High contrast – that is what fbudi serves to its surroundings. Located in the midst of buzzing West Jakarta, where the compound is filled with electronic stores and street food stalls by the river, the freshly painted white front welcomed us as we walked through the hallway towards the showroom at the back of the three levels building.
Felicia herself is not what you might think a designer would look like. She came down to the showroom in a loose T-shirt and slouchy pants, basically pajamas, much like what we would wear on a lazy Sunday at home. After she sat with us, we begin our chat with a throwback to when she got accepted into London College of Fashion.
The story was that she made a bet with her mom on whether or not she could get her application through. Here’s the catch: it went through while she still hasn’t finished high school. So was her mom ecstatic? To this question Felicia let out a little chuckle and said, “Not really, it was more like ‘uh, I think I made a wrong bet’ because she doesn’t really think I could list myself and actually got in, which is why she agreed on the bet.” That being said, her mom supported Felicia on the study she wanted to pursue. “Obviously she gave me her blessings, but she wanted me to finish high school first before going towards higher education,” Felicia continued. “But I was like, why should I still go to school? I was bored with it.”
Many young fashion enthusiasts are indeed determined to go to a fashion school in order to become designers, but according to Felicia, it is actually not of utmost importance. On whether it was necessary or not to go to a fashion school, she commented, “If you can go, why not? I mean, when you are in an institution, the information you get will be better organized – you will get all the basics done. However, that is not the only way. If you can’t enroll, it’s okay; you can gain experience through working. I think it is important, but it is not the only way towards your goal.” Many people asked her why she doesn’t continue her studies after she graduated. It is because she sees no point in doing so. There isn’t much left to learn. She’s not interested in gaining another certificate, because what is important is the knowledge.
Now, her next statement might come as a surprise – because although she dived into the industry at such a young age, she wasn’t that infatuated with fashion. “When I was younger I wasn’t a stylish person, but I was interested on how people dress and I liked drawing, I like art. Aside from that though, I love math. Fashion is more or less the right career for me because there is art in it as well as math, through learning pattern.” But then, the more she knows fashion, the more she adores it. If you ask her now, she wouldn’t take any other career aside from becoming a designer.
Her fondness with art could probably be felt from how she chose to use Kahlil Gibran’s poem to represent her collection ‘Tanah Air’. Despite the fact that she found it in the middle of the development, it fits with what she felt, what she thought, and it was able to tell the story from the collection better.
Being a designer, her inspirations came from a lot of different places, small things around us, from fabrics, even from meeting people. The ideas then developed into designs through explorations of possibilities on how things can be molded into various shapes by the mean of trial and error. “There is a lot of failure throughout the process, things will be added until I feel like it is time to stop,” she told us. As for her muse, she got plenty, but usually it’s the women who are independent, educated, comfortable with themselves and unafraid, as well as unapologetic for being who they are.
Her brand, fbudi, was first developed because she wanted to start her own journey. She wanted to share who she is to people. But as the time goes by, she realized there is more she can use it for. The brand is her medium to provide to her surroundings, a place for her to develop as a person and to help the environment and the people around her. “Through your way of production, you can reduce negative impacts toward the environment, and of course I care about the people who work with me,” she mentioned. She doesn’t know where the brand will go, but she wishes to keep contributing through it. “I want to try and help the marginalized women, those who are unable to stand on their own two feet, either by teaching them to sew or anything,” said Felicia. “It doesn’t really matter to me anymore, to open a branch somewhere and what not. I would be very thankful to keep having the chance to create and for people to keep buying my designs.”
As our conversation develops, she also shared her thoughts on the current Indonesian fashion industry. “The good thing about it is that it keeps growing, more people in the industry are starting to take interest in quality and sustainable production – although some still put importance on their pockets,” she noted. “The players in the industry are also more connected to each other, becoming more of a community, while before it was very hard to start your brand because the industry wasn’t as encouraging as it is now.”
“For what’s missing… well there is a lot,” she then said as she let a little laugh escape. “For sure we are still far behind the European fashion world, to reach their level of mindset is not easy. I can’t lie, as designers we need money – and it comes from the customers who don’t care that much about the quality or the story behind the pieces, they simply look at the aesthetic and sometimes only wear the clothes once. They are more into fast fashion, not into investing in pieces that can be worn plenty of times and be kept for a long time. Not to say everyone is like that, though.”
She hopes to be able to keep in mind the thought of always moving forward and get better, because there are many designers here who gave up to the demands of the market. They can’t be blamed, but she hopes for balance to exist – to be able to provide to the market as well as directing where they would go. “I hope the industry gets even more solid,” she said.
She also wishes that the industry to be more knowledgeable so they can decide better on which way to pursue. The customers also need to be wiser about their purchase. “It saddens me that stuffs are made poorly and get bought”, she stated. “Not that fashion is everything for me, but at least there should be a little appreciation for the people who make it. The clothes has to be well made and not simply for money making – the industry shall not become only that, because it could be more.” For her, people doesn’t necessarily have to appreciate the art in fashion, but they should acknowledge the work, because it was made using someone’s time and skill, it’s a process and it should be valued.
Lastly, she pointed out, “One thing I don’t like in fashion is that sometimes it is like we live in our own bubble. Of course when there is a war that doesn’t mean we should get carried away – the world is problematic – but many people can be too insensitive sometimes, like they are not connected to the outside world. There is nothing wrong with being happy for it gives positivity in the midst of negativity, but there is always a way, a way to sympathize. And you have got to do something.”
Photos by Rebeca Yapeno