Jean Claudia tells Ajeng G. Anindita how Bali’s magic has put her under its spell, inspiring her to build an eco-conscious resort, which will be named Eskape, on the island of Nusa Penida.
Jean Claudia is a busy young woman. At the age of 25, she’s juggling a full-time job as a Content Strategist at Bobobobo, one of the country’s leading fashion e-commerce companies, while also developing an eco-conscious resort in Bali in partnership with a group of friends. In addition, Jean has become something of a social media personality in her own right.
Being pulled in different directions, her days are usually packed and her schedule really tight. Prestige was quite lucky, then, to have Jean commit to an all-day photoshoot at Softball Field in Gelora Bung Karno, South Jakarta for this month’s Cover Story. Outdoor shoots with the sun glaring overhead do tend to be exhausting, but Jean proved to be a true professional. She didn’t seem to mind the heat as, moving from one outfit to another, she posed gracefully in front of the camera.
In the midst of her busy life, she still manages to slip in morning workouts before going to work. It’s her way to de-stress. “It really does help me to tone everything down, give myself a breather and a little relaxation,” Jean says. “I also love to spend a weekend outside of the city now and then, because you know how it can get overly congested here. And I feel that I need to get out to be inspired and feel stimulated again.”
Jean graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in 2017, having studied Merchandising and Marketing as well as Business Administration and Management. She recalls: “When I was a kid, I wanted to work in fashion – hence the education at FIDM. But it all started because of one movie, The Devil Wears Prada (starring Meryl Streep as an Anna Wintour-like character). “I was obsessed with that movie! I love clothes, seeing them and buying them. So I thought, what would be the most suitable job for me? Seeing the movie, I came to the realisation that I wanted to pursue fashion as a career. In high school, knowing that I couldn’t really draw, I decided that I should focus on studying the business side of fashion.
“You may start off somewhere, but you will never know where life takes you. You could end up at someplace you have never given a thought to in the first place. So my advice is to open your heart and mind to any possibilities and chances that life may offer you.”
Having lived in the U.S. for more than six years, when Jean moved back home it really opened her eyes to how Indonesia was so geographically rich, blessed to have so many beautiful islands with exceptional marine life. She thought about how she could create a business that would give back to the country through what she had learned and experienced while she was abroad. It was not until a few years ago, when her partner introduced her and took her to Nusa Penida, an island southeast of Bali, that she finally found the answer.
“I remember meeting this group of young kids, probably of middle school age, who sat down with us on a wooden bench overlooking Kelingking Beach to watch the sunset. We chatted and I was touched by their innocence. Connecting with the village kids was an incredible experience for us. We were inspired and motivated by the ideas it created to invest in a neighbouring island that we saw could be an extension of what Bali currently is.” She looks back with wonder in her eyes.
From Jean’s fascination for travel and creating a getaway from the city was born the idea of creating a sustainable business that would be impactful to the community of Nusa Penida. It was to develop Eskape, a resort and F&B outlet, in an ecological fashion that would not only provide people living on the island with jobs, but also give back to the environment and at the same time offer guests amazing travel experiences. “Hopefully by the end of this year it will be complete,” she says.
Eskape’s design, both the resort and the F&B outlet, are inspired by Balinese architecture and are being built using local materials. The resort is located on the cliff of Kelingking Beach, overlooking the famous T-Rex landscape with unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean. The team has added a contemporary twist to it with a view to creating a unique fusion between the two worlds. Some of the design work is dynamic, exciting and, of course, very Instagram-friendly. “I’m just going to give you a little hint, think about living above the canopy or treehouse,” Jean says cryptically.
Now that Bali has banned plastics, Jean is following suit by aiming for a zero plastics policy in the vicinity of the resort. She is also developing a waste management system to make Eskape a fully self-sustaining establishment. Moreover, a portion of the resort’s income will be contributed to the island’s conservation efforts to save animals, such as the turtles, manta rays and Bali starlings, to name just a few.
“I think a lack of public awareness is what limits the understanding of how important it is to be environmentally conscious,” Jean says. “From excessive water usage to single-use plastics and non-degradable trash piling up in landfills, that’s where we come in. We want to focus our contribution where it’s heavily at stake and needed, especially in Bali and surrounding islands in which marine lives are a lot more affected.
“I think saving the planet goes beyond just donating money to conservation efforts. It means being more active, perhaps taking part in an organisation.” Claims Jean, talking about what we can do more in this climate crisis. After all, the crisis has happened because of human beings’ excessive lifestyle for hundreds of years, without thinking that we only have one planet to live on. So it makes sense that we should change our lifestyles.
“We can start just by making small changes that affect the environment in a good way, like bringing your own water bottles when travelling or going to work, drinking without plastic straws or use alternatives, such as stainless steel straws. It is also nice to invest in a nice reusable grocery bag that will not only last longer but also looks good. Sometimes, small actions like these can already create impactful results in the end.”
Drawbacks and challenges will come up, no matter what we are doing. Jean admits that her project is immense. She has to contend with matters such as reviewing endless proposals and contracts in multiple languages that she does not understand. At the same time, she has to report her progress to her partners as well.
She has to do countless revision of drawings that might end up stretching the project’s timeline, while managing logistics such as material transportation, which she describes as a nightmare, since it is a constant issue when building a project on a secluded island. But all in all, she is grateful to have assembled a team that could help her brainstorm and find solutions to each problem.
“I cannot stress too highly the importance of maintaining good communication between team members when facing problems, and how it’s also important to remain calm in the middle of stressful situations,” Jean says. “Those are the two areas I find most helpful in dealing with many of the work problems that crop up.”
Moving on to lighter topics, Jean told us some of her travel stories. One of her most memorable moments which was when she was hanging out with the village kids. While they were snorkeling, they were surrounded by six mantas.
“Seeing these creatures for the first time, just a few inches away from me, was magical,” Jean recalls. “Also, attending the Balinese Ngaruak Ceremony blew my mind. These moments made me fall more and more in love with this country’s rich culture and what it has to offer. It really shaped me to become a person that appreciates the important little details in life that I had never considered before. To realise that happiness can come from the smallest things. It made me feel whole in spirit, mind and body. I feel like the Bali magic has put me under its spell.”
Jean surprises us when she admits that she has a fear of heights. “I’ve always wanted to do bungee jumping or sky diving. Maybe just simply going to Six Flags, basically anything that involves overcoming my fear of heights. I will check back with this bucket list, most probably when I’m 50 and experiencing mid-life crisis,” she laughs.
Where does Jean see herself in 10 years? Her answer: “I can see myself opening other eco-resorts somewhere in the world, joined by my family and close friends. I could also be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my company surrounded by people I dearly love on a secluded island somewhere, or just chilling out on the beach in Tulum or the Caribbean.”
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