Art / Design / interview

Diana Putri: Couture Connoisseur

Diana Couture is a Surabaya-based brand by Diana Putri, the celebrated Indonesian designer who was named "Best Designer" at Couture Fashion Week New York in 2015. Diana is one of the most sought- after couturiers in the country and has dressed Hollywood celebrities ranging from Nikki Bella at the 2016 Golden Globe Awards to Carrie Underwood to Ashanti. Diana's designs feature simple yet form-fitting silhouettes with intricate techniques that culminate in feminine elegance and an edgy flair. Flamboyant but not weak, sexy and classy; Diana's work is a reflection of herself. iD had the chance to converse with the lady who single-handedly put Surabaya on the global fashion map through her endeavours.

Photo by Reinhardt Kenneth

Why design couture?

I actually have a ready-to-wear brand as well, DC by Diana Couture. However, with couture, I feel more challenged in the design aspects. Couture is the art of designing a one-of-a-kind garment, which definitely is a challenge to turn ideas into not only a beautiful artwork, but also a wearable masterpiece.

In designing wearables, how much has Indonesia inspired you?

Indonesian culture has been a big inspiration for my designs. However, there has to be a balance to determine whether or not a garment is wearable enough to be a Diana Couture piece. The characteristics, colours and the symbolism of Indonesian culture are constantly used in my collections. As an example, my international award-winning collection “GARUDA” holds a very rich exploitation of Indonesian culture with its Garuda bird, but the imagery had to be very chic. It had to compliment the female body and be more abstract than just a blatant image. I also decided to use hand-made embroidery, laser-cutting and digital printing instead of traditional fabrics from the collection to give it a Western vibe combined with Eastern imagery.

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Tell us what it was like to win accolades from the New York Couture Fashion Week for your Spring/Summer 2017 collection.

God has changed my life since that day. One day I got a call saying that I had been secretly curated to participate in Couture Fashion Week New York. I was anxious and not con dent, but my family had my back and supported me to go participate. My son gave me the idea for “GARUDA”, since the design had to reflect an aspect of Indonesia. There were millions of obstacles and reasons for me to quit, but I kept on going until the fashion show was done. It was a thrilling experience filled with tears, adrenaline and creativity and it was all worth it. I knew there was a “Best Designer: award but never really aimed for the award. Eventually I got it, which I believe would have never happened without the grace of God. The rest is history and is still ongoing. My life as a fashion designer and creative director of Diana Couture has changed. I’ve been blessed enough to dress not only Indonesians, but also international Hollywood celebrities.

As a fashion designer mom, do your kids get styling tips?

Of course I want my kids to be as stylish as I am. When something doesn’t look good or mismatches in their outfits, I will recommend that they try something else, but I don’t want to direct and dictate what they wear. I want to make sure they have fun with fashion and discover themselves through the style that they feel most comfortable with. As long as they’re happy with what they’re wearing, I support them.

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Who’s your favourite designer?

Definitely Donatella Versace. SheÕs a true genius and Versace became better and better with her running it. ItÕs very sexy and chic with a touch of artistry that no one else has come up with. I’m a big fan of her work.
What’s your biggest inspiration?

My mother’s hard work ethic has been very inspiring for me. Fashion-wise, I’ve been very inspired by strong female figures throughout the history. My collections might take drastic turns, but one thing is for sure, they will always embody strong and independent, con dent women.

How has Diana Couture changed since its start?

It has definitely changed, and I hope it’s been an improvement for the good – most definitely in the couture collections, which are the garments that truly represent my preferences and idealism. Years ago, Diana Couture didn’t even have collections, as I was a custom-based brand. My designs used to be a lot more conservative and were made to appeal the Indonesian masses, i.e., princess-like gowns with a lot of girly details. While I still do a lot of custom pieces, people respect my idealism a lot more nowadays.

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Has the industry changed?

Fashion used to be a dream for many. When I was young, parents didn’t trust that a job in the arts would take their children far in life. It was seen as an underpaid and insubstantial work. It was definitely hard for me as a young girl to be a part of the fashion industry, which is why I started so late-at 36. However, the times are changing. Nowadays, parents are very supportive of their children who want to be designers. With social media, anyone can be a part of the fashion industry that used to be so “exclusive”.

Would things have been different if you had started earlier?

I wanted to start earlier, but I believe that everything happens for a reason. At the end of the day, I’m also a wife and a mother to my husband and my children. I am a wife first, a mother second, and a fashion designer third. If I had started earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to witness my children get older as beautifully as they did in their “golden years”. It’s never too late. God has planned everything to flourish in it’s own time.

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