When one sees a Peggy Hartanto cocktail dress, one might think a lot of flesh is being revealed in between cutouts. But an enthusiast of the label would know that the designer uses translucent fabric to keep the wearer comfortable, even in a sexy dress. That’s the kind of thoughtful consideration you might expect from a female designer.
Although the label has been established only for four years, Peggy Hartanto dresses can be seen at many of Jakarta’s exclusive parties, worn by the young and fashion conscious. The positive social response is matched with equally impressive industry achievements. Jakarta Fashion Week’s Indonesia Fashion Forward appointed her, and fellow local designer Patrick Owen, to represent their nation at the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival last year. Peggy Hartanto is available in eight countries, including Japan and the UK. The next goal is to expand into the Middle Eastern, European and US markets.
“Our cooperation with international stockists is under the wholesale system. We are truly honoured to have them believe in us,” says Peggy. “Thankfully, the response has been great and our stockists have placed repeat orders.”
While strengthening its international presence is on the year’s agenda for Peggy Hartanto, it’s important to note that the label has always been based in Surabaya, outside the capital Jakarta. This has been made possible by the help of social media. The designer’s official Instagram account, followed by over 50,000 fans, is a virtual diary where she shares updates on latest collections, creative inspirations and exciting activities.
Peggy shares online a recent art and fashion discussion she had with President Joko Widodo and fellow industry standouts at the Presidential Palace. A check of Instagram also reveals that many Australian fashion bloggers and even a few Hollywood actresses, including Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Amityville: The Awakening), have worn a Peggy Hartanto, all hashtag-ed #shewearsPH. Instagram also is a bank of inspiration for the designer, who admits to “scroll on Instagram feed vigorously every day” to keep herself updated on the latest on fashion and design. On top of that, the designer travels, watches movies and brings her sketchbook wherever she goes to never miss out on an idea that comes to mind.
In February, Forbes Asia launched its first “30 Under 30” list. Peggy was one of the names to be found in the Arts section, thanks to her “cutting techniques and material constructions in making chic and strong designs.” Also on the list with her were South Korean influencer Irene Kim and Japan’s Miss Universe contestant, Ariana Miyamoto. In May, Peggy Hartanto and her team attended the 30 Under 30 Summit in Singapore.
At the summit, they got to connect with over 250 young entrepreneurs and influential figures from across Asia. “The positive energy is overwhelming!” the team says of the business summit. One of the attendees which they got to encounter was Nicole Warne, one of the world’s most influential fashion bloggers.
Although Peggy Hartanto is a namesake label, the force behind it is made up of three close-knit sisters. While Peggy handles the label’s creative direction, her twin sister Petty (younger by 27 seconds) is in charge of marketing. Meanwhile, sister Lydia handles the business side of the label. “Of course we fight sometimes, and it can be really hard because we’re sisters who live under the same roof,” Peggy laughs. “But we know that no matter how hard a discussion is, we all have the same vision. As with every relationship, communication is key. We make sure everyone is updated on what’s going on.” The unity of the three sisters is apparent whenever Peggy talks about the label. She uses “we” instead of “I” at all times.
To keep up with the competitive fashion industry, Peggy maintains a very distinctive aesthetic. Each piece accentuates feminine curves, without being overbearingly revealing. The design is meant to make women feel sensual, but not overly revealing that they turn into objects of desire. In fact, its whimsical quality brings to mind a creature from Alice in Wonderland. “One of our dreams is when a woman sees someone wearing one of our dresses, she’ll say to herself: That’s a Peggy Hartanto.”
The simplicity of her approach is something Peggy inherited from her years in Australia. She studied at Raffles Sydney, receiving an Award for Excellence upon graduation, before working with Collette Dinnigan, one of the country’s most respected designers.
Within her simplicity lies a pursuit for the perfect fit. In fact, this is a quality that Peggy is most proud of about her creations. “Our style is minimalist, so it all comes to down to a well-fitting pattern. We believe that no matter how good a design is, what’s important is the perfect fit. In my eyes, outfits with a good fit will give the wearer comfort. In turn, this will boost her confidence,” says Peggy. “We follow a system to develop the collections. From the collage of inspirations, we do fabric sourcing, followed by sketching, pattern making and lastly, sample making before the collection goes into production. Pattern making is a major part of the process.”
The team realises that women in different regions have different body types. To cater to that, Peggy adjusts the measurement based on the growing numbers of customers. The effort pays off with positive feedback all around, and the growth of the collection. “From the feedback, we also learn that each region has different selection and preference in terms of dressing up. We also learn to adjust our measurements based on the customers of each market,” Peggy explains. “This process helps us develop the styles in our collections. When we first started, we had 11 styles for each collection, but our last had 50,” Peggy beams.
Another development for Peggy Hartanto is a concept designer boutique she started with fellow designers Toton Januar and Friederich Herman, and former fashion editor Jo Elaine. Named Ara, the minimalist boutique in Colony, Kemang stocks pieces by Indonesia’s rising names in fashion including Fbudi, Laison by Aurelia Santoso and Patrick Owen.
Things are looking up for this young designer, but that did not happen without some struggles. She recalls the day a month before her first runway show at Mercedes- Benz Fashion Week Australia 2011, when her mentor demanded a total redo of her collection. He told her that she had not pushed herself to her limits. “As a student living alone overseas, that was a very tough experience for me,” Peggy recalls. “But in the end, the result was very satisfying. That experience shapes who I am as a designer. To this day, it becomes a habit to ask myself over and over again: Is this concept or design good enough?”