left.
[Natalia Kiantoro is wearing Physalli Scuba Black Top Available HERE ]
Her demeanor was akin to her speech: straightforward and planned. There was no hesitation in her movements and she knew exactly how to do things. No beating around the bush with this one. She stepped in front of the camera and in less than 5 minutes, wrapped up the photo shoot for her interview. She had barely spent 15 minutes at our office and half of her feature was done. All that was left was the interview.
So eventually, I sat down with Natalia and talked all about her career in the fashion industry. Her latest collection, “Alter Ego” is all about double personalities and the contrasting ideas of the world. It’s all about good and bad, black and white, feminine and edgy. Her clothes featured so many beautiful prints, cuts, and even cracked fabrics, that it wasn’t a wonder when she chose fabrics as the most challenging part of creating this collection.
When it comes to the design process, Natalia’s creative juice works the same way with other fantastic designers in a way that it’s systematic. She would take pictures of things she likes around her and sketch it back home. She is aware of trends and does her research on what people like, but puts utmost importance on incorporating her signature style in it. “I’ll try to do my signature style so when people look, they will see, “Oh that’s her design”.
Because for me, I want to be different; I don’t want to look like everybody else”.
Natalia is no stranger to the fashion industry and has made waves not only locally, but also internationally. She sets a standard for herself, which explains why every collection of hers becomes better and better. “Every season, I try to challenge myself. “Can I do this? Can I do that? I think that’s what makes it harder”. Her designs are atypical and one can wonder who would wear that, and where to? Balancing between creativity and commerce is a tricky line since it can diminish a designer’s imagination. For Natalia, she focuses on less avant-garde items but with good details. She explains,
“Focus on the details so people will think of it as “Oh, it’s a designer piece and not just a play on fabrics”.
On the local fashion industry, this experienced designer believes standards can be improved. “For example, Jakarta Fashion Week, I think people should get in because of their designs, not because they can afford to”. It’s been known that affluent designers are now breaking into the market using their wealth by buying publicity and bringing their own media to hype their label, instead of focusing on the designs itself. It has created an unfair playground for aspiring designers as not all of them come from prosperous backgrounds.
While we were at the topic, there’s also the issue of endorsing influencers and bloggers. Designers put in so much effort into the creative process, sampling, production, and cost of making the clothes, just to name a few. Natalia put her two cents in that “It’s disrespectful when they ask it for free. But if they return it, it’s okay. It’s free promotion”.
Aside from her own label, there are other rising designers that are getting people talking. Natalia names Aurelia Santoso from LAISON as someone she’s keeping an eye on, and also Sean and Sheila, who is a regular participant of Jakarta Fashion Week. It’s always a great sight to see local designers support each other rather than competing with one another.
There are big things unfolding for Natalia Kiantoro. She has previously stated of wanting to expand her label overseas and that wish has already been granted partially. She happily explains how she has received a lot of love internationally. “The last time I joined JFW, I got a lot of international buyers. A lot of people asked whether I wanted to join as a vendor”. With designs as superior as Natalia Kiantoro’s, we’re sure that she will find a lot of love everywhere she goes. And we wish nothing but the best for this incredibly, fascinating designer.