Jakarta. For women, fashion should be both elegant and liberating. And that is the soul of "Collection No. 1: Claude" by Indonesian designer Ronauli Liu.
The designer presented the debut collection of her eponymous haute prêt-a-porter label at Shangri-La Jakarta on Sept. 5.
Inspired by ephemeral paintings of the legendary French painter Claude Monet, the up-and-coming designer highlighted a series of women's evening wear that are both feminine and classic, while also being wearable.
"Women desire many different things," the designer said in a telephonic interview on Monday (10/09). "Therefore, I try to cater to all their needs in this collection."
A lightly beaded dress in soft creamy hue started the fashion show. Its simple, streamlined silhouette was adorned with intricate ruffles on the neckline and layers of delicate French lace on its circular flounce sleeves.
"Not all women feel comfortable in revealing dresses," she said. "I believe, with the right design, [nonrevealing dresses] can also make women look beautiful and sexy."
The next dress in the show was equally simple and graceful. It combined delicate jacquard material and French lace embroidered with images of dragonflies flying over a bed of waterlilies.
"I believe, it's a new thing," the designer said. "Designers usually combine plain and intricate materials in a dress. Combining two intricate fabrics is quite complicated and takes a lot of creative thinking."
The cerulean color of the dress, as well as its intricate embroideries are a faint reminiscent of Monet's "Water Lilies."
The third dress featured an A-line silhouette in a delightful combination of dusty pink and creamy white hues, which almost made the model look like a fairy prancing on the runway.
"An A-line silhouette can accommodate all body types of women," the designer said. "Women would feel free and not restricted when wearing these dresses."
The fashion show culminated with a long, body-hugging kebaya-style dress in a suave silvery tone.
"Kebaya is one of Indonesia's traditional costumes, but it can also have an international look with modern tailoring," Ronauli said.
The kebaya dress combines tulle, jacquard and French lace. Its bodice and semi-transparent sleeves are adorned with ornate three-dimensional floral embellishments.
The audience gave a long round of applause after the show, while many of them later went backstage to take a closer look at the items.
"All the runway pieces were sold out on the same day [of the show]," Ronauli said.
"I've always loved art and fashion," said Ronauli, who started learning fashion designing from her mother as a child.
"My mother loved making dresses for her three daughters," she said with a chuckle.
Ronauli started designing and making her own dresses while still in high school, when she also took several design courses in Jakarta and Singapore.
After finishing high school, she studied information systems at President University in Cikarang, West Java.
"My parents wanted me to become part of the family business," she said.
The 30-year-old is now the managing director of the family business, which produces and sells electric gondolas used for cleaning windows of high-rise buildings. She also designs home and office interiors in her spare time.
"When everything in the business is already running well, I'd like to return to my old passion in fashion," she said.
In April, the designer launched her ready-to-wear label Xalvar.
Xalvar is all about daily and travel wear," the designer said. "It's something I myself would wear daily."
Xalvar's debut collection, themed "The In-Between," featured men's and women's outfits with a strong masculine undertone and clean-cut silhouettes.
The collection was well received by the market and sold out in four months.
"I was also thinking to set up a second label, something women can wear to high-teas and parties," she said. "Something that would be affordable for many women."
Outfits in Ronauli's debut premium are priced quite reasonably, between Rp 2.5 million and Rp 2.9 million ($168-$196).
"I want to make as many Indonesian women as possible look pretty in my dresses," she said.
Following Your Passion
But the fashion industry is not all about idealism. Those who wish to survive in this cutthroat industry must be able to use their heads, as well as their hearts.
"In fact, idealism in the fashion industry is like a double-edged sword," Ronauli said. "It can either make you really good or cause you to go down in a very short time."
She advised anyone who wants to pursue their passion for the industry and start their own labels to perform thorough market research first to get to know their target consumers.
"You should know who they are, what they need and whether it's already available in the market," she said.
She said all aspirant designers should also think about the wearability of their dresses.
"After all, you're making a dress, not a statue," she said. "Don't make anything that's too weird."
Paying attention to current trends is also necessary to make your pieces relevant in today's market.
"I see the current trends as boundaries of what elements that should be included in an outfit, and then I design it using my own creativity," she said.
Ronauli plans to release Xalvar's second collection in November.