Jakarta. Bandung-based fashion designer Misan Kopaka is renowned for his tailored suits and richly detailed, sultry gowns. Among his clientele today are celebrities and socialites in the West Java capital and Jakarta.
But few people know the hard works and discipline with which he has cultivated his fashion talents since his early years. During elementary school, when kids in his age rushed to play with friends after school, he went straight home and helped at his family's home garment industry.
"I enjoyed it, but also my parents promised me more pocket money if I helped around," the youngest of the 12 children said with a chuckle during a telephone interview on Saturday (03/03).
By the time he was 12 years old, Misan was already capable of sewing by himself. He then started taking orders from local churches and his classmates to design and make boy's clothes and uniforms.
But he stopped making clothes in high school.
"I was feeling ashamed," he said. "Back then, fashion designer was not a highly regarded profession."
After finishing high school, Misan studied medicine at the Maranatha Christian University (UKM) in Bandung.
But in Misan's final year, his old flame beckoned him to return.
When a big fashion competition was taking place in Bandung, he submitted a sketch of a cocktail gown.
"I didn't expect to win at all," he said.
But Misan's cocktail dress, made of velvet and knitted material, won the attention of the audience and the jury during the fashion show at the final of the competition. The young designer was subsequently named the first winner of the competition.
Misan's lecturer, who was in the audience during the show, threw a tumpengan (Javanese conical yellow rice) party to celebrate his win. Almost all his lecturers and classmates attended the celebration.
"[The tumpengan] became like an announcement [of my return to the fashion industry]," the designer said. "Since then, many of my classmates and lecturers came to me and asked me to design their outfits."
The orders became so abundant that Misan was compelled to give up his work as a general practitioner at a hospital clinic in Bandung after a year.
In 1991, he set up Kopaka Bridal in his house and workshop in Bandung.
"The workshop consisted only of myself and my home assistant, who I've taught to sew," he said, with a laugh.
By word of mouth his clientele grew. And now it consists of the crème de la crème in Bandung and Jakarta.
Some of his clients modeled for his fashion show at Holiday Inn Kemayoran in North Jakarta on Friday.
Mystical Spring Secret
Themed "Mystical Spring Secret," Misan's 2018 collection is a riot of vibrant colors and exquisite embellishments.
Gowns with body-hugging silhouettes are adorned with elaborate floral embroideries. Three-dimensional appliqués of birds and butterflies seem to fly around and nestle on the flowers.
"All the embellishments are made by hand," the designer said.
Among the models were renowned pop singers of the 1990s, including Desy Ratnasari, Nia Daniaty and Memes.
"They're all my loyal clients, who have been with me for many years," Misan said.
The designer also featured 12 evening suits for men during the show. The formal suits were enhanced with bold embroideries of red roses around the shoulder and back.
"I'm impressed with Misan's new collection," said Husin Salim, the owner of Salim & Co, which sponsored the event. "The suits are nicely tailored and elegant. The gowns are all very beautiful and feminine."
Never Stop Learning
But Misan does not rest on his laurels. After more than 30 years in the fashion industry, the designer is still learning to become better at what he does.
"Indonesia's fashion industry is becoming better and bigger each year," the 56-year-old said. "There are many competitors in the market. Therefore, we should never stop learning, especially if we want to stay ahead in the industry."
Misan uses social media to monitor fashion events in Paris, Milan and London.
"I also look within," the designer said. "Indonesia has a cornucopia of beautiful traditional textiles, which are a great source of inspiration."
Misan will showcase his special collection made of batik during the upcoming Indonesia Fashion Week, scheduled to take place at the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan between March 28 and April 1.
"The evening gown collection is themed 'Magnificent Borobudur,'" Misan said. "They're all made of batik from Central Java."
The fashion show will take place on March 29 – the second day of Indonesia Fashion Week.
In his spare time, Misan also lectures at the fashion design faculty of his alma mater, UKM.
"I want to share all that I've learned and experienced so far in the industry with the younger generations," he said.