Michelle Alphonsa’s love for art and fashion has surfaced since a very young age. She loved to dress up, experiment with her mother’s clothes, observe fashion trends and was curious about how clothes were made. It may appear that pursuing a career in fashion design would come naturally for her. But there are challenges in the process that only the determined could survive and excel.
Opening the blue doors of Michelle’s boutique in Setiabudi, South Jakarta, you will find beautiful dresses hanging from clothing racks. Some are in bold colours like red, yellow and blue, but most are in subdued colours. Going further back, there is a spacious fitting room with a beige sofa set and a large mirror. The whole boutique’s ambiance is calm and classy.
“I’m a big supporter of intricate details. It makes the items look and feel luxurious,” says Michelle during the interview. That is why she focuses her design on luxury dresses. Her design is leaning towards the European style with a lot of laces, ruffles and heavy skirts. The beads are sewn to the dress one by one by trained hands.
Aside to craftsmanship, Michelle also values personalisation. Her most favourite project is designing wedding dresses because, “I really get to know each and every one of the brides. What type of people they are, what type of fabrics they like. It’s very personal, I love it.” The most challenging thing would be when a client doesn’t know what they actually want. But with her creativity and curiosity, she takes the challenge as a learning process of establishing her own fashion brand. And that has made it more of a fun activity for her.
Challenge in the fashion world is actually something that Michelle has accustomed to since she studied at London College of Fashion. She gained even more valuable lessons when interning at Alexander McQueen’s fashion house for two years afterwards. “I hardly slept while working there. I truly felt like I had no free time at that point. However, I learnt a lot while I was there, and honed many important skills. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything,” she says retrospectively. At that fashion house, she didn’t only learn about designing but also organisation skills and the importance of details, which she also needs as an entrepreneur.
Now Michelle Alphonsa fashion brand has been running for one and a half years. There is probably still a long way ahead to establish its name in the world’s fashion map, but Michelle is off on a good start so far. She has had clients flown from outside Jakarta, even outside Indonesia, like from the Middle East, just to place an order for a personally fitted dress.
Right now Michelle is preparing her third collection. It is still a secret but she promised it is going to be different than what she usually does. As far as collaboration goes, Michelle has worked with Indonesian accessories designers Ayyara and Le Ciel, photographers from Janji and Prov Production. She is open for more collaborations as she is developing her brand to be bigger, better and hopefully going international through red carpet events and fashion show.