We sat down for a virtual chat with Friederich Herman about his namesake brand, staying true to ideology and the traits of a good fashion designer.
For Friederich Herman, designing a collection is not about trends but rather on how women want clothing to make them feel. It’s a game of intuition, if you will. Ever since he was a child, Herman has always dreamed of making a living through drawing; but for a long time, he didn’t know what kind of profession would allow him to do so.
He started drawing when he was two years old and his bedroom walls became his first canvas, much to his parents’ dismay. Young Herman wanted to work as an animator but somehow ended up studying fashion even though he knew nothing about it back then. When he was younger, clothes were really just about what fit, because he was very tiny but very peculiar in what he wore. So, Herman understood fit before he understood style.
Hi Friederich, thank you for having us. How are you and how are you coping with the pandemic?
Thank you for having me! Having been in my home for more than five months now with more time to spare, sometimes I just let myself soak up this moment of solitude and do absolutely nothing. I’m also trying to get off the Internet and read more – I’ve managed to finish two books front-to-back this week, something I’ve never done pre-pandemic.
Can you tell us how you first got started in the fashion industry?
Right after graduating in 2011, a friend of mine suggested that I participate in Lomba Perancang Mode Femina. I looked it up online and found out that the deadline for submission was only three days away, so I did everything in two days and submitted my work on the very last day. I eventually ended up as first runner-up and showcased my first collection in 2013.
How can you best describe your designs?
My design is all about classic silhouettes that are a little bit nonchalant, effortless in attitude, but I want every piece to be strong – it must have a point of view, a reason to be. My version of luxury is a little less stuffy; it’s more casual but I understand the craft and respect the artistry. It is also a very measured, yet almost ironic balance of minimalism and maximalism; like, how in this current spring/summer season we mixed soft, powdery pastels with masculine, oversized silhouettes and implemented exciting details like a dash of cerulean blue, an attached corset over relaxed short-sleeved blouse, or an industrial take on button closures.
Your designs always have that classic tailoring but with a unique twist on every piece. What is your thought process on that and why do you choose that approach?
I reference a lot of modern art in my designs, which always inspires me to push the boundaries of form and colour. I don’t like to think about trends when I begin a season, but rather, I like to design to my intuition on how women want clothing to make them feel. They feel very connected with what they wear, and they want to feel modern and creative and clever, and my clothing needs to reflect this. So, my focus is always on making pieces for customers who are passionate about the world and love interesting proportions and mixes of colours and styles that are modern but still effortless and functional.
How would you describe the women who wear Friederich Herman?
I want my brand to speak to women who are bold and nonconforming. Women who live a passionate life. They seek effortlessly stylish, often minimal and always unfussy clothes that blend seamlessly into their wardrobe, in quality fabrics and with a throw-on-and-go ease that can be worn day in, day out, time after time.
I don’t think our girls are spending too much time in front of the mirror as well. So, I guess their main priorities are really not about fashion itself but those little nuances in cuts and how they can wear a piece of clothing, how the fabric moves and reveals. They are not defined by how others see them, they feel empowered however they dress, whether more modest or revealing. A hemline does not define a woman and it should not define how others see her.
How do you stay true to your vision and ideology?
Every fashion designer will tell you: the multifaceted aspects of running a brand as a business – it’s hard, relentless, and involves so much more than designing and producing clothes. To this day, I feel like I’m still learning something new every day. But I would have to say that one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned is to stay true to myself is to always follow my instincts. It can be challenging when so many people are giving you so many different kinds of advice. Therefore, for me, it’s very important to listen to yourself and not lose sight of what you are always trying to do.
“I would have to say that one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned is to stay true to myself is to always follow my instinct.” – Friederich Herman
At the time when I started my own brand, the local luxury fashion scene was still pretty much dominated by evening gowns with heavy embellishments. It was the polar opposite of my minimal aesthetic and, without learning the confidence to stick to my own style, I might have been tempted to adapt and follow suit. I felt like I needed to stick to my guns and do what I am good at because I often feel like fashion can be so isolated from the real lives that real women live every day. Real women play multiple roles in their lives: they need to go to work, they have children to look after, and at the end of the day they also want to have dinner comfortably and still feel great about themselves. I want to contribute to that ritual. In the past, designers often expressed themselves in terms of a fantasy: how women should look and not how women feel. I was interested in creating something that people can actually wear in their everyday life.
In your opinion, what are the traits that a fashion designer must possess and what part or parts of fashion design do you feel are you the strongest in?
For me, the most important thing as a fashion designer is to have a very strong point of view that you can evolve each season. As a young designer, I like to think of myself as a contemporary experimenter: I have one eye on what’s fashionable at the moment, and the other on what is coming next, and balance them out with a strong feeling for basics-like proportions.
Tell us about your latest collection: What was the story behind it and how does it continue from one collection to the next?
This collection is a natural progression from the previous season’s. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of retro-futurism and took inspiration from nostalgic references to a time when people in the past tried to imagine on how life would be in the future, their idea of utopia, and their interpretations on how human in the future dress. This collection aims to capture that feeling of expression and play in a time before the modern technology that we know exists.
The main ideas for the silhouette are the contrast between restrained tailoring with an unexpected contradiction, and the idea of elevated uniform dressing with a hint of rebellion. Utility finds its way in day and evening silhouettes. My personal favourite are the two-piece dresses and skirts that can be layered together for extra oomph or removed for understated cool. Outerwear are bold and oversized but powerful and unexpected in their exaggeration. Elegant and pragmatic staples. Loungewear refined; workwear elevated.
Would you consider creating a menswear collection one day?
I hope our brand will grow into a contemporary lifestyle brand for womenswear, menswear, accessories and even homeware. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities, but I want to make sure we take considered steps forward so that we grow in a responsible and thoughtful way.
What do you think about the Indonesian fashion industry today?
Local fashion enthusiasts are nowadays more open-minded to try new things and not just focus on big-name brands, which is good. But at the same time, I would hope that the people’s attitudes towards clothing would change and that they begin to invest in pieces that will last a long time instead of clothing that will only last a few wears, albeit local-made. That’s where our brand values lie.
We learned that you moved back to Malang a few years ago. Why not stay in Jakarta?
I find big cities very inspiring but they’re too intense. For me, smaller cities like my hometown have the right balance between work and life.
So, what are your plan for the rest of the year?
After five straight months of staying at home, I’m looking forward to a two-week getaway to Ubud in October. Most will probably travel by car this time around. I love a long drive while listening to a podcast with my good friends, and lots and lots of snacks in the car. We are also in the middle of renovating our studio in Malang, which is designed with an eco-conscious perspective in mind. And I’m excited that I get to have my dream semi-private corner in the studio as well. I love getting to the studio very early before anyone else to catch up on emails and maybe work on some admin stuff.
PHOTOGRAPHER Ryan Tandya
MODEL Laras Sekar from Balitar