Jakarta. For top Indonesian designer Sebastian Gunawan, women are an endless source of inspiration.
"Women can transform into anything, transcending time and place, when they dress up," said the 48-year-old. "It's like magic."
His latest 2015/2016 collection for the "SEBASTIANred" and "SEBASTIANsposa" labels, presented at the Ritz-Carlton Pacific Place, Jakarta,on Oct. 5, was aptly named "A Lady's Portrait."
Named for the 1700s and 1800s paintings of European women in museums across the continent which the designer recently visited with his wife, Cristina Panarese, the inspiration was evident.
"We both saw that women in that era really dressed up, even for daily occasions," said the designer.
"In spite of the lack of facilities and infrastructures at that time, they wore full-blown ballgowns with rich accessories and pointed shoes. In addition to that, they also wore heavy make-up and grand pompadours. They looked very dramatic."
At his workshop in Sunter, North Jakarta, Sebastian translated the archaic designs into something chic and modern, without losing their signature daintiness and elegance.
The result is an awe-inspiring collection that shows the designer's level of creativity and ingenuity.
Sebastian's show took place on a ballroom stage which resembled a two-story chateau in soft creamy hues. A long chessboard-patterned walkway, which served as the catwalk, extended from its pillared porch. The show kicked off with a black-and-white video showing two grooms-to-be arguing whose bride would be the fairest, while waiting for them dress-fitting at Sebastian Gunawan's boutique.
As their argument escalated, the women came out from the fitting-rooms, showing the wedding dresses they had chosen and asked how they looked. Both men were dumbfounded, before saying in unison, "Perfect". The chateau then lighted up, featuring silhouettes of the models walking back and forth on the inside. As the beat of the music intensified, two gentlemen in black tuxedos opened the front door of the mansion for the ladies to stroll out.
In the first sequence of the show, the models, with heavily powdered faces and back-combed hair, presented cocktail dresses in soft pastel hues. The dresses are exquisite. Made of French lace and silk with floral patterns, they looked as if they were actually sculpted on the models' torsos.
Their simple structures augment women's shape while maintaining their natural beauty. Ballgowns were transformed into knee-length cocktail dresses with dainty heart-shaped peplums and adorned with discreet floral appliques and embroideries.
Highlighting Sebastian's Victorian-inspired dresses were lace chokers, crystal-encrusted brooches and bejeweled clutches by the designer's good friend and jewelry designer, Rinaldy A. Yunardi.
In the second session, the show presented long evening gowns in bolder hues. Shades of royal blue, gold and amber painted the black-and-white runway.
The dresses have a more relaxed silhouette, with sweetheart necklines and A-line long skirts, which are both feminine and adorable.
Some of the gowns also feature cutout sleeves that allow the models' chiseled shoulders to peek through.
Some of the dresses also came with elegant cropped capes. These capes, ruffled at the shoulders, rested snugly on the models' torsos, their openings ebbed and billowed as the models sashayed on the catwalk.
Sebastian concluded the show with extravaganza. In the final session, he presented a series of rich and ornate wedding gowns under SEBASTIANsposa.
In this session, Indonesian supermodel Paula Verhoeven astounded the audience as she walked down the aisle featuring a champagne-hue wedding gown made of damask, which according to Sebastian, a luxurious fabric worn by princesses and queens in the 17th and 18th century. Paula's off-the-shoulder neckline was adorned with intricate appliques of roses.
The fashion show finished with a silver wedding gown, made of French lamé and dotted with crystals and freshwater pearls on the bodice. The model looked almost angelic in the beautiful dress
About 1,200 people attended the fashion show that evening. Among them was one of Sebastian's earliest mentors, Susan Budihardjo. "I'm very proud of him," said the founder of Susan Budihardjo Fashion Designing School.
"I think of all Indonesian designers, Sebastian is the most consistent. Each of his collection bears his unique, distinctive touch. It shows that he's really hands-on with his designs."
"He is a real legend," Dian Pelangi, also a fashion designer, said after attending the show with her husband. "I've adored his dresses since I was in junior high (school). His designs have always been very pretty and lady-like."
"Sebastian always presents something unpredictable in his collections," said Emil Eriyanto, owner of the high-profile wedding organizer, Multi Kreasi Enterprise. "His items are never boring. And I think that's why his dresses are always in demand."
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