ni­cholas yudha

Mon­store’s co-founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor talks about the la­bel’s past, present and fu­ture

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Right from the first glance, you could in­stantly spot what makes a Mon­store T-shirt a Mon­store. The quirky graph­i­cal art­work, the airy, light fab­ric, and the neu­tral back­ground—such a sim­ple fash­ion for­mula is re­ally hard to break. Equally sim­ple is how this In­done­sian la­bel came about: Three high-school friends who loved art got to­gether for a no­bler pur­pose.

Yet, what makes it even more in­ter­est­ing is that Mon­store is never about fash­ion per se. At its heart it is, has al­ways been and will for­ever be about art. And de­spite Jakarta be­ing its cra­dle, the brand has now branched out to Ja­pan and Ger­many, show­cas­ing the global ap­peal of their art and fash­ion sense.

Another part of their design charms is in­no­va­tion: Come to their newly opened store at Gu­nawar­man 21, and you’ll get a free patch for ev­ery pur­chase—you can even de­cide your­self where the patch will be pasted on. Man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Ni­cholas Yudha touches on the idea of “let­ting the mon­ster within us break free” as what Mon­store is all about, and this kind of cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is a break­through that will cer­tainly win the hearts of the brand’s youth­ful fol­low­ers—and Mon­store has tons of them. On the ba­sis of this keen sense for in­no­va­tion, one can only won­der what the fu­ture holds for Mon­store.

Chris An­dre: How did Mon­store come about? Ni­cholas Yudha:

Ba­si­cally, there are three co-founders of Mon­store: Michael Chrisyanto, Agatha Carolina and my­self. We were high-school friends back then. Michael, who is the brand’s cre­ative di­rec­tor, liked to do sketches and draw­ings, and to­gether, we wanted to cul­ti­vate that artistry and raise aware­ness among youth to de­velop their sense of art. That was in 2009, and that’s how it all be­gan. It wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily about cloth­ing, though. It’s just that it was per­haps the eas­i­est “can­vas” for us to ex­press this kind of artistry. That be­ing said, Mon­store is not lim­ited to cloth­ing or fash­ion only. We did open a Mon­store bar in the past and art ex­hi­bi­tions and more.

CA: Can you tell us what the name “Mon­store” ac­tu­ally means? NY:

Well, it’s quite ob­vi­ous that it’s a play on “mon­ster.” Those sketches and draw­ings, for us, rep­re­sent deep, an­i­mal­is­tic de­sires within hu­mans, which con­stantly seek ways to break free. That’s why the art­work we have on the clothes al­ways seems to con­vey a re­bel­lion or the strug­gle for free­dom. It’s some­thing in­nate and unit­ing us all.

CA: Did you start with cloth­ing for men or women? NY:

Both ac­tu­ally. In the be­gin­ning, we did uni­sex clothes. Yet, as time wore on, we got on to sep­a­rate our men’s and women’s col­lec­tions. It’s more rea­son­able, busi­ness-wise. [ Chuck­les]

CA: Then you guys opened a store in Ke­mang? NY:

That was in 2012. So, back in 2009, we worked on Mon­store only as a part-time job—we hadn’t yet grad­u­ated from univer­sity, ba­si­cally. Then in 2012, we de­cided to take things se­ri­ously, so I stepped on as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, Caro­line as mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor and Michael over­see­ing the design de­part­ment. At the time, we had a store and a bar in Ke­mang, but it wasn’t meant as a long-term plan. Since 2016, we are lo­cated at Gu­nawar­man 21.

CA: So how is Mon­store do­ing to­day? NY:

Cur­rently, we have cloth­ing ar­ti­cles, ac­ces­sories and some collectible items like pil­lows and books. We also have art prints like paint­ings and smaller stuff.

We’re plan­ning to open another store next year in Bali since the mar­ket there fits the brand very much. For­eign tourists love the brand be­cause of the light, airy fab­ric. It’s go­ing to be some­where in Seminyak. In terms of dis­tri­bu­tion points, we cover Jakarta, Ban­dung, Ba­lik­pa­pan, Yo­gyakarta, Surabaya and Bali. For over­seas mar­kets, we have Ja­pan and Ger­many.

CA: Why Ja­pan and Ger­many? NY:

Well, we once did launch a col­lec­tion at the Jakarta Fash­ion Week called “Plas­tic.” Ap­par­ently, there was a Ja­panese dis­trib­u­tor who saw the show and ap­proached us right af­ter, be­liev­ing that the col­lec­tion would fit the Ja­panese mar­ket. The same thing also hap­pened with our Ger­man dis­trib­u­tor.

