In spite of clocking up nearly 25 years of brilliance as a fashion designer, Sebastian Gunawan continues to see the world of style through the eyes of a much younger man
When I started out as a fashion designer, some of my clients treated me like a seamstress,” recalls sebastian Gunawan. “they came to me with a picture of a dress, and asked me to duplicate it. I listened to them, of course, but at the end of the day I was a designer. the decision was mine to make. sometimes I had to be a bit harsh and say no to requests if they didn’t reflect my aesthetic.”
sitting in his office in harmoni, Central Jakarta, Gunawan is every bit as honest as he is approachable. the atelier displays grand evening gowns, the tops of which are characteristically decorated with vibrant floral appliques with rich embellishments. among them are a few pieces from the designer’s 2015 collection, Mélange des sens (mixture of senses), which was inspired by the flower paintings of a 17th-century danish painter, Johan Laurentz Jensen.
the collection debuted at telstra Perth Fashion Festival in september 2014. Gunawan’s participation at the event was a part of his asian Couture Federation (ACF) membership. the international recognition was not the first of its kind of his glorious career. In 2004, he received International apparel Federation World Young designer award in Barcelona, spain. Gunawan’s impressive list of clients ranges from media mogul dian Muljadi to tv presenter Giuliana rancic and Glee star Lea Michele.
“I’m still learning to give my customers the best results. Making a bespoke dress is very different from producing a ready-to-wear collection,” notes Gunawan, who graduated with a fashion degree from Milan’s Istituto Morangoni. “When you make a ready-to-wear collection, you test it on a model and an everyday person, and go from there. But to tailor a dress for someone, I have to supervise the fittings and make necessary changes until the fit is perfect. It’s a totally different treatment.”
“I like women to look like women. to me, they’re beautiful just the way they are,” Gunawan explains of his constantly classic approach to womenswear. his love of the feminine look was formed early on by the initial “ladies of his life”: his mother titin Wongsodjojo and sisters Lisna and Fenty Gunawan. “When I watched my mom dressed up, I believed that there was something magical about clothes, makeup and accessories. how they change the way a person walk, talk or gaze,” says Gunawan. “It brought out a sense of curiosity in me.
“Back then, I didn’t even know it was called fashion. that was a strange concept for a nine year-old. so my love of fashion started even before I knew the word! When I discovered more about fashion, I came to understand that it has two faces. one is the visible face, the evening gown or high heels or beautiful hairdo of a woman. the other is the invisible face, the hidden character in you that fashion brings out. You might not be able to see it, but it’s there for others to see. that’s the beauty of fashion.”
after almost 25 years in the Indonesian fashion industry, Gunawan still maintains the same sense of wonder about fashion, all to the benefit of his creative process. In 2014, Gunawan launched new collections for his four fashion lines: sebastian Gunawan, bridal label sebastian sposa and readyto-wear labels sebastian red and Votum. he works closely with his wife and creative partner, Cristina Panarese, on the ready-to-wear pieces. the couple met during their fashion studies in Milan. Gunawan has also participated in two special collaborative collections for skincare brand SK-II and ice cream brand Magnum. he begins 2015 with the unveiling of his Chinese new Year collection, a highly anticipated annual event for fashionistas in Jakarta.
his productivity is almost unbelievable. how does Gunawan do it? “there are two things that keep me where I am today: a strong team and a strong belief,” he replies. “When I’m stuck for ideas, I ask the team: what would you do? they give me new point of views, new energy and new creative juice. Besides, I believe that the more you push yourself, the better you get at something. I don’t like fashion because it’s glamorous. I fall in love with fashion over and over again because it keeps me curious, it keeps me wondering. I constantly wonder about different ways to treat materials, to combine them and, ultimately, to bring my imaginations to life. I’m lucky that after all these years, the curiosity is still alive. I’m still the same curious child I was when I was young.”
MAKEUP AND HAIR W2 HAIR AND makeup MODEL DARYA @DAMN