A Thousand Islands United as One

Her name 'IKA' means “a thousand islands united as one”. Her designs allow others to get a glimpse of the rich Indonesian culture and beyond.
Indonesia-born, Hong Kong based fashion designer Ika, treats designing as a serious issue. “For me fashion design is not persay a career but a way to express myself day to day”. She said, “because Indonesians are so culturally gifted,  my colour sense has been enriched. My roots also contribute to my major strength in embroidery, which I use a lot in my collections.” She realized very early in her career that there is no alternative to hard work, while design is subjective to the viewer. Having reconciled to this, she discovered that there are successive layers of inspiration in creating a collection, thinking of herself as a spectator in the imaginary world. “I firmly believe that I draw inspirations from my travels and my interactions with people from different lands that help me to develop the basic ingredients of my creations sprinkled with constant research of fabrics, continual experimentations with new embroideries and staying abreast of new technologies.

I have always wanted to be creative and different in every approach to being artistic. The name 'designer' was not so important. Perhaps because in Germany where I started designing, designers were always called Stylist."
She left L’Estelle (a German fashion house) because of her mother saying that an Asian wife should not leave her husband for a job overseas. After working many years for L'Estelle, Ika left and started on her own as a make to order fashion designer service. Ika lasted 2 years, as she learned women prefer to be advised by a male designer/ tailor, not by a female. Ika left the job to do what she did best, designing for export. As soon as she decided to do this, the development accelerated.  Ika joined the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in 1985 for that year's Trade Exhibition. By 1990 her exports reached Europe. Currently with Fashion Trade Fairs and Fashion Shows twice a year in Hong Kong, Ika prides herself in being the longest lasting HKTDC designer taking part in their events.

She describes her work as the most beautiful and exciting aspect of her world. The emerging creativity and experimentation takes her to new heights of elaborate detailing and finishes by having lots of fun!!! The ultimate challenge is to take design to an elevated level, to keep stimulated and to complete the mindset in the world of realisation by involving challenging new technical embroideries and handworks.

Her bicultural existences have been a big influence because it opened her mind up to so many different ways of life. Evolving from the Indonesian culture, she has always wanted to explore the unknown streets of other cultures. Because of this, Ika is inspired by modern women who lead active busy lives, people in general with strong personalities that love life and nature.

Ika claims that the success of her company is due to the great team work, unusual designs that differ from the current trend, and adding accessories as final touches to the finishing of a garment. It’s an exciting process for her team to work in the Butoni 'fashion kitchen'. Since 2003, Butoni has grown tremendously. With her partner, John Keilman (from Holland), they work with scores of talented staff covering 3 floors, satisfying clients from all over the world. The range now includes a men’s wear collection, with the increasing demands for more designs.

When did you know you wanted to be in the fashion industry?
I loved painting/ drawing, yet I understood it would not be easy to be a painter. Therefore I channeled my creativity through designing clothes.

How long have you been in the industry?
Since 1979.

What is your role in the industry?
Chief designer of Butoni Limited. Senior Committee member of the Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association (HKFDA). Founder and organizer of the Bali Fashion Week (BFW). Founder of the Bali Export Development Organization ( BE-DO.Org)

Are you a Couture designer or RTW?

My line is touching couture, with active women of today in mind. Please check

What does fashion mean to you?
Commercialism. I do prefer to use art & culture when I design, rather than thinking fashion. Although in the end my 35 clients are promoting the collection, they become fashion line.

What is your inspiration?
Art and Culture of the world

Is there a theme or message in your clothing?
There are always messages accompanying my collection.

What makes your clothing/accessories unique?
The clothing/ accessories always involve handcrafts/ embroideries, ensuring the collection pieces created by empowering people throughout the third world nations.

Your target demographic?
Throughout the world.

Where can readers buy your clothing?
Depends on where they are located. Our importers' distributions are vast.

What are the materials you work with?
From naturals to synthetics, like chiffon, jerseys, satin, georgette, leathers, PU trimmings etc.

Color, patterns, designs, etc.
Changes by the seasons according to the theme/ mood of collections.

What is your favorite piece/item you have ever done?
I like all and yet, do not care to look back. I'm always ready for the new and unexpected.

What is your favorite fashion season?
None in particular.

How do you feel the recession has affected the fashion industry, if it has at all?
We are busier than ever. The past weeks were filled with buyers from Germany, Denmark, UK, Lebanon + Cyprus, Australia, Switzerland, France ( Paris + Nice ), Russia, USA. As these are time for developments of the Autumn-Winter 2012 collections.

What trend could you do without this year/season?
Handwork, piping, embroideries on leathers, jerseys.

What trend do you love this year/season?
Leather in python motifs.

Most loved designer/brand?
Jean Paul Gaultier, as he always based his creations on handwork.

What is your most beloved fashion item (accessory, shoes, clothing)?

Being an Indonesian born, Hong Kong based designer, do you feel American and Asian fashion tend to differ, and so how much? How you would you define your city's fashion?
With the economic depression happening in the world, American fashion designers are gearing for classic styles. Asian markets are much less affected, apart from floods tragedy happening to Thailand.
My fashion is with my own unique handwriting and without boundaries, therefore my clothing designs appeal to people from all walks of life.
Putting in minds that people in the world travel vastly, immigrate, emigrate etc. We find Asians in San Francisco and Vancouver. Chinese of Mainland China move to clothing industry cities in Prato, Milan, Paris. You'll find Norway, Hong Kong and Paris are full with Mainland Chinese tourists.

Another example: Many French sold their companies, and moved their families and business to Bali. Bali now has many shops opened by expats from Germany, Brazil, France, Italy, Japan and Australia, etc.

Do you market in the United States?
My clients some time ago sold my clothing designs to Nordstrom, Dillards, Denver Pizzas and numerous other boutiques across the USA. With the business downturn in the United States, I find end boutique buyers tend to buy based on how cheap they could get products, not based on the products quality and designs, therefore it's more difficult to sell to importers-wholesalers-boutiques. I'm looking forward to finding investors who have direct channels/ chain boutique owners to sell our collections.

What is the most memorable/favorite moments in your fashion career/history?
Every moment is precious, and I found it each time, like:
Openings of the Bali Fashion Week ( I founded this event ).
Walking down the catwalk with Fashion TV ( Michel Adam - owner ) waiting at the end of the runway with the biggest bouquet of flowers, and his Siberian wife Maria waiting at the other end holding another huge bouquet!

Having to never visit our buyers, yet to have all 35 buyers coming to my office to work with me on new collections.

Immediate order from NISSEN mail order magz in Japan, with quantity of 27.000 pieces of ensembles in 1988.

Immediate order from MADELEINE Germany 7000 pieces of beaded jackets in 1991.

Immediate orders from Carpi, Italy 2500 pieces each styles of 5 blouses in 1993.

Immediate order from Bologna, Italy 700 pieces/ style of beaded garments, totaling 7 styles in 1992.

To see young designers emerging from events I organized through the Bali Fashion Week.

Butoni Ltd.

20 Hillwood Road
8/F Kam Hing Bldg., TST
Hong Kong

Phone: +852-2724 1818
Fax: +852-2739 5597

Facebook: Ika Butoni



Fashion Writer Natalia Bondareva | Editor Stevn De Lozada



Personal Bio/Intro Courtesy of IKA BUTONI


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