When Puff and Fluff Just Ain’t Enuff

Puff is good. The powder puff for your nose and cheeks. The vanity puff on where you’re sitting in front of the mirror, while powdering the nose. Those adorably badass Powerpuff Girls. Heck, Puff the Magic Dragon. For those things, puff I love.

Fluff is also good. Fluffy furballs, of kitten and rabbit kinds. Fluffy loveseat for you and a paramour, or the furballs, to lounge around on. In these things, fluff equals love.

But in design, any kind of design, puff and fluff are merely supporting elements – they don’t, and shouldn’t, deliver the entire design. A good design has a defined inspiration point, which serves as an apparent underlying concept that ties the whole collection together. A great design is the one that appeals to a broader customer base than just the designer or the designer’s tight-knit circle.

Celebrity designers, meaning people who have found fame in another field before becoming designers, seem to be on the rise in recent years. In Hollywood, it’s kind of formulaic. After a star is made, first the star may lend their name and nose to concoct some perfume, before proceeding to some accessories or clothing line and, sometimes, a full-blown house décor collection. On these cases, it’s safe to assume that the celebrity in question does not work alone, but rather issue ‘visions’ to an army of professionals who know how to transform those visions into an actual fashion piece.

How have they fared? There have been hits, like the Olsen twins’ teenaged clothing line and Christy Turlington’s yoga wear brand Nuala under Puma. There have been misses as well, like Lindsay Lohan’s horrible collection during her stint as Ungaro’s Creative Director in 2009, or Kanye West’s grand flop on women’s wear at the last Paris Fashion Week.

Grazia Glitz and Glam

Seems like the bug has arrived on Jakarta Fashion Week. A handful of celebrities and socialites were sending their creations down the runway. Society girl Andrea Risjad teamed up with young designer Amor Syamsuri Muda, model Marissa Nasution shared stage with designer Michelle Worth, TV personality Ivan Gunawan split a slot with socialite Ina Thomas, and Grazia even scheduled a full show for a gaggle of celebrity designers.

Ina Thomas and Ivan Gunawan collaboration

Unfortunately, there were more notably misses than hits. Originality was scant, strong (or any) design concept was not apparent, and for most, it was quite a yawning collection to sit through. You may argue that people will still buy their works and of course, there will always be people who buy a label because they like the certain celebrity behind it, but that is not a good recipe for sustainable business. And certainly not the most valuable contribution to Indonesia’s vastly-developing fashion industry.

But, let’s give credits when it’s due. Kudos to duo Andrea Risjad and Amor Syamsuri Muda who showed a refreshing take on a highly wearable, highly affordable, high-street wear collection with Isis. The lines are strong, youthful, and consistent throughout; a tell-tale sign of an actual thinking process behind it. I swung by to their unassuming Kemang boutique after JFW, and was pleased to see the rest of the collection.

ISIS

Another credit should go to Marissa Nasution’s sexily loud shoes that worked in charming Michelle Worth’s showy pastels. And Ina Thomas did feature some catchy, jingly-jangly, boho accessories; she should probably consider to just focusing on the accessories line.

Marissa Nasution in collaboration with Michele Worth

As for the rest of wannabe designers, celebrities or not, here’s my thought: there are solid, logical reasons, as to why design schools ask you to enroll for at least 2-3 years. It does take time to know how to draw patterns, to understand materials, to learn various sewing and tailoring techniques, and even to know how to cut a cloth properly according to its fiber type. And those skills have to be mastered long before a credible fashion designer can be born. It’s much more than just what you want to coin for yourself when you wake up in the morning, to be quite honest.

If it sounds an awful lot of work, well, you can always be a designer’s muse. For decades designers have happily turned to their close circle of fans for muses. The most renowned of recent time is certainly movie director Sophia Coppola, who has been the steady main muse for Marc Jacobs brand since the brand went global. Legendary New York society swans Babe Paley and Nan Kempner were muses for Bill Blass and Yves St. Laurent, respectively – due to their distinctive personal style, and not just due to their head-to-toe designer wardrobe, if I may add.

Yes, we all love puff and fluff. But even in fashion, simply puff and fluff just ain’t enuff.