Wanda Ponika wanted to be a fashion designer when she was young. At the age of 17, she was the youngest entrant in a competition held by the Association of Indonesian Fashion Designers and Entrepreneurs (APPMI). It was an experience that would change her life, but not in a way she had foreseen.
“I was plunged into the jewellery industry by accident,” says the 40-year-old founder of Wanda House of Jewels, based at Plaza Indonesia. “I had to create nine looks, including clothes, shoes, bags and other accessories. I took second prize. But it was for my accessories, not in the fashion category.
“In 1995 came an opportunity to learn how to be a jewellery designer. I accepted the job offer and, you know what, I have never regretted it. It’s the best choice I’ve ever made. I soon discovered that there was a limited number of jewellery designers in Indonesia, compared to fashion designers. It was a win-win situation for me because I got to stand out. It was nice to find my true calling.”
Wanda focuses on creating stylish bespoke pieces for her discerning clients. “I believe that high-quality diamonds are not only a great investment,” she says. “It’s deeper than that, it’s about heritage. There’s the sentimental value of passing a beautiful piece of jewellery from one generation to the next.”
Wanda has an entrepreneurial side to her personality, and she eventually decided to take the plunge and start her own jewellery business. “I quit my job and founded my first jewellery store, Flawless, at Taman Anggrek Mall, in 2008,” she says. “Two years later, we decided to rebrand the business as Wanda House of Jewels, and we opened a new store at Plaza Indonesia.
“The key to doing customisation in the jewellery business is understanding the psychology of each client,” says Wanda. “This is very important. It takes extra effort and patience to find a design for them that really matches their taste and is tailored to their personality. I also believe that jewellery, no matter how beautiful it is, will not look good on the wearer if she is uncomfortable or lacking confidence when wearing it. You’ve got to create a piece that embodies the wearer, so that she will look perfect.
Wanda spends much of her free time working for charities whose causes are close to her heart. For example, a couple of people who are close to her have survived brushes with cancer. Those experiences have led her to get together with the Indonesian Breast Cancer Foundation. One recent initiative raised funds for the provision of free mammograms to more than 2,000 women in Jakarta.
Along with Plaza Indonesia and society photographer Indra Leonardi, she helped organise “Solidarity”, an exhibition of portraits that ran throughout October in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Forty-two celebrities and influential figures from different occupations and age ranges were photographed for the exhibition, among them Cathy Sharon, Daniel Mananta, Richard Muljadi, and Angel and Agnes Susinto. “With this exhibition, I wanted to show that when cancer comes to strike our loved ones, all we can do is to keep fighting and never lose faith,” says Wanda. “There’s always a rainbow after the storm.”
Wanda also supports the Indonesian Heart Foundation’s efforts to provide free operations for disadvantaged children with congenital heart defects. “We have created some special designs, from which the entire proceeds are donated to the foundation,” says Wanda.