Raden Sirait just wants to make the world a beautiful place. Surrounded by 60 women applying beads and sequins to glittering fabrics, the fashion designer is busy putting the final touches to one of the major pieces in his upcoming fashion show — a kebaya to be worn by Nadine Chandrawinata, a former Miss Indonesia.
“A woman wearing a kebaya is at her most beautiful,” Raden said, referring to the traditional figure-hugging Indonesian blouse. “She almost looks like an angel descending from heaven.”
At his upcoming show, “The Journey of Love,” which is scheduled for March 31, Raden will launch his new premium line, Raden Sirait Kebaya for the World, with 175 original kebaya and evening dress designs.
“As an artist, I want to inspire people with love and beauty,” he said. “Hopefully, the audience will be able to take that love and beauty home with them and spread it to the whole world.”
The 40-year-old designer will also be launching his autobiography of the same name, “Journey of Love,” which documents the unusual journey that led him to the world of fashion.
Born in 1970 in Porsea, a quiet town in North Sumatra, Raden had always wanted to become an artist.
“I have always loved making handicrafts. It was anything, from making dusters to collages,” he said. “I always knew I would become an artist someday.”
But his journey to success did not have a smooth start. Raden’s father did not want to hear about his son’s artistic ambitions.
“He said that unless I went to university, I would never succeed in life,” Raden said, flashing a smile. “Well, he wasn’t entirely wrong.”
His father, a tailor, had only an elementary school education and worked hard all his life to put his seven children through school.
Following his father’s advice, Raden studied agribusiness at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB). After graduating in 1992, he got a job at a bank in Jakarta and within two years had already worked his way up to marketing manager.
“My job required me to travel and meet with landowners and important decision makers all over Indonesia,” he said. “I was very much inspired by their success.”
While Raden felt a growing urge to start a business of his own, it was his sister, Rospita Sirait, who came up with the idea of starting a small family enterprise.
“I asked her what she enjoyed doing. I would have never guessed that she would say sewing,” Raden said.
In fact, Rospita had to learn how to sew in secret because their father had forbidden any of his children from following in his footsteps.
With Raden’s strong design skills and Rospita’s practical know-how, the brother-sister duo started a collaboration that eventually grew into a successful business, making evening gowns for women. The two named their fashion line Luire by Raden Sirait.
“Starting our own business was not as simple as we initially thought it would be,” Rospita said. “There were a lot of things to consider, such as materials, workers and customers.”
Raden sold the duo’s first collection by knocking on doors at the 300-room boarding house he was living in at the time. “It sold out,” he said.
Emboldened by their success, Raden started selling his designs at a number of top department stores in Jakarta.
But in 2001, Raden received an offer that he simply could not refuse: a multinational company based in Hong Kong offered him a job as marketing manager.
Raden’s new job involved traveling around the world and he was soon meeting people from lots of different backgrounds.
“That really broadened my horizons,” he said. “I learned that to really make it in the world, you have to specialize and become really good at what you do.”
When the company shut down in 2004, Raden lost his job. But he did not forget that all-important lesson he had learned.
“It’s like destiny,” he said. “By losing my job, I revisited my lifelong vision to become an artist.”
Raden again took up an active role in the family business and decided to take it in a slightly different direction. “There weren’t a lot of fashion designers making kebayas at that time,” he said. “I saw it as a business opportunity.”
Adorned with sparkling beads, sequins and semi-precious gemstones, Raden’s kebaya designs feature a streamlined silhouette that hugs the body and enhances the wearer’s feminine charms.
“I want the whole world to know about the kebaya and share it with us,” Raden said.
‘The Journey of Love’
By Raden Sirait
By private invitation only
Thursday, March 31
Taman Ismail Marzuki, Jakarta
For more information, contact:
Raden Sirait’s workshop
Kompleks Pasar Minggu Indah
Jl. Bambu Ampel 1 Blok D No. 3
Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta
Tel: 021 70721614