The Brilliant Beauty



Q: You’ve been in the industry for a long time, how did you come to develop a passion for and get into the fashion industry?
It was a long-time dream. Fashion retail has always driven me because I love beautiful things – exquisite, gorgeous products. It was only natural that in 2007 I developed the Farah Khan brand, it was a natural progression because I saw a need for quality, embellished dresses. A Farah Khan dress is embellished by hand by Southeast Asian artisans and travels really well. That’s what inspired me to create my own line.



Q: What are the highlights in your career so far?

A: Well, there’ve been quite a few. As president of The Melium Group for the last 27 years, defining the group’s position as the leading purveyor of fashion, luxury and lifestyle brands has been the main focus; but highlights would have to include bringing to this part of the world incredible brands like Roger Vivier, Tod’s, Givenchy and Alaïa, to name a few. To Bali and Indonesia specifically, it has been great growing the Farah Khan label – 10 years in the fashion landscape this year. And opening the Group’s boutique mall Seminyak Village in Bali, which houses the only MCM store in all of Indonesia, is definitely a mark of distinction.



Q: Where do you draw inspirations for your design?
Quite literally from art, architecture and my many travels. Design is informed by experience and I make it a point to travel to be refreshed – be it Europe or Asia. I can walk into an art gallery and return to my design team buzzing with new ideas and then we sit together and talk about them and from there integrate colours and silhouettes. It’s a wonderfully rich, collaborative process but the spark is certainly travel. As former editor Diana Vreeland once put it: “The eye has to travel.”


Q: When it comes to designing, how do you maintain your identity while bringing in fresh ideas and new innovations?
Well, I work with a great team so it’s always a collaboration, the nuances are there in every design and collection.



Q: What are some of the most memorable moments in your career?
I could say showing in Windsor Castle for the Islamic Fashion Festival in 2014, raising RM3.55 million in a night for Melium’s 25th Anniversary Charity Auction, and being conferred the Ordine Della Stella Solidarieta’ Italiana 2007 (Italian Star of Solidarity Order in 2007). But the truth is that the most memorable moments revolve around the incredible people I’ve met on this journey: the principals, the patrons and the people I work with.


Q: What about the biggest challenge you’ve come across and how did you overcome it?
In business there are always challenges. Nothing is easy, nothing is handed to you on a silver platter. There are market forces and global politics to contend with. So I’d say the biggest challenge is one’s mindset. To remain focused on the bigger picture and to challenge the people on your team to do the same.  The biggest challenge is one’s own mind.



Q: Your brand is known all over the world, including in Indonesia where it has become a favourite, particularly in Jakarta and Bali; could you share what you think about the fashion scene in Indonesia? And maybe some hopes you have for the industry in the country?
Indonesia is a fantastic place for the Farah Khan brand because the women of Indonesia truly appreciate quality and attention to detail. This is already a function of the Farah Khan ready-to-wear line, but more so with our couture label as it requires far more time and effort – making a couture piece can take anywhere up to three months from the moment of first meeting, measuring and exploring silhouettes. It’s such an intense process and it has received a great welcome both in Malaysia and in Indonesia, and – we are hoping – in the region. In fact, May 2017 sees a very special couture show in Jakarta in an intimate and exclusive setting, and we are really anticipating that. It’s very exciting for my team to see a decade’s work result in this.



Q: What do you imagine yourself doing if you hadn’t started a career in the fashion industry?
A: Certainly something creative, I think. I’m the sort of person who needs to be challenged! I thrive on exciting projects, newness and excitement. Fuelled by my limitless passion for what I love. After all, spending so much of our time at work, isn’t it fundamental that we are inspired by the work we do? 


Q: Do you have any future goal – professional or personal – that you would like to share?

A: I can see myself being involved in sustainable projects. Right now I am so very inspired by the work of my friend Atmadja Tjiptobiantoro, who started the Kaliandra Sejati Foundation in Malang, which supports the local community through sustainable development. The foundation ensures the conservation of local culture and encourages farmers to farm organically.



Q: Any future project that we can look forward to?
They are just in inception stages, but certainly a part of my focus is to ensure the success of Seminyak Village here in Bali. The Village is close to my heart, because Bali is. We wanted to curate a range of international, local Balinese and foreign designers in one space that would allow cosmopolitan travellers a beautiful, curated shopping, dining and lifestyle experience. There are so many gems to discover in Seminyak Village. From the gorgeous Spring Spa on our rooftop that’s like a little oasis, to chef Will Meyrick’s Tiger Palm. From Indonesia Emporium that hosts beautiful Balinese crafts and souvenirs, to Essensuals Bali and its tribe of avant-garde hairstylists. Designed by Fredo Taffin, the man who gave us the iconic KU DE TA, the minute you walk into the naturally lit space, replete with skylights, greenery and wood-panelled floors, you can’t help but fall in love a little. It’s truly refreshing and not your generic mall. Seminyak Village is for the well-travelled global nomads who appreciate the best things in life.



Q: Last but not least, what advice would you give to new, young designers trying to make a break in the industry?
It is as simple as this: Love what you do, work hard, and be patient. Have integrity in your dealings – that’s the only equation for success in almost anything you do. I like the energy of international designer Ashley Isham and Italian Milo Migliavacca, whose boutiques are in Seminyak Village. They just make things happen and that’s what young people should do: make things happen!