Amanda Soekasah is the first muse to arrive for her Prestige cover shoot at Robby Agus’s studio in Kemang. Dressed in bright orange outerwear over an all-black outfit, she greets everyone with a cheerful smile.
“I’m working again with my mother. We’re going to launch her book on her 40th anniversary in the fashion industry next year,” she tells us. The 39-year-old entrepreneur reminisces about how she and her twin sister, Janna Soekasah, helped their renowned fashion designer Ghea Panggabean build her business.
Being Ghea’s muse comes naturally to her, Amanda says, as she and her sister have been their mom’s mannequins since they were little. “When an idea or inspiration strikes her, she needs to do it right away,” says Amanda. “A lot of times we had to stand for hours, and we would hate it because we had friends to meet or other things to do. Our house was also her office. I spent my childhood surrounded by fabrics, learning about traditional clothes and cultures. She’s deeply passionate about it.
“One of the first runway shows I remember was held at Pasaraya. That was the first time I walked on a runway, accompanied by a more mature model holding my hand. If I’m not mistaken, it was Ratih Sanggarwati.”
Her mother’s busy schedule once made Amanda promise herself that she wouldn’t step foot in the fashion industry “She worked very late. She went to Paris for Fashion Week and we didn’t see her for weeks. Of course, she never forgot about us. She always brought us gifts. Her busy lifestyle put me off it, but as I grew up fashion naturally became my passion. And now, here I am, working with her on a day-to-day basis! Janna and I have always so proud of her. We decided: who else is going to continue her legacy if not us?”
How has having a mother as a fashion designer influenced Amanda’s own sense of style? “There was a time when my mother liked to dress us in similar style. Everything, from head to toe, was the same. But when we started school, we liked to be different. We didn’t want to have the same style as our mother,” she chuckles.
“As I matured, I realised that my mother did influence Janna and me. We’re both into bohemian style, but I’m more casual while hers is more put together. I love any clothes with tribal motifs, and I do think that’s because of my mom’s influence.”
Ghea Panggabean has consistently championed traditional motifs and fabrics throughout her career. Says Amanda: “She was born in Rotterdam and during her childhood, she moved around between Holland and Germany. When she came back to Indonesia, she saw all these amazing colours. From there, she created clothes with traditional motifs, but with much lighter fabrics. There’s a story behind everything she creates. She needs to know every aspect of her collections, from the fabric to the jewellery.
“I feel blessed that I can identify traditional fabrics and distinguish the differences between regions, as I have been surrounded by them since I was a child. One of my favourite collections would be her Jumputan batik. I think it’s timeless, and it has so many variations and colours. It’s what got me, Janna and Wulan (Guritno) to create Gelang Harapan. We gather fabrics from my mother’s leftovers and make bracelets out of them. We sell the bracelets and all the proceeds go to cancer foundation.”
Amanda recalls working with Ghea in 2013. “We were invited by the Malaysian government to do a fashion show in Monte Carlo. Because of the strict budget, I was the only person who accompanied her on the trip. We had to do fittings by ourselves for 12 models. We had to steam all the clothes before the show started. But at the end of the day, we managed to do everything – just the two of us. And the best part of the trip? We met Prince Albert!”
How proud is Amanda of her mother? “Beyond words! She’s an independent woman. She raised me and Janna, and at the same time still succeeded as a fashion designer. I really look up to her, as she works hard consistently. Even today she shows up at the office every morning. She styles everything in her collections. No matter how big or small the show is, she treats it the same. For the clothes I’m wearing today, she prepared them herself last night, down to the accessories. That’s how hands-on she is. She treats everyone with respect, and that’s why she has so many close and loyal friends.”