IKA BUTONI once again graces CENTRESTAGE with a new and fresh collection.
With utmost attention to intricate design and embroidery, Ika speaks of what inspires her, what drives her and how her style evolves.
Asia’s première fashion event, CENTRESTAGE, aims to keep Hong Kong as Asia’s Fashion Capital. By putting collaborative efforts of both local and foreign stylists together, the second edition had been another successful event. From September 6 until the 9th, the event organiser, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), featured CENTRESTAGE ELITES, Hong Kong Young Fashion Designers’ Contest (YDC), Fashion Shows and Mini Parades, Trend Seminars and Designer Sharing Sessions and lastly, “Hong Kong in Fashion” Citywide Promotions. More than 200 fashion brands from 22 countries and regions had come together to push the fashion shows to its widest stretch.
The event that showcased high-end fashion designs of globally renowned artists gave life to a simple stage. Intricate designs, meticulous embellishments and colourful combinations of culture, experience and creativity overflowed to the spectators and was inspirational altogether.
I am one of those spectators. And one of the many humble stylists that I was privileged to talk to was the elegant Ms. Ika Butoni. It was such a timely chance for me as a budding journalist to be invited by Ika herself.
I decided to look around Hall 3B-C of the Hong Kong Convention Exhibition Centre right after her collection had strutted down the catwalk. One of the organisers from the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) encouraged me to walk the lane where booths of the presenters in the fashion shows were up for the said 4-day event.
Fortunately, I passed by IKA BUTONI’S collection. At first, I got attracted by the delicate designs each dress had and when I looked up, it was her name in bold letters. “Wait! I got to thank them personally for the invite!”, I told myself.
September 1, I received an invitation to the fashion show. I emailed for the passes and I got a call for the confirmed number of people I’m going with. The woman on the other line asked me how to spell my surname. I was also interrogated of what I do, what’s my inclination to the event and what my website was all about. I was actually looking for something that I could (1) write about, (2) buy materials for gifts from my website and (3) to gain exposure, experience and inspiration.
It was such an understatement to say that fashion is a meaningless art like what Jim Carrey had thought of it.
My sister was doing professional ramp modelling and high fashion photo shoots and I was very proud of her. She was a living epitome that models are not just models. She was an Information Technology graduate of De La Salle University in the Philippines. Every now and then, she would vent out on how she hated people who generalised models as living mannequins only. I know a lot who are good entrepreneurs and members of world organisations. And like what the word actually means, “models”. It means they represent something.
They represent the stylists that along with my fascination with models, I admire very much. I like people who create and bring their ideas to life. Stylists bring the flavour to the arts the models bring to the catwalk.
I knew that Centerstage was going to inspire me in so many levels. You see, there’s something about attending conventions that I love so much. I get fresh ideas, you get more aware with yourself and your potential. You also get reconnected to the universe that deserves your attention.
And with this very thought, I aimed to interview some designers of their work, what inspired them and what they keep as their edge above the others. I was able to interview a handful. I was on my way to a late-call for work when at the remaining hour, I decided to check out the Brands’ collection line up.
SPILLED BEANS OVER COFFEE
Fortunately, I passed by IKA BUTONI’S collection. At first, I got attracted by the delicate designs each dress had and when I looked up, it was her name in bold letters. “Wait!”, “I whispered to myself, I got to thank them personally for the invite!”
As I reached their booth, the people were busy cleaning up. I thought that was because of the fashion show they just had earlier. I wasn’t very sure if I would get hold of the stylist herself but I took the chance anyway. One of Butoni’s staff was very kind to answer my query about how the inspiration for the collection had budded. By the time she was about to answer me, Ika walks in and tells her staff that she’ll just go for lunch. That was already 4pm.
IKA BUTONI, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
We got and she exclaimed, “Oh! You’re Ms. Toomalatai, the name I thought was remarkably unique!” I felt flattered and surprised at the same time because she asked what she can do for me when actually, what I wanted to know was, how I can help her. Since she gave me free invites to the event, I felt compelled to write about the experience.
I just asked her how she came up with this newest collection and she gave me “Let’s go have something to eat while I answer that.” Honestly, I thought it was such a humbling gesture from somebody who’s in the limelight to give me details personally about her line for the Brands’ Collection earlier that morning.
As I asked her what was the inspiration behind the release of the SS2018 Collection, she threw me back the question. “What inspires you as a writer? What is it that you find yourself writing about a lot?”. I answered her, “Lifestyle”, and she said, “I know that because I read about you. But, what inspires you to write them?” And I simply said, it depends on my mood, if I find something good, free and worth writing about, then I write. For a moment of silence, as she gestured with no words, her hands presenting my answer saying, “There you go.”, I understood perfectly what she meant.
