‘Her Studio’, A Source of Inspiration and Authenticity | EDGE Talks To ÁINE

I love finding inspiration from a painting – either the lines, colors, shapes, or the story of the piece.

Femilia Putri | Creative Director of ÁINE

Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Femilia Putri [Femi], Creative Director of ÁINE, draws inspiration from the visual art of nature.  Her recent collection is inspired by the creative power of artists’ studio space and the French floral painter, Claire Basler.  Basler, who lives and works in a former schoolhouse in Les Ormes, right outside of Paris, has a love for nature, as well, and is known for creating a studio space in her home surrounded by dramatic floral arrangements.

My sense from our conversation is that Femilia has an innate love for goodness, truth, and beauty.  She says, “I always wanted to work surrounded by flowers and nature, spending a lot of my childhood in my parents’ hometown in the countryside made me always long for the presence of nature”.

ÁINE is an ethically conscious brand and believes brand identity is nothing without a purpose.  As an emerging designer, Femilia has the edge and courage to modernize a design system that breathes life in an industry that is on an unsustainable roller coaster with no end in sight. She talks of the importance of influencers as a marketing strategy. Are the costs of a physical store more than the costs of selling online? She goes into detail on the hidden costs of e-commerce. Fast and cheap fashion throw away culture – is this consumer driven or industry driven? Femi’ s take on this – “the industry started this” – and talks from first hand knowledge of how consumer behavior is starting to shift.

Femi, I have visited Jakarta on many occasions when I did product development for Levi Strauss & Co.  I remember it being a very vibrant city.  From your upbringing, what was it that led you to pursue a fashion career? 

I live in a city that is chaotic, crowded, well you could say, a city of contrasts.  Days in Jakarta are never steady; it offers you variety of life every day.  New trends, events, and social phenomenon occur almost every week.  The city’s diversity has its own charm that thrills me in doing things that I love and just go for it.

I grew up watching a lot of historical dramas because of my dad. He loved watching historical war movies like Gladiator, Troy, or The Last Samurai.  As a child, I thought the movies were too barbaric, so I ended up liking a more ‘refined’ historical drama like the movie adaptations of Jane Austen’s novel.

But it was the clothes, the sets, and the history that got me hooked on the art of clothes.

I always find it a fascinating process when you can transform some elements from painting that is a two-dimensional object to clothing that is a three-dimensional, whether it’s formed in the embellishment, the silhouette, or the details.

Ahh. . .I have a similar interest today, whether it’s classic or contemporary films.

Given your interest in historical film, you are also quite taken and inspired by visual arts in creating your collections. Tell us more about your design process.  What period in particular and is it mostly classic painters or other visual art mediums and why?  

When it comes to being inspired, I usually let it happen organically. Most of the time, I start with looking for the campaign location first.  Next, I start building the story from there.  Then I continue with research and spend time scanning for inspiration from films, pop culture, art history, and trend forecast report.  Once the concept is decided, I proceed to the design process and start developing the collection.

I have always been interested in the 18th century Romanticism.  I love finding inspiration from a painting – either the lines, colors, shapes, or the story of the piece.  I always find it a fascinating process when you can transform some elements from painting that is a two-dimensional object to clothing that is a three-dimensional, whether it’s formed in the embellishment, the silhouette, or the details.  I also like to see photography to help me ‘feel’ the right mood for a collection.

While my artistic pursuits are rooted from the classics, as a contemporary designer, my aim is to create a timeless design that also adapts to the current trends.

Let’s go a little deeper with your artistic pursuits.  Share with us why you chose the artist Claire Basler and other women artists in their studio as your inspiration for this collection, “Her Studio”.

When I created Her Studio concept, it wasn’t the artist’s work that drove me to build this collection, but it was their homes and how they transformed them into their own studio — their own self-solitude space.

I feel I can relate to them.  I find it reassuring and encouraging to know that there are actually a lot of people who use their home as their workplace and transform it into a beautiful workplace. As a designer working at home, especially in a developing country like Indonesia, the idea of working from home but also capable of making a profit is still a new thing, and sometimes people can be quite belittling.

The reason I chose Claire Basler’s studio as my main inspiration comes from my personal interest.  I always wanted to work surrounded by flowers and nature, spending a lot of my childhood in my parents’ hometown in the countryside made me always long for the presence of nature. But for Claire Basler, I admire her integrity and passion, how she turned her entire home into her workshop as an expression of her freedom.  It is so inspiring.  Also, I feel willpower and energy through her. As a woman artist, she is confident in showing her femininity in her work.

