Felicia Budi tells Prestige how 10 years in the fashion industry inspired her through the diversity of traditional fabrics and ultimately provoked the to work on something deeper than simply making clothes.
It’s been ten years since Felicia Budi launched her label, fbudi, to the public when she decided to change directions to custom designing. “I always try to respond to what’s going on in this industry,” she says, “and it’s just the right time to focus on custom-made. The reason is that, the way I see it, the fashion industry is destroying the environment and, actually, we don’t really need that many clothes. This is not just my own concern but several of my fellow designers feel the same. On the other hand, I want the clothes that I make to be more appreciated; to last longer.”
Today, Felicia has successfully launched five collections – A Minor, Windu, Anak, Tanah Air and Persegi – and gained recognition at Dewi Fashion Knights in 2015 and 2016. Her journey, however, began when she was 16-year-old. “I was in the middle between choosing to study sciences, since I love mathematics, or studying fashion. Then I got an offer to study pattern cutting at the London College of Fashion and I thought, why not? The opportunity was there and by the chance I was interested with the clothing construction,” Felicia recalls. She then spent four years in London, even though she confessed that studying in university at such a young age was quite a challenge. “I felt confused with what I was doing and somehow couldn’t find my ‘aesthetic identity’ as a student,” she mentions. “Everyone did the same and I was hungry for experience and exploration.” She managed to work with several fashion houses in London until one day she made up her mind, packed her bags and flew back home in order to find her true identity.
In Indonesia, Felicia landed a job at Bin House as a designer. Even though she only spent two years there, she gained a whole new perspective. “Bin House taught me a lot, especially about traditional fabrics. It was completely different from what I learnt in London which was meant to prepare student for the fashion industry,” she elaborates. “Fashion is seen as business there, but at Bin House it felt like home. The process is slower and the relationship between the employees are more like family.”
“During that time, I got the chance to meet with many artisans who make a living by making their own fabrics. From there, I started to learn to appreciate garments and fabrics because it is what Bin House is all about. It is a garment house,” Felicia continues. “Even Obin herself prefers to be referred to as a fabric master who makes clothes instead of being known as a fashion designer. The process of designing at Bin House always starts with the fabrics. I think that’s why my design process always starts with the exploration of fabrics. Old habits die hard.”
Exploration has always been what Felicia lived by and which then inspired her to establish fbudi. “I wanted to express myself better, which I couldn’t fully do when working under someone else’s fashion house,” she points out. “I know it wasn’t easy, but it was a learning process. Having a fashion label goes beyond than just doing business; it is a platform where I can explore what I’m curious about with textile as the medium.”
In short, Felicia sees fashion as a medium of self-expression. Although to that, she adds: “To be honest, I rarely write down what message I want to deliver. Like a river, exploration and expression are things that continuously flow. Through fbudi, I want to share my works and create creative dialogues with people. Hopefully, those who see my work can realise that some things can work in different ways and creativity is something that is very fluid. I love when people start to question my work, give feedback and basically react towards my work. That’s where creativity is at play. Also, with fbudi, I want to contribute to society and the environment, especially to local artisans through collaborations”.
Now, as we touched upon earlier, when it comes to her creative process, Felicia has quite a distinct approach. “I rarely work with sketches because for me it’s just a medium to communicate. Sketches can be useful to explain how the clothes look like to the client, as well the tailor. But in the past, I rarely sit down to imagine an entire collection and create sketches. I usually just work directly with the fabrics. Looking at the fabrics gives me inspiration. After adjustments and trials, I continue to the next step.”
“With fbudi, I try to communicate about circular fashion, where our products are intended to be used and then circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form” – Felicia Budi”
Since fabrics and textiles play a major part in Felicia’s designs, there are a number of factors that she carefully considers before making a choice. “The fabric has to be comfortable and suitable for its purpose,” she elaborates. “I usually hear out what the clients need and then ideas start developing in my mind. Silk and linen are my favourites so far, but it depends on the request. I always try to use locally-made fabrics, especially by local artisans. Unfortunately, it can’t be 100-percent local yet as some fabrics still need to be imported.”
Fashion for Felicia has to be sustainable. “Speaking of sustainability, it doesn’t always have to be about the environment,” she explains. “We can’t see it from just one angle because there are multiple layers to it. There are social and economic aspects that follow. This is important because it’s all about continuity. Our life is all about a continuous cycle and it’s selfish when we only think about ourselves, because we are all connected with each other. So, when bad things happen around me, I will also be affected. With fbudi, I try to communicate about circular fashion, where our products are intended to be used and then circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form.”
“We need to change the mindset of taking resources, making something, wearing it and then throwing it away as waste. What we’re aiming for is to change the end of that cycle so that it can continue to be something useful. We don’t always need to buy or take new resources. The longer we extend an object’s lifetime, the better it is because we contribute to the reduction of fashion waste that has already become too much,” Felicia expresses. “Another way of being sustainable is by working with local artisans. We have so many good resources in this respect and it’s unfortunate if we don’t take the extra time to explore them. Collaborating with them is also a way to help local economies.”
In pursuing sustainable design and circular fashion, Felicia is faced with various challenges along the way, but none have stopped her. “It’s a matter of seeking balance. I always try to stay in the middle, even though there are things that must be compromised on. I can’t just think about the environment and social aspects as I also have to take into account the economy and business aspects to keep fbudi going.”
Speaking of which, while times might be tough at the moment, business is starting to get busier for fbudi. “Clients are starting to ask for custom-made designs because events are starting to be held, especially wedding ceremonies,” Felicia says. “We are also involved in several collaborations with the communities of low-cost apartment buildings to make face masks using patchworks from our production.”
“It turns out that the response was great because it’s really useful,” Felicia continues. “In my opinion, this is the right time to change. We can’t expect things to work the same way they did. The fashion industry should show more empathy with what the people need the most. I wish the fashion industry could rise again, but at the same time, it’s just sad to see the how the system works.” Then she concludes: “When people ask how we can stay in business, I think the mindset has to change from only focusing on making something new to offering a service. We can do redesigns, upcycling and so on, because for me, as long you have the skills, it can be applied to any platform.”