Interview with Ratna Katarina, Creative Director of Paulina Katarina

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Congratulations on your first flagship store! Could you tell us a bit about Paulina Katarina? How did it start?

Thank you very much! We are super excited to finally open our own Boutique and be able to showcase our collections within our own space.

It has been a few years since we started our women’s’ wear clothing label PAULINA KATARINA, where we would stock up our collection at our friends’ boutiques throughout the island. We grew up in the clothing manufacturing industry and have always wanted to have our own label. We didn’t have a proper business plan, we just gave it a go and see if there was any interest and we would go from there.

Not long after, we started receiving wholesale orders from international shops mostly Singapore and Australia. That gave us a bit of confidence, so we set up an online shop and started really focusing on the Indonesian fashion market. As at that time the trend to wear local brands also became popular amongst Indonesians. We took the advantage of that and explored into the big cities within the country.

Opening our own retail space was always the dream, but we didn’t want to do it until we were 100% ready and it had to also be the right location.

Towards the end of last year, we felt like we were at that point, and luckily found a good spot in Seminyak. Next one will be in Ubud, hopefully open by mid-March.

Name one figure who really inspire your career (outside of your family, and the reason why)

I really admire Sheryl Sandberg, the author of LEAN IN, who is currently the COO of Facebook. She is a great advocate for women empowerment and gender equality.

She inspires me in how to handle the challenges women face in trying to get ahead, how to take charge and push forward while balancing your career and life, and the importance of women to unite and support one another.

Describe the style of your fashion brand. What do you think that makes it stands out among others?

PAULINA KATARINA designs are eclectic, chic yet feminine with a sophisticated undertone. We offer a wide range of styles; including those that are ideal for the humid climate, perfect for wandering around the island or for beach club hangs. You will also find dresses and jumpsuits that take you from the office straight to the bar. We also offer a good selection of cocktail and evening dresses suitable for a night out or a special event.

As siblings who start a business together, what are the biggest challenges that you have to overcome? Please share with us.

We enjoy working together as sisters and have a great relationship so that creates a strong foundation to our business relationship. We complement each other’s skill sets and accept each other’s viewpoints and directions.

Of course there are times when we don’t see eye to eye. When you are really close to someone and spend a lot of time together it is only normal that there will be conflict. One of the main challenges is probably because we are family it is sometimes hard to leave emotions behind.

If you could collaborate with one famous world-class fashion designer, who would it be (and why)?

It would be Phoebe Philo. I love everything she designs and admire what she did at Celine. She reshaped what women want to wear, and managed to reinvigorate the brand and created a cult following. For me, no one else can combine effortless and elegant better than her.

What do you usually do with your sister outside of work? Do you have the same hobby or common interest?

Besides working together, we are very close as sisters. We are only three years apart and growing up we used to share everything together. We have similar interests and share the same group of friends, so we go out for a meal/drinks and catch up with our girlfriends together. We love to check out what’s new in town.

And together with our Mother we like to do Pilates a couple of times a week together.

What were your main inspirations in creating the outfits for your brand? How did you select the materials you use?

When designing a new collection, I get my inspirations from various things. The first that comes to mind would always be – what would the Paulina Katarina girl want to wear next, as she is the main inspiration. Then I look through our surroundings including what was on the runway in Fashion Week around the world, what the bloggers/influencers are wearing and street style.

Travelling also leaves me totally inspired with new ideas in terms of mood and colour as well as fabric options. This is particularly important for our PAULINA KATARINA WANDERLUST resort-wear collection, as the essence is vacation chic, combining designs that are versatile with effortlessly elegant appeal. Sometimes I just think of what is missing from my wardrobe whenever I want to go on a holiday and go from there.

Alongside those collections, we also release a mini-series called PAULINA KATARINA ARCHIPELAGO. In which we attempt to embrace Indonesia’s rich heritage and to encourage the use of Indonesian prints as part of the daily activities and ready to wear pieces. For Volume I, we took inspiration from one of Indonesia’s most treasured textile, songket, and in the Volume II collection, we used ikat. We experimented with Batik in the latest Volume, focusing on parang motive.

In terms of fabrics we use a wide variety from cotton, rayon, silk to lace, as well as nylon/polyester.

How do you balance creativity with business?

Balancing creativity and business is extremely crucial for me, and it’s something I continually reassess. Luckily I really enjoy both sides of it, so find myself naturally bouncing back and forth between the two.

When it comes to designing and doing any creative work, I absolutely need alone time and my own space with no distractions. So I have to make the time to do this, which is usually after hours or at home.

I actually mix creativity with business in every collection I create. Before designing anything new, I always start with analyzing our sales data. What style/colour/size sold the most and try to introduce something similar or in line with that. If something didn’t perform well at all I try not to repeat the same mistake.

It is important to set down our vision, as well as the goals and plans for the business, so whenever I get overwhelmed with the day to day operations, I try to revisit it and ensure we are on track and advance from there.

What do you think of the ‘eco-fashion’ term? And would you apply it on your collection in the future?

I find the term eco-fashion is very easily misinterpreted and misused.

Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world, and involves a wide range of processes. It starts from the very beginning of the supply chain; for example, the production of the cotton is extremely water intensive, the processing of raw materials into clothes such as dyeing and finishing require so much chemical that are so bad for the environment. And that’s only the beginning. Hence it is hard to really be eco-friendly in fashion. To be sustainable we need to consider the entire supply chain, which is so complex and difficult. There are more and more companies/brands out there today that are committing themselves into this. I think it’s great that consumers are also becoming more conscious of what they are wearing in terms of the effect it has on the environment. The other problem is though because of the popularity of this eco-fashion trend, it can thus be easily taken advantage of.

We always try to minimize the waste within our production/operations and reuse any raw materials we can possible. We treat our team members fairly and create a friendly and safe working place. Hopefully there will also be more sustainable options of raw materials out there available for us to use in the future.

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