“It reminds me of my Indonesian heritage again,” smiles Jessie Setiono, referring to the Svarna by Ikat Indonesia kebaya she wore for her appearance on our cover. On a balmy evening, the lawyer and former model is sitting with Prestige in the makeup room for her interview.
“Sometimes I get confused about my own true identity,” says Jessie who spent most of her childhood life in Perth, Australia. “There are days when I ask myself whether deep down I am Indonesian or a ‘hybrid’ of Indonesian and Australian? But today, wearing these beautiful pieces has made me feel so damn proud to be Indonesian!
“I think my confusion came naturally, as I had spent my childhood in Perth, Australia. My family sent me there for schooling at the age of eight. I spent my childhood, teenage, and a little bit of adulthood life in Australia. I became accustomed to the Australian way of living.
“You know, the usual afternoon walk by the river, barbecue in the backyard during Christmas, going to the beach on weekends,” says Jessie who now looks slightly dreamy as she described the good ol’ days. “I experienced a culture shock when I came back to Indonesia at the age of 22. It felt as if I never knew this place and never lived here before.”
Bandung-born Jessie obtained her Bachelor of Commerce degree from Curtin University. She started modelling at the age of 19 and, while studying for her Business major, was signed by agencies such as Mannequin Studio in Singapore, Wynn Models in Indonesia and Model One in Hong Kong. She subsequently obtained her Bachelor and Masters of Law at Universitas Pelita Harapan to practice in Indonesia. For the last two years, Jessie has been full time lawyering at Hadiputranto, Hadinoto & Partners (HHP Law Firm), a member of Baker McKenzie International.
Now modelling only for special occasions, Jessie has first donned a red kebaya encim inspired by Chinese culture, paired with some of Sumba’s woven textiles, for today’s cover shoot. For the second look, Didiet Maulana, the creator of Ikat Indonesia, has put her in a cream kebaya with songket Aceh.
“She has modelled my Svarna line before, but I knew her even before that. She’s very humble and inspirational,” says Maulana about his muse. “I always thinking about her when I design my pieces. Would Jessie wear it, I ask myself.
“The kebaya is one of the most important fashion identities for Indonesian women today. I like to show that it can be combined not only with batik, but with many other traditional woven fabrics. My mission with Ikat Indonesia has been the same since the beginning. I want to transform our cultural heritage into something relevant for the young generations.”
Jessie met Maulana for the first time when she was in her early twenties. “We did a photo shoot for a project about eight years ago and, from that moment onwards, we’ve had a connection with each other,” she says. “Whatever material he uses, he is able to construct an outfit that makes a woman feel feminine, yet powerful.
“The first impression I had of him was that he’s intelligent, and his curiosity about history was apparent. He wants to know the story about the material, who made it, how it was made, where it was made, who used it at the time and how it empowered the culture at the time.
“It’s an honour to be chosen as his muse. It’s more than just modelling the clothes, but also about how you ‘carry’ the clothes. It is a deep relationship between the person who wears it and the cloth draped on the person. The two should complement each other. “
To Jessie, her relationship with Didiet will not be just a one-time thing, but a lifetime relationship where the two will continue to inspire each other.
How does Jessie see Indonesia now, after living here for the last eight years? “I think I’m gradually adjusting back to my Indonesian heritage,” she smiles. “At this point, I can’t see myself going back to Australia just yet. I have made my decision to be here.”