Teen designers make their own cut
Evi Mariani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Filda Fibriani, now 18, started her own business at the tender age of 17. Beginning with one sewing machine, she now runs a boutique while finishing her studies at a vocational high school.
She is one of those rare teenagers who has known exactly what she wants to be at an early age, and has chosen to follow her dream instead of following the well-worn route of high school, then college.
This year, Filda is planning on expanding her modest boutique after graduation.
"Right now, I'm working alone. But I hope I can hire employees to meet orders after I graduate from high school," Filda told The Jakarta Post.
She bought her first sewing machine with the savings she made from making dresses.
"I live at my auntie's house. She has a sewing machine that she let me borrow."
Filda specializes in Muslim dress, although she also accepts orders for other kinds of garments.
Born to a family of seamstresses, she attends a state vocational school in Bogor that has a sewing and fashion designing class.
Voted best student of the class, her teachers entered her in a fashion competition early this year organized by German cosmetics producer Nivea and the German Garment Training Center.
There, she won first prize in designing corporate outfits for Nivea.
Radot Marpaung, fashion editor at Canting magazine, lauded Filda's designs -- which were elegant, yet functional -- for their "brilliant color combination".
"Filda grasped the philosophy behind the products," he added.
Radot said although the second-place designer's creation was more unique than Filda's, the jury decided to give the first prize to Filda.
"Uniforms should be easy to mass produce, so the design should not be too sophisticated," he commented after the competition.
The first-prize winner for casual and party outfits was Devi Kania, voted best student of a state vocational high school in Cimahi, Bandung, West Java.
Both Devi and Filda will finish their high school degree this year, following a three-year course in dress-making.
"We have learned how to sketch our designs, design patterns, cut fabrics in several different ways and of course, to sew -- by machine and by hand," Devi said.
"To pass the first year, we had to make a skirt from scratch in only two hours," she said.
The most difficult part about making good quality clothes, she continued, was fitting the clothes for a customer.
"We have to do some altering by hand to make the clothes feel comfortable for the customer," she said.
Although Devi does not yet have her own boutique, she also wants to start one some day.
"After high school, I will study at German Garment Training Center for six months," she said.
Filda and Devi both received a scholarship to the center, as well as a free trip to a garment center in Ho Chi Minh City, to meet other young designers.
While the two women might not become the next Donna Karan, but at their young age, they have already achieved a certain level of success -- perhaps a sign of further creations to come.