Even without any makeup on, Marsha Timothy looks stunning when entering the studio. The star of the critically acclaimed movie Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (2017) is dressed casually in a black dress and a pair of sneakers.
The 39-year-old actress is no stranger to the fashion spotlight. Having to attend numerous events in the entertainment industry, dressing up to the toes comes naturally to her. And one of her favourite designers is none other than the legend himself, Biyan.
“The first time I knew Biyan, I was in middle school,” Marsha recalls. “I think my siblings introduced his work to me. They adored him. I remember I bought my prom dress at the Biyan store at Pondok Indah Mall.”
So what does Marsha like so much about Biyan’s work? “I like his intricate detailing. The design might be simple, but if you look closely the details are amazing. The work he puts into it is beyond words. His designs really suit my style. He’s such a great artist, and throughout the years he’s been getting better. Every new collection amazes me. They’re just beautiful!”
Marsha reflects on a favourite Biyan dress she bought a long time ago. “I still have this black velvet dress with a slightly plunging back,” she says. “I bought it at his store and I think it’s timeless. I still wear it from time to time. That’s how much I love it.”
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Biyan Wanaatmadja is one of the most prominent high-end fashion designers in Indonesia. He started to produce his own designs in a small atelier in Surabaya. He launched his first clothing line, Biyan, in 1984 and followed this with his second line, Studio 133 Biyan, the following year. Biyan’s collections have been described as romantic, classic and sophisticated. He is a master of hyper-romanticism, famed for his embroidery, intricate beading and original silk prints.
“The first time I met him was four or five years ago,” says Marsha. “I thought I was really lucky to meet him in person, to pick what dresses to wear, to do fittings with him and to wear his designs. He’s a really nice person, very relaxed. I was nervous the first time I met him, but he turned to be really kind. He has a great team to support him.”
As a fan of his work since she was very young, Marsha thought becoming one of Biyan’s muses was quite unreal. She still couldn’t believe it when she told her husband, actor Vino G. Bastian “I ticked it off my bucket list!” Marsha laughs. “Every time I watched his shows I was in awe. It’s such an honour to be one of his muses now. He’s just that person who can make everything beautiful. It’s like whatever he touches, it turns to gold.
“I take great pride wearing Indonesian designers. Whether it’s for an event here or abroad, I would always prefer Indonesian designers to international names. It’s such a satisfying feeling to wear Indonesian designers on the international red carpet. If the international press knows who I’m wearing, it’s great – a moment of pride.”
“Marsha represents a classical beauty, she is demure and timeless,” says Biyan about his muse. Along with the premiere of Marlina, Biyan debuted his Humba Hammu (Beautiful Sumba) collection. The island in eastern Indonesia was the background of the movie. Marsha wore pieces from the collection for the film’s premiere in Indonesia and for a film-festival screening in Singapore.
For our cover shoot, Marsha wore two of Biyan’s kebayas: a beautiful maroon dress with gold embroidery and a white kebaya with batik culottes. “I don’t think we should wear the kebaya only for special events,” she insists. “Indonesians wore what we call traditional clothes for centuries, on a daily basis and not just for special days like weddings. I think we can definitely do that too today.
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“We can wear a kebaya when we go shopping. Why not? There are so many modern designs available nowadays, and you can definitely style it casually, maybe with jeans, for everyday wear. But to me, for special events, personally I would wear kain as the pairing. It looks authentic and it’s ‘very Indonesia’.”
“To still be relevant in the modern age, we need to bend the rules a little bit. Otherwise, maybe no women would wear it anymore and we don’t want our traditions to become extinct. There are a lot of ways to wear kebaya nowadays. You don’t have to wear the corset now, like our great grandmothers did. It looks beautiful, and we’re preserving our cultural heritage by wearing it.
“I think Indonesian fashion is progressing really well, and fast too! In the last 10 years, a lot young and talented designers have emerged. Meanwhile, the senior designers have kept going and are even better than before.”