Photo courtesy of Heri B. Heryanto

Known best for simple and sleek lines flowing in neutral palettes, Auguste Soesastro has risen to a list of young couturiers in Indonesia with his Kraton line. Armed with fashion education in Paris' École de la chambre syndicale de la couture parisienne, and architecture, film, and animation in Australia's University of Sydney and Australian National University respectively, Auguste has also worked under Givenchy in Paris and Ralph Pucci in New York.

In 2010, he presented some designs to the former US President Barrack Obama and former US First Lady Michelle Obama during their visit at the Merdeka Palace. After launching his ready-to-wear line Kromo in 2012, Auguste fastidiously worked on and presented his first solo fashion exhibition, “Architecture of Cloth”,  last year. Discover more below about this talented designer, whom we honoured as one of the 50 young pioneers in our inaugural Gen-T list.

What does Jakarta mean to you?

I’ve only lived in Jakartafor the past six years, plus a few years back then when I went to school; before that, I lived mostly in New York. Jakarta is a melting pot where people, talents and cultures from all around the world meet, which is different to New York although seemingly similar. Everything has its own time. What I mean is that, say, four years ago,  Jakarta had a better economic situation than New York due to growing changes here compared with the stagnating situation there then—and even more so today.

So, for me who was restarting in Jakarta after my Kraton started in New York in 2008, this city is a pretty good place to continue growing my career and lines. There were plenty of people around my age who were just starting their business, too, six years ago. The environment was, and continues to be despite other factors happening today, supportive for a creative pool—that melting pot I mentioned—including the returned-from-abroad students who want to contribute to and be useful for Indonesia. 

Summarise your style in one word, and explain why.

That word would be: understated. There are phases in my life regarding fashion; I’ve loved fashion ever since my boyhood and the styles that I like have continuously evolved since then. I used to like the very glamorous Baroque style and then the avant-garde style, but it comes to an end-point where I have been through it all.

By then, I know myself better and my mentality has matured so much that I now like what seems to be simple, but is actually complex in its process, technical perfection, and so on. Understated doesn’t mean simple and without value. In my opinion, it has more value because we need time to understand the meaning and process behind it—all seemingly effortless yet highly technical with a lot of training and understanding required.

See also: All About Generation T

What do you love most about fashion?

I love its evolution. When I was a little boy, my father loved to take me to the opera where the people who attended the performance really dressed to the nines, be it weekdays or weekends—it might be different now, though. The whole atmosphere inside was just so different because, sometimes, it all looked effortless and elegant—a word that has almost lost its true meaning and significancein the 21st century. That’s when I developed an appreciation for fashion, which is a bit superficial now that I think about it. Today, my design is more about empowerment without intellectualising my design by saying so, because 95 per cent of my clients are career women. This means that I help dress independent women in their career for them to feel more confident and rooted.

You’re also a proponent for green fashion. What’s your take on it?

In Indonesia, the term “green fashion” is almost foreign—there isn’t much about recycling, for example. I’m getting ready to introduce the concept to the market here. In the meantime, I work on my designs that are exported to fit certain and selective standards abroad, such as Europe’s eco-fashion points. Actually, eco-fashion is more than just the process and product because it should be about demand rather than supply—mentality also matters.

What do you think about the Indonesian fashion scene today and your place in it?

I think the scene today is more democratic and inclusive. Everyone, regardless of the budget, now has quite the same chance to show more style due to the presence of online stores. We, without abandoning eco-fashion, have started working with others to launch another ready-to-wear collection for a younger market under Wastu Studio this September.

We watched closely each and every process to ensure a green end-product, from sourcing the materials to managing the waste to a minimum. Aside from relying on technology, waste management also needs to be our expertise. The cutting-pattern stage, for example, needs to be conscious without reducing productivity. One day I wish to make a business focused on processing the scraps from materials I use. 


Photo courtesy of Heri B. Heryanto

As for your couture line, Kraton, what’s the plan for it? Is there a new collection coming?

The couture line is now regularly taking orders rather than creating collections because the team has to see where the economy will be going next. In my opinion, designers can’t only make a sketch and look for material availability; we have to learn from history that the global economy has an impact on our job. Wars, economic crises, stock-market collapses, and many more events will change everything.

The business structure must be thoroughly thought about to follow and adjust with such events to survive. I used to not care much about politics and economy, but now I realise that—whether or not I’m interested in those topics—these factors influence my life and livelihood. At least every day I have to catch up on current events because everything is connected in a domino effect.

For young designers, what advice do you have?

Number one is to do a lot of research. Solely creating good products is not enough. One needs to know how to manufacture, market, and maintain the business in avoiding loss. I know many designers who are more senior and more talented than I am but couldn’t sustain their businesses—thus, they are no more. Even those without enough talent yet very hardworking could get ahead in any field. A good public relation is also needed because not every consumer understands the products.

See also: Gen-T honouree Tex Saverio  talks about aspirations

What is your proudest accomplishment?

It’s not exactly an accomplishment, but what made me happy is that now I have an office and a workshop filled with a good team that has improved their living standards from the first time these people worked for me. For example, one of them used to come here by public transport and walking, but now he has been able to buy a motorcycle and even afford school fees for his children. In the work environment, I want the good things to not only come to me but also back to my team. This will take time, however, because I need to trust that they will put their best effort into work. 

If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?

That thought will always persist: “If I had known this or that back then…”, but, in the end, I realise that such thoughts are just a waste of time. It’s much better to think about how I will be better in the future.

What’s your end goal?

The end goal is to survive. I’ve had the ready-to-wear Kromo line since 2012 and now a planned collaboration. While I make sure it’s done properly, today’s generation sometimes do not realise that not everything can be done instantly—just like a wobbly building foundation that won’t last long. I will do my best every day, and won’t rush my process although many criticize and ask me to make certain things because they don’t know my business and finance structures. Everything goes in tandem: the creativity, the business, the ecological responsibility, and the outlying factors.

Tags: Designer, Society, Indonesia, Fashion, Couture, Auguste Soesastro, Kraton, Kromo, Conversation, Gen T