With decades of fashion industry under his belt, Sebastian Gunawan continues his journey in the fickle world of fashion that captures the ethereal beauty of women from different generations.
Seba, as his friends affectionately call, discovered and developed his talent since his teen ages. Determined to hit the road to reach the fashion world, Seba at the age of 17 took a one-year course in fashion design at Susan Budiharjo Institute of Mode, Jakarta; followed by furthering his studies at the Fashion Institute of design and merchandising in Los Angeles, U.S. and Instituto Artistico Dell Abbigliamento Maragoni, Milano in Italy.
Blessed with natural talent, Seba spent years of his career enhancement as a fashion designer in Los Angeles and Milano, respectively, before eventually established his fashion business in Indonesia in 1993.
“Potret Hidup” (Life Portrait) was his first annual fashion show, in which his talent and creativity was further groomed. Achieving success in his other shows in Indonesia and abroad, Seba never stops innovating his creations under eponymous label “Sebastian Gunawan”.
Following the success of his second line ready to wear of Sebastian Collection “Votum”, Seba with her wife, Cristina Panaresse (who is also fashion designer) in 2000 established ready to wear high fashion collection under “Sebastian’s Red Label”.
Seba continued his innovative creativity as he in 2004 introduced kids fashion label “Bubble Girl”, designed for girls aged 4 to 12, and in 2006 moved forward with his bridal collection “Sebastian Sposa”.
The 43-year Cancerian, who has bestowed dozens of prestigious awards and recognitions, shares with PMR his latest collection “Femme Fatale” and his view on the world of fashion.
What inspired you to come up with the theme “Femme Fatale” in your latest collection?
It’s about women with their elegance, sophistication, beauty and high confidence. I chose “Femme Fatale” as the theme because the name often used in the 1940s as the paragon for women to unearth their inner beauty through fashion. Lauren Bacall, for example, was a fatal woman in her era. But “Femme Fatale” is not all about the 1940s era. It’s about the influence of fatal women from different decades such as Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor or even those from today’s era, like Lady Gaga and Victoria Beckham. They can wear anything from simple to crazy thing, as long as it reflects their personality. Marilyn Monroe dressed quite simple, but her gesture, body language and of course her beauty and high confidence really gave what the word fatal here represents. It’s “high vibrancy”.
What sort of high vibrancy that reflects your “Femme Fatal” collection?
The designs are mainly inspired by the beauty and charms of fashion icons in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. But they fit into the later era owing to the collection’s touch of exquisite elegance. I combine the elements of classic and elegance to make women dare to explore themselves. I also emphasize sophistication on my design that supports such character as “femme fatal”.
Are you currently working on next collection?
Yes, indeed. Nevertheless, it’s too early for me to disclose this, as I’m still crafting all the designs, and so on. What I can tell so far is that the collection is going to be another surprise.
What is your long-term goal in the fashion design industry?
Hmmm…I don’t have specific answer for that. Just go with the flow I guess…and keep innovating with my curiosity as my way of thinking. The most important thing is to get better day-by-day.
In your own words, what is the definition of fashion?
If you ask people out there, some will say that fashion is something trendy. Some will say fashion is lifestyle. But you can be more concrete with the meaning of fashion itself. To me, fashion is a part of condition in one place, in one era that includes the elements of economic condition, social, politics, culture and religion. Dior and Chanel are good example. During World War II in the 1940s, he was able to utilize all the existing materials to make simple yet elegant model, which he called “New Look”. A good portrait that depicts the model is lady with white shirt, full skirt, glove and hat, and spanking shoes. Chanel changed the era of 1920s where he freed the rigid culture of traditional women clothes, which were deemed to be uncomfortable, into more loosely and relax design. While Dior saw fashion from the elements of economy, social and politics; Chanel took the elements of social and culture in his big contribution to the world of fashion. In countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, religions should be taken into consideration. Whenever I travel, I always pay attention to what the local people wear. Fashion in France is different from fashion in Indonesia because we have different five elements I mentioned earlier.
Do you travel a lot?
Time to time.
What are your favourite destinations?
I like Venice. This island is so particular. Most people walk and take boat. It’s just like living in a history. I also love New York. There are so many things you can do in this city that never sleeps. The weather in San Francisco is very nice for a temporary stay. But I love Indonesia to live and work…and it’s the country with many restaurants serving great Padang food…
So, Padang food is your favourite dish?
Yup. I basically love oriental food best, from Indonesian to Chinese and Thai cuisines. And Sunday is the best day because it’s when I with my family spend our quality time eating out.
Besides eating out, what do you like doing at your leisure?
Varied from reading to watching TV, but I never miss playing with my 23 dogs.
By Aulia R. Sungkar. Published in the 10th edition of PMR S’pore, 2010.