Her Studio | F/W 2017 Concept Board
Her Studio | F/W 2017 Concept Board
Her Studio | F/W 2017 Concept Board

In regards to your collection, how do you feel about influencers when it comes to professional collaborations and/or product placement? 

Well, it’s safe to say that we are now in the visual era of social media.  We, the creative professionals, who rely strongly on visual and aesthetic, should be happy because this is the best time for us to stretch our creativity and ideas.  Because of this time, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

As a brand, we also see the importance of influencers as a marketing strategy. As a matter of fact, it is a two-way street as we can help each other grow and reach our audiences. And so, at ÁINE we created an open-ended collaborative project, intended as an outlet for fueling creativity and celebrating the arts.  It’s a platform where a creative professional can embrace their skill and show people that artistry and business can co-exist.

Fast-fashion . . . I can see that many of us are starting to become weary on staying up on the trends.  Consumers are realizing that cheaper clothes are actually expensive because it doesn’t last longer than a few weeks.

Femi, as you develop your niche in the market, how much emphasis do you think there is on branding, knowing your consumer, and building longer-term narratives in terms of a brand? 

Branding is much deeper than mere visual representation. Fundamentally, I wanted to make clothes with a sense of purity, and concentrate on a line that expressed an idea of femininity, fragility, and sensitivity. But practically speaking, having a brand identity means nothing without a purpose.

Music to my ears, go on. . .

Our business mainly focuses online, and so we feel that transparency is how we can build trust with our customers.  By offering them a competitive price with added value of kindness, true quality, and attentive service, we hope that our customers realize how they can be playing a larger role and also choose better options in their purchasing decision.

Building a business online can be very expensive. Contrary to what many emerging brands think, e-commerce [selling direct to consumers] is not cheaper than offline.  What are your plans or thoughts on online selling versus wholesaling to retailers or having your own brick and mortar? 

That’s so true. Many people believe that the cost of selling online is much cheaper than selling in a retail store because many of them assumed that online business obviously doesn’t need a physical store, hence there are no fixed costs. Perhaps they are right about how expensive the fixed costs are, but online business has its own significant cost.

Mainly, because of the fact that clothing is a tangible product, and that means customers can see, touch, and feel it.  But for the customers buying online, they have very limited access to the products; in fact, they can only see it through the screen.  So online-based business is heavily reliant on the visual presentation and we have to offer them attentive service and a flexible shipping and returns terms.

While the cost of providing a strong visual presentation, such as having a good website, printing product catalogs, hiring a graphic designer, is actually expensive.  We also have a higher risk for returned products, and that also means higher shipping costs for us.

Therefore, with the increased competition, it is likely we will focus on improving offline sales and improve our retail distribution.  We want to increase our customer’s trust in our products both online and offline and develop a better understanding of their needs.

Fashion can reflect significant cultural shifts in a modern society.  With today’s over consumption of fashion, who do you see feeding this frenzy – the industry, the consumer, or both?  

I think they both play their parts, but as Steven Jobs said in his interview with Business Week, “…people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” (Jobs 1998).  So I believe that it was the industry that started this.

Well, that’s an interesting perspective and quote from Jobs.  Historically, fashion has been much more meaningful and coveted and perceived with much more value.

I believe all of us in the fashion industry feel that we are part of a needed transformation or overhaul on so many levels.  What shift in the industry do you see evolving or that you believe should dominate the way we consume and value fashion? 

Apparently, we are buying clothes like never before, and the fast-fashion industry produces way too much, updating styles too rapidly, to the point many people around me feel it is embarrassing enough to be seen wearing the same clothes on several occasions.

I can see that many of us are starting to become weary on staying up on the trends.   Consumers are realizing that cheaper clothes are actually expensive because it doesn’t last longer than a few weeks.   With the focus on quality and timeless designs, the slow-fashion concept can triumph over the fast-fashion industry.

Despite today’s cutting-edge technology, garments are still made almost entirely by hand.  Fast-fashion is famous for picking up their workers from a developing country because of their low wages and poor working environments.   I am sure that the fashion industry can evolve with more kindness and fairness to them by treating them nicely, paying them fairly, and giving them better options.

Femilia, continue to bring the world a purposeful collection inspired by the classic arts.  EDGE congratulates you and wishes you continued success.

Photos:  Courtesy of ÁINE

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