This collection was more on her emotions. What she felt like doing at that moment and with her aim to create something, wearable, colourful and liberating was just the right representation of what she feels inside. Let’s take a look at the collection showcased last September 6.
As you can see the hats are like the hijab that Indonesians wear. This was my thought while I was watching the show. I thought the collection presented lovely materials that almost looked like sheer and satin to me. But I am not that well-versed when it comes to different kind of textiles but yet again, the Ika Butoni collection was a sight to see.
COOL THINGS I HAVE KNOWN AND LEARNED ABOUT IKA
Ika Butoni, born in Indonesia, hones her design from her heart that truly belongs to her roots. Her name, Ika, is Indonesian and Butoni is her married surname taken after her American husband. We exchanged a delightful conversation about her journey into becoming a big name in the fashion industry. Being a flight attendant before being a designer for 5 years, I learned that she worked in Europe for a couple of years. After gaining much experience, she was able to put up Butoni Limited with a business partner from the West and from there, the rest was history.
She shares some of her experiences as a parent and remarkably, she compared finishing a fashion show to giving birth. “It’s like, you are anxious, excited and worked up the whole time. Finally, when the time had come, you don’t know if you’re 100% ready but nature just gives way to it and the happiest moment of your life happens. It’s usually the moments right after everything was accomplished and done, when everybody is applauding your work. Just like when you give birth you know.”, with an expectation to be understood since we are both moms.
WHAT I ADMIRED MOSTLY
I admire her grace. She was very prim and poised eating her bowl of ramen. While I was sipping my coffee, I can’t help but get convinced that she was very beautiful with everything that she did. The way she talks, the way she covers her mouth with a table napkin when she snickers, and the way she pauses and looks at you as a sign of engagement and involvement while conversing. I appreciated it so much and it was very amiable. I know how talented this woman is but she is very humble and true that she shares about parenting, ups and downs of being an employee, unfortunate experiences and embarrassing moments.
Allow me to emphasise on how talented she is by giving you a glimpse of his affiliations:
|: Founder / Chief Designer|
|Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association
|: Senior Executive Committee|
|Bali Fashion Week
|: Founder / Organizer|
|Bali Export Development Organization
|Moda Bali Foundation||: Founder / Organizer|
HER COPING STRATEGY
Being in the business since 1980’s, she saw how the trend and the market had become volatile and unpredictable. One thing is for sure, mass production of retail stores disregards the potential of clothes. It became cheap and was not thought carefully to last. And what suffers? The environment big time when they all don’t get sold and becomes out of style. Of course the stylists who give importance to design, respects craft and carefully develops a product.
She started her company, the Ika Butoni Limited, during the early 1980s where she created with her bare hands. Conforming to clients’ orders meant taking them personally and meeting up with them for measurements, the fitting and the last stitch up. She is immensely amazed with how art had been readily available and accessible through the internet. She thought it was such a giveaway that it looked like opening your clothes straight for everybody’s entertainment.
IMMERSING THE PRODUCT ONLINE
She continuously adapts through research. Through it, she had found that the purchasing power of consumers is hand-held in the form of android and smartphones. It made her establish her website, her Facebook page. And using the data she gathered, she decided on making her designs visible to the media through youtube. She openly told me that her curiosity made her look up my name. And she complimented about my determination in giving handful information here and there through my website.
I lost my sense of time while reading and watching about her works, I came across this that is probably the collection I admired the most. Have a look and get inspired.
THE BIG HEART BEHIND THE BIG PERSONA
I asked her what’s next in line for Ika Butoni Limited. But she just wanted to take some time to fly the next day to attend to a former co-worker who had spent a lot of years side-by-side with her. From there, I knew the kind of heart she has for everybody. She is a determined but down-to-earth boss. She gives importance to the people who helped her get all of her creations out there and she pays tribute to the people who had supported her from the beginning. Moreover, she is a very open-minded person who is so true to her craft that she doesn’t mind giving away information about her source of inspiration.
Her words flowed out of her as smooth as a melting candle. She is full of tact and she is one remarkable woman. It reflects how mindful she is with people in general that is greatly expressed in her work.
Meeting people along the way is sometimes the inspiration we need in life. There are a lot people who will actually put us down. But you can’t let this hinder you from achieving your goals. Moreover, keep your ideas anew by rejuvenating yourself. Once in a while, feed your soul through experiences that you’ve longed to do or habits you want to revisit. Do painting, cross-stitching, star-gazing, have a hobby, whatever! Take your breath away by a good view after a hike. Take a walk with your loved one on one autumn night. Eat that chocolate mint sundae that you’ve deprived yourself with. Get inspired!