When it comes to high society and the world of fashion in Jakarta, Junita Liesar needs little or no introduction. One of Prestige’s Fashion Icons, Junita is admired for her distinctive personal style. This shows through when we meet her for her Fashion Issue cover shoot at The Residence OnFive at Grand Hyatt Jakarta. She wears an all-black top and trousers with an over-sized belt that hugs her slender figure, and sports a pair of sky-high heels.
Maybe it is one of her charms to always look sophisticated. Junita is regarded as a fashion icon by her more than 200,000 followers on Instagram. They all want to know what and where this successful businesswoman is wearing. There she was donning a Fendi red playsuit for Mother’s Day; looking sleek in Toni Maticevski white attire at her best friend Syahrini’s perfume launch party at Plaza Indonesia: and dressed down in jeans and t-shirt with a Hermès croco bag in hand in Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles.
Before the interview begins, Junita politely asks people to leave the powder room, reflecting her private personality. She crosses her long legs, makes herself comfortable on the couch and begins to talk in a gentle tone. The first good news she shares is she will be launch her own fragrance next year.
“It’s to be called Je T’aime de la Lune. It has the same initials as mine, JL. It will consist of two versions – eau de toilette and eau de parfum – so that it can be worn from day to night,” says Junita, who earned a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality from England’s Bournemouth University.
Her next subject is, JL Foundation, which she launched a couple of years ago. “I really don’t consider myself to be a socialite,” she begins. “But if I have to talk about that, then it’s my opinion that socialites should make positive contributions to society, inspiring and helping others. That’s why I started JL Foundation, to help children, women and elders. “Last year, to celebrate National Elderly Day on May 29, I visited Panti Werdha Kasih Ayah Bunda in Karawaci. Most of the elders who live in the retirement home are lonely and desperately need face-to-face interaction. So I went there to have a fun day with them. We had massage sessions, dancing and singing together. Through my foundation, I’d like to spread awareness about how important it is to take care of our elders.”
As for children, JL Foundation held Yoga Anak Nusantara to celebrate Hari Sumpah Pemuda (Youth Pledge Day) on October 28, 2015. On that day, Junita taught yoga to children. Junita herself is a yogi who has been practicing the discipline for the last 25 years.
To help women, JL Foundation focuses on aiding domestic violence victims. “We help them by providing legal protection, recovering their mental health and empowering them,” says Junita. “This issue is very sensitive, so I can’t go into the details of specific cases. I believe in the statement that ‘If you empower men then you change one person; if you empower women then you change society and the world.’ JL Foundation is a self-funded organisation, purely from my own income. We don’t do any fundraisers. In the future, revenues from sales of my fragrances will benefit the foundation.”
Junita enjoys shopping, just like any other fashionable woman. She says she has become wiser about it in recent years. “I have a wardrobe full of items by high-end designers, and I know how to maximise them,” she says. “I don’t mind wearing the same clothes a couple of times and posting them to Instagram. Ten years ago, I would buy whatever I wanted without blinking an eye. Now, I’m more picky. I only buy clothes that I can wear for a long time. I’m not going to buy a dress to wear only once.” This enlightened approach to retail therapy shopping is fully supported by her beloved children, who are also her shopping partners and fashion advisers. Thirty-one-year-
old son Christian Harijanto is quite possibly Junita’s number one fan. Meanwhile, 23-year-old Gabriella Louisa Lyanto is a fashion darling on Instagram, just like her mother, and the 18-year-old Gilpin Leonard is becoming a stylish young man. Her children live in Los Angeles, which Junita calls her second home.
“In LA, shopping is not only therapy for me, but also represents quality time with my children,” laughs Junita. “When I pick something daring out and I think it looks good on me, they might say: ‘Come on, mom! You’re almost 50.’ I don’t mind, I trust their judgement. Because they are my children, they don’t sugar coat it. Whatever they say to me is genuine. They are my best advisers, not only on fashion but everything. I hired a fashion stylist before, but it didn’t work out. I didn’t feel like myself. So based on that experience, I decided to do it on my own – and with my children’s advice.”
Junita fell in love with fashion when she was a little girl. “When I put some nice clothes on, I felt good. That was when I knew I loved fashion,” she recalls. “Back then, it was a whole different era. There weren’t a lot of fashion magazines and there was no internet. I had to create my own fashion sense and style.” Her ultimate fashion rule? Less is more. She defines her own style as simple but elegant. She can turn neutral colours, such as black, white and nude, from dull to dazzling. Once in a while, she’ll go for striking colours, such as red or emerald green.
“I like neutral colours because they are easy to mix and match. I have one black trouser from 10 years ago and I’m still wearing it now,” she explains. Recently, she spoiled herself with dresses from “under the radar” fashion designers like Lebanon’s Basil Soda and Australia’s designer Maticevski.
Junita has a demanding work schedule as a Commissioner of Jade Mining (“The industry is better compared to three years ago,” she says) and founder of travel agency Quality Holiday. For work, she often wears trousers because they give her comfort and mobility. Although most people would describe her style as feminine and glamorous (take a look at her Soda red pleated evening dress or Giuseppe Zanotti crystal embellished suede lace-up boots) Junita has a tomboy side as well. “If I don’t have to go to work or when I am in Los Angeles with my children, I always wear sneakers because we all love hiking.”
In a time when having a social media presence has become some kind of self-actualisation, it is ironically perhaps becoming harder to know someone’s true personality. It’s very easy to fall into prejudice. If one solely judges Junita based on her social media post, labelling her as a jetsetter is almost inevitable. But who is she really?
“I understand when people give me that trademark,” Junita replies. “But underneath it all, I am a very simple person. I’m not a big fan of parties, which is hard for some people to believe. When I made that statement a few years ago, people rolled their eyes. But along the way, I proved them wrong. You can hardly find me at any parties. I only attend an event if I know the host really well. I won’t go just for the sake of being seen or to be in the spotlight. I prefer being at home alone or with some close friends.”
Junita might be popular on Instagram, but she is essentially a private person who keeps her social circle quite small. The only high-profile figure in her inner circle is the gifted singer Syahrini. “I’m picky when it comes to friendships because I know how harmful it is to have a bad friend,” says Junita. “Syahrini came to my birthday party two years ago and we connected instantly. She brings a lot of positive energy into my life. She is a hard worker and will never talk behind your back. We keep our private lives to ourselves. We never gossip about other people.”
In the final analysis, Junita wants to live life in her own terms with a “good vibes only” attitude. “I just want to be an inspiration with whatever I have,” she says. “In life, you can’t have everything. The best thing we can do is enjoy every moment and turn it into the best one.”
Photography: Kay Moreno
Fashion Direction: Peter Zewet
Styling: Koko Namara
Makeup: Iwan Toyo
Hair: Anto Cimpring
Location: The Residence OnFive at Grand Hyatt Jakarta