Jakarta. Halfway through the fasting moth of Ramadan, Indonesians are anticipating the day of victory, Idul Fitri. Almost all roads to markets and shopping malls are clogged with vehicles from early afternoon until their closing time. It seems that everyone is out shopping to prepare for the upcoming festive season.
Fashion designers also respond to the market's excitement. Almost every one of them has released a Ramadan and Idul Fitri collection.
Last week, members of the Indonesian Fashion Chamber (IFC) showcased their special festive collections at Fimela Fuchsia Market, a fashion exhibition and bazaar held at Kota Kasablanka in South Jakarta.
One of the most prominent shows in the event was "Polka Dolls" by designer and IFC secretary Lisa Fitria.
There are six looks in Lisa's collection that combines Harajuku-style tunics, tailored pants, long dresses and sweaters.
The bold color combination of red, black and white, as well as oversized polka-dot patterns, give the collection a playful, yet striking look.
Prints and patches of cute Japanese dolls in colorful kimonos enhance some of the items.
"I was inspired by the Japanese dolls [Kokeshi] that I bought during my recent trip to Japan," the designer said in a telephone interview on Wednesday (30/05). "My youngest daughter absolutely adores them."
"With this collection, I'm offering something fresh and unique for Ramadan and Idul Fitri, especially for those self-confident women who want to stand out during this important occasion," she said.
Ramadan has always been a very important occasion for the designer. It was during the fasting month, about 30 years ago, that Lisa felt the call to become a fashion designer.
"I remember that I was still in fifth grade at that time. I couldn't sleep as I was anxiously waiting for the Lailat al-Qadr," the Semarang-born designer said.
Lailat al-Qadr commemorates the night when the Koran was first revealed to the Prophet. During this night, many believe, God bestows His special blessings.
On that night, Lisa dreamed she was a fashion designer presenting her collection to many guests.
"I woke up very excited. I believed I was already a designer on the next day," she said.
Since then, Lisa started designing her own clothes.
"I sketched them and my mom sewed them for me," she said.
Lisa's mother was a tailor and her father ran a home garment industry.
During her high school years, Lisa also designed dresses for her schoolmates.
"I designed pretty dresses for my friends to go to birthday parties," she said.
Realizing her talents and calling, Lisa wanted to pursue higher education in fashion, but as the profession was not common in her hometown, she did not know where to go or whom to ask for advice.
"We didn't have Google back then," she said, with a chuckle.
A friend then told her about Hanseung Textile College in South Korea, which offered scholarships to talented Indonesian students.
The scholarship came with a commitment to work at one of Hanseung factories in Indonesia after graduation.
"I thought it was close enough to becoming a fashion designer," Lisa said.
She applied and won the scholarship. Then she spent the next two years learning the Korean language and textile industry in the cities of Daegu and Gumi.
"I graduated in 1998, at the time of the monetary crisis," she said, referring to the Asian financial crisis, which badly hit Southeast Asia.
Because of the crisis, Hanseung closed down its factories in Indonesia, releasing Lisa from her obligation to work for the company.
She then worked as a merchandiser for Sai Apparel Industries, another Korean garment company in Semarang.
"It's one of the key positions in the garment industry," she said.
Her tasks included receiving purchase orders from customers, getting all the materials needed for making the orders, making samples and shipping the orders to customers.
"I learned a lot during my time at the company," she said.
With passion and hard work, Lisa quickly advanced in the company. After only nine years, she was already its general manager.
"But then, I remembered that I had always said to myself that I had to achieve my dream when I reach 30 years," she said.
At the age of 30, she resigned and started making her dream come true.
Former clients at the garment company, fashion designers Ali Charisma, Dina Midiani and Taruna K. Kusmayadi, encouraged her to join the Indonesian Fashion Designers and Fashion Entrepreneurs Association (Appmi).
In 2011, Lisa presented her debut women's ready-to-wear collection in a show at Jakarta Food and Fashion Festival (JFFF) at Mal Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta.
Titled "Duchess Story," the collection was inspired by the neat, tailored looks of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
The collection, which consisted of formal sheath dresses, jackets and coats, was a success.
Today, the designer has three clothing lines: Lisa Fitria Signature, Heart and Feel and Lisa Fitria Uniform.
Being a Better Person
It was also during Ramadan, in 2013, that Lisa received another message in a dream.
"In the dream, I felt listless. It was as if all my past mistakes were screened in front of me," she said.
The mother of three cried when she woke. She then decided to become a better Muslim and wear a hijab.
"I love it. Wearing a hijab has protected me from doing bad things. For example, during events, nobody would offer to me wine or any other alcoholic drinks."
"And [the hijab] also continuously reminds me of my decision to become a better person," the 40-year-old designer said.
Since two years, Lisa and some of her colleagues from IFC have been teaching fashion design and business at vocational high schools in Kudus, Central Java, and government's vocational training centers in Semarang.
"I really love teaching. When I'm standing in front of the class, my students give me full attention. Their eyes are shining, as if I were giving them a new hope and dreams for their future," she said.