Hubert Burda Media

It Designers: Ari Seputra & Inneke Margarethe

The brains behind the successful local brand Major Minor admit that “it all started from a creative rut”

Ari seputra could have grown complacent from the academic and commercial success he had in the 2000s. He was the first Indonesian teacher at Esmod Jakarta, a French-originated fashion school, and his ready-to-wear label Elaborate by Ari Seputra was doing well in stores. On top of that, he was becoming a go-to name among Jakarta’s fashion enthusiasts who sought custom-made dresses.

But Seputra felt he needed to shake things up. “I felt that I spent too long designing similar clothes, chiffon tops with drapery, sequins and all that. Although there was a big demand for it, I thought that I needed to get out of the design comfort zone. I wanted to be current, be in the now.”

He started looking overseas for fresher design inspiration. That marked the birth of Major Minor, a brand that he launched with wife and creative partner Sari Seputra, and head designer Inneke Margarethe, in 2011. Determined to make Major Minor a separate entity from Ari Seputra, there was no mention of the brains behind the brand when it first came out.

“We wanted the brand to grow naturally, one that offers affordable ready-to-wear pieces that you can wear every day,” Seputra says. “The clothes are edgy, current and comfortable to wear.”

The market responded positively. Major Minor became a go-to local brand for youngsters. The asymmetrical cuts and colour blocks were soon associated with the brand. “One time I was hanging around one of the Major Minor racks in a store, and I met a friend. She didn’t know that I was behind the brand,” Seputra says. “She was telling me about the clothes she had just bought from Major Minor, a new local brand. She said the clothes were well-made,comfortable, and affordable.”

The store owner told her that Major Minor was my brand, and she was very surprised. She told me: “I am  used to paying Rp 12 million for
a custom-made dress from you, now I can get four tops with Rp 1,5 million!” Seputra says: “That was what I wanted, for the brand to win
recognition because of its quality, not just because of me.”

Five years since its introduction, Major Minor continuously strives to achieve new heights with three lines: Major Minor (affordable), Major Minor Signature (premium) and Major Minor Maha (luxury). “We’ve gone through a process in developing new brands. Signature was launched in 2012, Maha in 2014. We want to make sure that we understand the market first before rushing into making another line,” Ari says.

Ari Seputra & Inneke Margarethe

The thought process that differentiates each clothing line at Major Minor is also the reason how one brand both be seen worn by a millennial to  college, and by a socialite to a gala. To tap into the digital market, the brand recently launched Everyday Major Minor, an online shopping platform.

Although relatively new, Major Minor Maha was Eko Nugroho’s label of choice when he was asked to collaborate with a local fashion brand last year. The collaborative collection was sold out off the rack and online store within days.

International recognition is also something that Major Minor should be proud of as a young local brand. For the past seven seasons, its collections have been showcased at Trace, a trade show that is a part of Paris Fashion Week. “We’ve got to thank Jakarta Fashion Week’s Indonesia Fashion Forward Programme who opened the door
for us to go to Paris. The showcase is now our bi-annual agenda,” Seputra says.

In April, Major Minor was among the Indonesian fashion brands, alongside Sean & Sheila and Toton, to participate in a pop-up store by Fenwick, one of England’s most renowned department stores. The store opening was officiated by President Joko Widodo. “It was such a great opportunity for us. Moreover, after the pop-up store ended, Fenwick decided to stock our clothes.”

Another major milestone for Major Minor this year was its nomination as one of the finalists for Woolmark Prize Asia, a design competition whose international winners have included Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Appealing to local and nternational crowds is no easy feat, but Seputra says that it is always good to look both inside and outside the country for inspiration.

“We are influenced a lot by different types of art and culture. We also see what other designers are doing overseas,” Seputra explains. “I admire Dries van Noten, the way they are influenced by different cultures. They could use Indonesian fabric and give it Japanese, Chinese and Korean influences. The result is something that looks thnic, but also very modern.”

A similar approach could be seen in Major Minor Maha’s collection at the recent Dewi Fashion Knights, the prestigious final show at Jakarta Fashion Week. The collection takes its inspiration from Raden Saleh’s legendary painting Penangkapan Pangeran Diponegoro (The Arrest of Prince Diponegoro, 1857).

“We try to capture the different moods that the painting evoke – bravery, bitterness, patriotism, also fear – into the colours that we use in the collection,” says Inneke Margarethe, Major Minor’s head designer. “However, we make sure that the cuts of the collection are contemporary and modern.”

The collection sees a modern take on baju beskap, a traditional royal Javanese top, parang batik motif sewn onto a cape jacket, as well as a European-style military jacket that represents the Dutch soldiers who captured the prince. “That kind of juxtaposition between the old and the new can only be achieved because we have a team that complements each other,” Ari says. “I learn a lot from Inneke. She’s young and she’s daring with the cuts. In terms of design, it complements my classic style. After the design process is done, we have to go through our ‘fierce marketing manager’ Sari, who is very critical about the commercial side of things.”

Inneke adds: “There have been times when our collection has reached sampling process, and we had to redo it. We get used to it, because that’s how a fashion label works.” Major Minor is currently working on its fall 2017 collection for Paris Fashion Week next March. “We’re trying to plan everything well, but there will always be last-minute changes, be it right before I zip up my suitcase of clothes, or on the day of a major fashion show,” Seputra says with a smile. “I still see myself running to a venue to deliver a dress that has just been altered, and see it on the runway minutes later. It’s the “fashion heart attacks” that will always happen as long as I work as a designer!”

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Photography: Robby Agus

Fashion Direction: Peter Zewet

Styling: Koko Namara

Hair & makeup: Kiky Lutan

Grooming: Zearistan

All outfits: Major Minor Maha

All jewellery: Frank & Co.