Vinora Ng’s Relaxed Foray into Fashion For Women and Men

JUNE 21, 2015

Jakarta. Vinora Ng’s love of art started from when she was very young. The fashion designer reminisced about a childhood moment when her painter grandfather taught her to draw a bicycle. “It was really complicated because you have to get all the proportions right,” she said one recent afternoon at her boutique in South Jakarta.

Well-balanced proportions are one of the defining design threads of her luxury ready-to-wear label, VINORA. Taking a different stance from other Indonesian designers who are often characterized by incorporating traditional elements or, at the other end of the spectrum, going for extravagant evening gowns, Vinora set out for a cleaner direction from the get-go.

“People always say it’s simple, but I always like to put details or interesting bits that you can’t really see at a glance — you have to really investigate the whole thing,” Vinora said of her aesthetic principle that lends a modern riffs to the classic wardrobe. “It also has to be practical and comfortable, not something that bothers you.”

Fresh from celebrating the first anniversary of her boutique the previous week, the designer appeared to practise what she preached. Donning a head-to-toe black getup, she was wearing a boxy t-shirt exclusively launched for the occasion. Also available in white, the unisex piece features two contrasting sides: the front features sporty jersey material, while the back is constructed like a cotton shirt. “You can have it embroidered with your initials,” she enthusiastically remarked, pointing at the “VN” inscribed on the bodice.

Vinora first encountered fashion when she moved in with her parents in her teenage years. “I noticed how they dressed. Their choice of clothing has always been eccentric,” she said, noting that her mother had a penchant for avant-garde designers like Ann Demeulemeester, Jil Sander and Yohji Yamamoto.

This early exposure encouraged her to become a fashion designer. She first studied fashion design in Paris before quite unexpectedly winning the first place at a prestigious design competition back home. In 2010, she continued her education at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, United States.

The designer then started showing at Jakarta Fashion Week, all while preparing to kick her label into gear. “I researched about the fit of my clothes, the company and the store,” she said.

“We also had to train the production team ourselves. Everyone is divided into their own departments: tailoring, shirts and so on. Everything is done in-house,” Vinora added, making a case of her dedication to creating products of the highest quality.

Ease in design approach

One could observe Vinora’s exacting-yet-relaxed approach to fashion when arriving at her boutique in the Barito area of South Jakarta. The striking white sculptural concrete slab with a minimalist signage on the façade was a telltale sign of what to expect inside. After entering one of the many glass doors, visitors are presented with a spacious yet bare-bones interior, anchored in the middle by a set of table and chairs carved out of tree trunks.

On the left side of the retail space is a smattering of women’s clothes from the brand’s spring-summer 2015 collection that was first showcased during the Jakarta Fashion Week last year. If her previous shows were dominated by more muted shades, this time, she had added new colors to her vocabulary.

Hanging on one rack was a red elongated polo shirt and knee-length skirt made from cotton-jersey that was soft to the touch. Almost next to it was a moss-green zippered jacket with ribbed collar, also paired with a matching skirt.

Vinora said that she always went back to her roots when starting a collection. This particular one was inspired by her grandparents’ 1970s-style house that she grew up in. “Their house was somewhat minimal and very simple, but with many touches of colors,” which she translated into some of the more colorful styles.

The traditional woven chairs that her grandparents owned also lent an influence. Consider the sleeveless sheath dress in brown raffia material or the beige tailored vest with a textured woven surface — all constructed in figure-accentuating proportions that still retained a sense of ease to them.

The label also simultaneously features a menswear collection that is aligned with the womenswear one. The season’s offerings mainly consist of tailored pieces. A slightly oversized double-breasted blazer, for instance, is paired with roomy trousers or shorts, which spoke to a more relaxed silhouette currently de rigueur in men’s fashion. There was a sense of movement, making each piece adaptable for everyday wear.

Vinora’s decision to venture into menswear was mostly encouraged by requests from her male friends. “My details are always very universal, it is not [bound by gender]. I have certain styles that are available for women and men, but they have different cuts and fits. To me, that’s very important,” she said.

As exemplified by her collections above, Vinora always puts a considerable attention to materials. Each season, she travels to fabric factories around the world — especially those located in European countries like Germany, Italy and France — to find interesting materials that she can experiment on.

By way of example, Jovina Ng — Vinora’s sister who is in charge of the brand’s business and marketing operations — showed a men’s shirt made of white cotton plissé fabric with striped texture. “We sourced this particular material in Europe. We aim to always use the best material as possible,” she explained.

Aside from materials, Vinora is always attracted to the notion of shapes when designing a collection. “That is how I like tailoring,” she said. “The shape of everything is very specific. If you cut the length of the arm just a bit, the shape will be different. So shape is very interesting to me because I like sculpting.”

This was partly the reason why she did not have a drawing board in her studio. “I don’t do sketches,” she said. Instead, she would have fit models come to her production area and meticulously mold her clothes directly on their bodies.

Vinora admitted to be often inspired by music while designing. “I listen to everything, including classical music. But I listen to a lot of rock. Not the hard metal kind,” she laughed, “but bands like The Black Keys and The White Stripes.”

She also counted art theory and architecture as aspects that fascinated her. A devoted enthusiast, she hosted a talk about contemporary art with notable art collector Wiyu Wahono at her boutique last December.

That event also marked the launch of her all-white demi-couture collection at the time. Each style — be it a zip-up tailored jacket with frayed accents or a pristine camisole dress — was only produced in limited quantity, elevating them into something of an artwork. “One of our clients told us that she would display her piece inside a Plexiglas box after wearing it,” said Jovina.

Growing the business

In keeping with her impeccably high standards, Vinora visualizes her brand as a universe where her customers can experience her vision in its totality. “It’s one of the reasons why we have the store here,” she said. “We also would hold events here and invite particular chefs. So it’s like a total lifestyle experience.”

Although Vinora only sells her collections in her Jakarta boutique for the time being, she already maintains a dedicated client base. “My clients are not specific in terms of age, but I find similarities in their personalities. They are very intelligent, profound and quite eccentric, but not loud — very understated,” she explained, further saying that her clients appreciate the small and oftentimes discreet details in her clothes.

Jovina also added that the brand had attracted some overseas customers. “They would actually come to the store from the United States or Hong Kong,” she said.

As her business grows, Vinora is planning to expand her product line by including accessories and leather goods in the near future. “But we would like to keep our quality in standards, so we have to find the right people to actually make it,” she said. A testament to her singular drive for perfection, indeed.

— VINORA Jalan Barito 2 No. 21, South Jakarta