Interview by Barbara Hahijary
While covering Sabbatha’s handbags for our May-June edition, we found out that the man behind the eponymous label has started to explore another stream in the innovated contemporary art domain. Sabbatha Rahzuardi, a handbag designer and artist, invites iD to his studio in Bali to see him in his surrounding.
Only a handful of people know that you also studied architecture and interior design in addition to being an economics major at Dauphine-Sorbonne in Paris. Considering it’s Paris, why architecture and not fashion?
Back then, I never thought of pursuing fashion as a career. I have been interested in architecture and interior designing instead, and after completing my economics studies, I wondered if I could be an architect or an interior designer one day, which was my dream.
How have your studies affected your designs now?
My circumstances living in Bali have led me to delve in designing handbags and accessories and the fashion business in general, instead of economic or commerce. I realize I don’t have the competence to cut like other fashion designers do. But when designing handbags, I see myself as if I am an architect. I know my materials and how to treat them, how to make the lines, making the in and out, volumes and such. For me, there is a notion about making something concrete when you’re making handbags, with the construction process and interior planning. So I treat this as a continuation of what I have studied. On the other hand, my economics background has played a significant part in building up and establishing the Sabbatha brand back in 2005. It has been such a gratifying journey to witness a consistent growth of the brand, particularly in Indonesia.
What drove you to become a designer and artist?
I’ve had the idea of returning back to Bali, Indonesia after graduating from France. Prior to my departure, I had expected to work in any of the French establishments based in the island. However, once I landed, I found myself working in Hyatt Bali. I thought that at the time, the hospitality industry had the most opportunities, but after only three months I realized that I’m not a corporate person. Then I worked more independently in a local advertising agency until 2004, before I started to create and become an entrepreneur.
I started designing handbags and accessories and sold them at a friend’s stores. One thing led to another and I was granted a golden opportunity to provide my designs and production to some European wholesale companies for two consecutive seasons. This was how I managed to acquire the capital to open my very first flagship store in Bali.
I was kind of astonished by how well people responded to my creation. They found that my design is innovative for its structural design and unique combination of genuine leather, semi precious stones and metal appliqués.
My clients come from all over the world but Bali remains an ideal spot as visitors from abroad are here to discover inspiring creativities, admire various art forms and seek for new shopping experience. As a long-time Bali residence, I wanted for people to buy that they can also proudly wear or use back home, ultimately creating a statement rooted in Bali, an island that has hatched many creative minds.
In March 2013, I started drawing simple patterns pallets. I posted them on Instagram and got an inspiration to use those patterns for something bigger. If I continue making flat two-dimensional patterns pallet, it’s kind of banal. So I started to learn how to make Origami – which we have been familiar with since our childhood. Today, my artworks have won awards and can be found in Nyaman Gallery. I’m now honoured to have them exhibited in Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana, from 9 June until 8 August 2016.
Walk us through your creative process.
I fold the origami papers into shapes such as swans, sea horses, cranes, etc. (To be honest, I learned everything from Google and books). Then I de-fold them, I draw the pattern and refold. I did this for several pieces before incorporating them into a platform, which I call Origami, 3D illustrations and architectural artwork pieces. I sprayed them with clear lacquer to avoid the colour from fading out. The finished products, such as “Splendid Lake of Indonesia” are always related to the splendour of Indonesian beauty because it is one way for me to show how proud I am to be an Indonesian.
What does your artworks mean to you?
My artworks are something unique, because I dedicate all of my passion and hard work into them. It is about moving forward fluently without any boundaries. My artworks are not categorized as neither a painting nor sculpture form per se, as they are a complex marriage of 3D-Origami, illustration and architecture artwork pieces. I prepare everything piece by piece before elaborating them into one cohesive artwork. This kind of eclectic artwork is new, not only in Indonesia, but also internationally.
Finally, I would like to tell you my serendipitous success story:
The first time I saw Indonesia Design was two years ago in Tugu Hotel Malang. My friends and I were making our way home from Mount Bromo through Malang, hence we stayed overnight at the hotel. I remember I saw the magazine while I was waiting at the lobby. I was flipping through the pages and I was whispering myself hoping that one day I would be in one of those pages. So here we are now! It’s gratifying that today my works are actually featured in Indonesia Design.