CA: So, where do you po­si­tion Mon­store ex­actly? NY:

I’d say we’re not a high-priced brand but af­ford­able and of good qual­ity in­stead. All the ma­te­ri­als are cus­tom-made based on our spec­i­fi­ca­tions—we call these Mon­store fab­rics. And they’re all made in In­done­sia; we proudly ad­ver­tise this fact on the tag.

CA: Do you go by sea­sons or how do you re­lease your col­lec­tions? NY:

In a way, we fol­low the fast- chain fash­ion mode. That is to say that we re­lease a col­lec­tion ev­ery three months or so, but we also have new drops in be­tween. While we don’t re­ally fol­low the sea­sonal pat­terns like spring/sum­mer and fall/win­ter, we make ex­cep­tions when cre­at­ing pieces for over­seas mar­kets.

CA: Speak­ing of re­leas­ing new col­lec­tions, what’s the lat­est from Mon­store? NY:

It’s called Space Baby. It has ex­plo­ration of outer space as the design theme. We held a pre­view of the col­lec­tion dur­ing the grand open­ing of our store on Fe­bru­ary 26, but the en­tire stock is out just now.

CA: What about col­lab­o­ra­tive col­lec­tions, like the one with Mike Lewis? NY:

Those are sea­sonal. Mike Lewis ap­proached us be­cause he liked the brand, and so we did a col­lec­tion to­gether. We also re­cently re­leased the Brady col­lec­tion (#bradythe­do­g­gie) fea­tur­ing T-shirts with a pic­ture of a cute dog. That’s ac­tu­ally Chris­tian Ri­janto and Jessie Se­tiono’s dog. [ Chuck­les] These are all just one- off part­ner­ships.

For the rest of the year, we’re go­ing to fo­cus more on mu­sic as a theme, be­yond the col­lab­o­ra­tions we do with the Is­maya group, such as for the Djakarta Ware­house Project and We The Fest, and oth­ers. Yet, an even big­ger plan is to ex­pand our Scene Steal­ers project. It’s re­ally what Mon­store is all about: We fea­ture artists who sub­mit their art­work to us. We are plan­ning to do around three col­lab­o­ra­tions each year, but this time we want to have at least one artist to do a whole col­lec­tion for Mon­store, not just sev­eral pieces. The Scene Steal­ers project is also tied in with our next art ex­hi­bi­tion, as their art­work pieces will be dis­played there as well.

CA: What’s next for Mon­store aside from the up­com­ing store open­ing in Bali? NY:

This year we ac­tu­ally want to sort of up­grade the cus­tomer’s ex­pe­ri­ence. For any cus­tomer com­ing to the shop, they can pur­chase an item and get a cus­tom patch for free—the stamp­ing ma­chine is sit­u­ated right next to the cashier. We are still toy­ing around with the idea of launch­ing our own denim col­lec­tion. Whether we’re go­ing to col­lab­o­rate with a denim brand or not is still open for dis­cus­sion. We tested the wa­ters by sell­ing jog­ger pants last year, and they sold like hot cakes! That’s why we want to de­velop more pants aside from our reg­u­lar best­selling tops. Speak­ing of which, we’re go­ing to dis­con­tinue uni­sex pieces, and start sep­a­rat­ing be­tween men’s and women’s col­lec­tions. And in the long run, we are think­ing of cre­at­ing a pre­mium line ti­tled Mon­store High. Maybe it’s for the ac­ces­sories first, but noth­ing is con­firmed so far. The point is that, like any of Mon­store’s de­signs, it’s got to fea­ture great art­works.

CA: While we’re on it, which art­work do you feel rep­re­sents Mon­store best? Or per­haps a par­tic­u­lar design that gets pro­duced sea­son af­ter sea­son? NY:

There are a few like the light­ning-like graphic but with two hor­i­zon­tal stripes—which means hu­man to us—and pat­terns like eyes and Pyra­mid-like tri­an­gles. But one im­age that’s been there since the be­gin­ning is that doll-like crea­ture called Ego.

As a mat­ter of fact, we used to have a book of Gen­e­sis which tells the be­gin­nings of man, called Ego, and woman, Muna, in the Mon­store uni­verse. We still carry that con­cept to­day. As such, the men’s T-shirts will be called Ego- cut T-shirts, while the women’s T-shirts will be Muna T-shirts. So, that doll is the hu­man of Mon­store.

“we wanted to cul­ti­vate that artistry and raise aware­ness among youth to de­velop their sense of art”

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