We can say that Poppy Dharsono is a multi-talented Indonesian woman who has a long successful career. Started as a model and movie star in the early 1970s, Poppy later studied fashion at École Supérieure Technique de la Mode (ESMOD) in Paris, France. Her fashion design always has a blend of Indonesian heritage with the sophistication of the Parisian fashion technique. She is also known as the founder of Indonesia Fashion Week that started in 2015 and has become one of the largest fashion weeks in the country.
In the past, Poppy was the legislative parliament member to represent Central Java from 2009 to 2014. Indonesia also recognises her as one of the savviest businesswomen who runs 10 different companies. During the visit to her residence, Indonesia Design had the opportunity to ask her insight on life and design.
Indonesia Design (ID): What was the reason behind your interest to study fashion design? Why fashion and not other design fields?
Poppy Dharsono (PD): I am the oldest of eight children, and as a child I often saw my mother receiving hand-sewn clothes from our neighbours. I have loved fashion since childhood. After graduating from high school, I decided to study Cinematography in Jakarta and upon completion, I went to study abroad in Paris. There I had a chance to meet with Ratna Cartier-Bresson, the wife of a French photographer who found candid photography. Meeting her and discussing my education with her completely changed my direction from cinematography to fashion. “Actually Poppy, the film business is too difficult for you, fashion is your world”, she said.
I then decided to study at ESMOD in Paris and graduated in 1977. Afterwards, I returned to Indonesia to start my career as a fashion designer. In my work I always highlight the Indonesian culture by incorporating batik, songket, lurik, ikat, which are the legacies of our ancestors, into my creations. And to complete the collection, I also ventured into the world of cosmetics and perfumes as complementary products to strengthen my fashion line, just as international fashion designers such as Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent did.
ID: You are one of Indonesia’s best fashion designers who has lasted for a few decades. How do you see the growth of Indonesian fashion from the time you started until now?
PD: In the past, fashion was not considered as an important industry, however with more professional management in the production and business side, it has now become the new Industry that brings revenue to the country.
The Indonesian government and designers’ associations work collaboratively with private sectors to boost up the fashion business by organising exhibitions, trade mission design competitions and other business events.
ID: What do you think is the key winner of Indonesian fashion design?
PD: The wealth of cultural arts from our ancestors can provide character, identity, and can created niche products, which in turn can give Indonesia a unique position in the international fashion world. These days, Indonesian designers have to learn to be able to transform thousands of different ornaments into fashion products to succeed.
ID: How is the future of the fashion industry in Indonesia?
PD: Indonesia’s creative economy sector is expected to continue its upward trend and will become one of the country’s pillars, which will be able to sustain the national economy. The prospect is great as long as we designers can display unique positioning and have the responsibility to continue to translate and explore craft products into fashion products that have good technicality, are in line with the fashion trends in the world, and can provide the best service to the market. Therefore, organisations are needed, fashion schools are needed, as well as cooperations with domestic and overseas fashion support industries.
ID: Can you share us the distinct characteristics of the fashion designs that you’re created?
PD: While striving to combine Indonesian elements with the international style of fashion design, I have always been inspired by the cultural heritage with a modern yet classic touch. Certainly using the international technique that I studied in Paris, I make sure to balance between the western and eastern as well as feminine and masculine influences.
ID: In your opinion, what is the key to making a good fashion design?
PD: First is to have the vision where fashion must be worn by people, it’s not just there to watch. Because with the use of the design that we make, we can help the existing fashion industry. Second, you need to build your knowledge and study of the latest techniques. Third, always focus on your inspiration when making a design. And of course, it is also important to understand colours and different fabrics well.
ID: What or who inspires you in design?
PD: Our heritage as well as renowned international and local designers.
ID: What about other design fields? Can you share us your interest?
PD: I love designing houses. All of my houses I designed and built personally.
ID: What is your description of a good design in general?
PD: Good design is a design that can provide a spiritual beauty that we can feel all the time. I am not a contemporary person, but I do appreciate the style.
ID: Tell us about your residence. Do you use any special material to add to the design aspects of the house?
PD: 80 per cent of the teak wood came from the old Purwokerto station which was demolished and replaced with steel. The wood was sold to a contractor which we later bought from; my brother made the arrangement. I also got the marble from Turkey, Italy and India. The stones are from Muntilan and the sculptures are from the Borobudur area and Bali.
ID: Did you design the architecture and interior by yourself or in collaboration with an architect or interior designer?
PD: I designed and I asked the architect to create the technical drawing for me, hence perfecting the overall process.
ID: What is your ideal home design? and how do you see the importance of interior design in a house?
PD: Modern classic. It’s very important because it makes your home your palace. Everything needs to be designed according to our own character comfortably.
ID: What is your personal style in designing a home?
PD: Comfortable and classic; which is rooted in our heritage. I always use warm colours as well.
ID: What are your favourite interior pieces at your residence?
PD: The silverware, marble tables, the pavilion from a village in Boyolali, carvings which were then touched with prada gold leaves by an artist from Klungkung, and sculptures from Muntilan and Bali.
I have a particular interest and passion for windows, doors and traditional Javanese pavillions.
ID: You are known as a multi-talented persona who has touched various fields from fashion to politics. But we want to hear from you directly, who is Poppy Dharsono?
PD: I am a developer because I am living in a young country, Indonesia, which needs to develop itself. I’m an artist, so everything I do, touches the artistry. I participate in the economic development through creative industries and also making infrastructure in the form of associations, education, networks, and the fashion industry itself. So I am a holistic developer who dedicates my journey and participates in the development of this country through the fashion and creative industry. I am also a focused person who always does everything thoroughly.