“…if you are humble enough in your heart, knowing that you have so much to learn, you would want to explore more every day. You will always find a way to improve your designs, your skills and the quality of your work,” says Dian Purba Ratomo, founder of Ella & Glo accessories in an interview with Ajeng Anindita, on staying humble in the fashion industry.
Just like most people who chose to work in the fashion business, Dian Purba Ratomo has a deep passion for style. She wanted to complement women’s beauty by creating a collection of exquisite handmade shoes and handbags. The result was Ella & Glo, a label that has won plaudits for its style and high quality.
Dian believes that if we do something we love, we wake up every day with a sense of purpose, knowing that we are one step closer to achieving our dream. This means that when difficult times arrive, we will not give up because we are doing what we love.
Prestige caught up with this passionate, spiritual, charming, sporty (she enjoys scuba diving in her time off) and exceptionally talented mother of two on a sunny Friday afternoon in South Jakarta, where we conducted our photoshoot and interview sessions. Wearing her latest collection, a most impressive one that focuses on laser cut patterns on shoes and bags, Dian posed gracefully.
Ella & Glo came about, she says, because of her daughters, Cahaya Emanuella and Kirana Gloria. The name of her business is taken from their names. “My daughters are a big source of inspiration for me every day. I keep thinking of how to make women look even more attractive in their daily lives. I believe this is the reason for fashion, not to replace the beauty of God’s creation, but to support it. I also love it that the fashion industry allows you to be as creative as you can be in a world of so many shapes and colours.”
Ella & Glo started out as a shoe label, but last year Dian expanded her range by launching a bag collection. She sees a big opportunity in the market here for luxury handmade shoes and bags. There aren’t as many players in this segment of made-in-Indonesia fashion, as opposed to clothing. Ella & Glo has a brick and mortar store at Dharmawangsa Square and its own website (www.ellaglo.com). Ella & Glo bags and shoes are also available at Fashion Link in Senayan City and TStore Bali, and on powerful e-commerce websites like Zalora and Bobobobo.
“I think that to be successful today is to understand where the market is going and what the world is doing at the moment,” Dian says with great conviction. “More and more people are buying fashion online instead of going into the actual stores because of so many reasons, especially if they live in Jakarta. It’s not that easy to go from one point to another because of the traffic and what not. So I think the online business is the way to go, you know. And especially in the future, this is what the new normal will look like.”
While Dian doesn’t have a formal education in fashion, her background in finance and economics makes her a born business woman. Her love of fashion encouraged her to create her label. “The only challenge of not studying fashion that I can see is, sometimes I like to express myself and not think about what other people like,” she admits. “I can go overboard, but then I have to walk it back and remember that what I’m doing is not just pure art, it’s also a business.”
Separating the designer from the business woman inside her proved to be quite a challenge at the beginning. When she started out, she liked to explore her creativity and do whatever satisfied her. Along the way, as she learned more about the market, she became wiser. She learned to find a balance between being real and original and what her customers were looking for.
Dian says she wants women to feel confident when they wear her designs. “Feeling real is so important, because you feel more confident when you know you’re being real to yourself, being who you are. When they wear my shoes, they step out in confidence. When they wear my bags, they feel like they can go through the day, all day, and have everything that they need, yet also be stylish.”
Ella & Glo offers standard international sizing, making it easier to buy her shoes online. The website also boasts a helpful sizing guide. Online customer service is available via WhatsApp and email. The purchased products are available for exchange within a certain time to guarantee customers’ satisfaction. Ella & Glo also provide post sales service to repair its products from normal wear and tear. This is an indication of how much Dian cares about the quality of her accessories. Having launched her handbag collection last year, she hopes to quickly receive market awareness of it, as she did with her super stylish shoes that have sold more than a few thousand pairs.
So far, Dian says, the biggest challenge of running Ella & Glo is coordinating everyone in her team. Over the years, she has learned a lot about working with a group of people. “Designing is just one part of it. Then you have the production, the quality control, marketing and promotion and so on. Coordinating every single thing, so that everybody sees the same vision, shares the same idea – that’s not so easy.”
Her creative process starts with finding inspiration, which could come from anywhere. Then she gets together with her creative team. From there, Dian communicates their ideas to the production team. It’s a process that can be challenging from her perspective.
“All of our products are handmade, and to transfer your ideas to the people who actually make them is not an easy thing to do. We must have constant communication and clarity to be successful. And after production, of course, there’s quality control and the correcting of any mistakes. These happens sometimes because the products are handmade. But that’s the beauty of this method, too. Every piece is unique.
“What I have learned in this process is to stay humble. You don’t always know what you’re talking about, you don’t know everything – no matter who you are. So you have to listen to each other. Everybody has something to say and has something to contribute to the process. In the end, the strength of a chain is only the strength of its weakest link. That’s why together we have to be better, together we have to work hard every day.”
““You don’t always know what you’re talking about, you don’t know everything – no matter who you are. So you have to listen to each other””
Dian is an admirer of Tory Burch, the acclaimed American fashion designer and philanthropist. “She’s a mother and a successful business woman. I know that it’s not easy to balance these aspects in your life, because there isn’t one a woman can neglect. Every day, I need to be a mothers who nurtures her children, a business person who needs to run the company and a designer who needs to creatively produce designs.”
Dian’s proudest moment? Perhaps it was the first time she saw a total stranger wearing one of her designs. “Sometimes people buy things because they know the designer. But when, out of nowhere, you see this person walk by wearing your stuff, that’s it – that’s my proudest moment. It feels so real, you know, and I’m really proud when they wear it with confidence.” To add more to the list of the things she proud of, Ella & Glo has just won APLF Best Design Award in Ladies’ Footwear category in Hong Kong this March.
Does she have any words of wisdom for aspiring designers? “I think I’m still an aspiring designer!” she replies with a laugh. “But seriously, if you have that kind of mindset, if you are humble enough in your heart, knowing that you have so much to learn, you would want to explore more every day. You want to always make your designs better. You will always find a way to improve your designs, your skills and the quality of your work. So always stay humble and never think that you’re the best. Never look down on people, and just keep learning.”
Then Dian thanks us and heads outside, where her car is waiting. Next on her day’s agenda? To pick up her kids from school.
Photographed by Ryan Tandya / Styled by Lintang Hutami / Make-up by Dave Rio (62 813) 1715 1500 / Hair by Gilang (62 812) 9289 2212 / Styling Assistants Fitria Ayunisa & Salsabilla Asy-Syifa