Diana Rikasari: “Life works itself out — the Universe works it out for you.”

There’s always been an emphasis to mould a career based off personal interests. The argument is that jobs pertaining subjects we hold close to our hearts will be more gratifying to us. There are instances where finding what one is passionate about is easy, the next challenge is to then have people agree on the idea and to make it profitable. This tale is similar for Indonesian blogger-turned-designer Diana Rikasari, who spent a few years of her life as a market researcher before realising she had an eye for designing everyday wear. JUICE spoke to the 31-year-old before her clothing line Schmiley Mo’s debut show at KLFW ‘16 about realising her interest in fashion, how she managed to convince her parents to be open about her working an unconventional job, and if this brand had anything to do with Miley Cyrus.

Images ‘C’ Creative Communications

Hey Diana! You uploaded a photo via Instagram with the caption of feeling nervous about your debut show. How’re you feeling now?
Better! It’s my first clothing line and I don’t know how people will respond but I’m also very excited.

We have to get this question out of the way — the name of your clothing label is Schmiley Mo, does it have any relation to Miley Cyrus? Because besides the similar sounding name, even the graphics used in this collection look very “her”.
(Laughs) No, but I love Miley! We share the same love for stickers and colourful items — but no, it has nothing to do with Miley Cyrus.

So, how’d you come up with the name then?
The first word — Schmiley — is actually derived from the word ‘smiley’ ‘cos I love smiling. It represents happiness [to me]. The word ‘Mo’ is from the word ‘modest’ ‘cos I wanted to create a line that was wearable for people who wear hijabs but also for non-hijabers.

From what we can see of the first collection, it’s predominately made of baby pink and blue. Why did you choose these shades specifically?
I wanted to play with baby pink and baby blue ‘cos this year these two were the ‘it’ colours, but I didn’t want the collection to be overly sweet, so I added hints of grey and black. I felt that added the right amount of sweetness.

There’s also a strong presence of stickers/patches throughout the collection too, right?
Yeah, I’ve liked stickers since I was a kid — the difference between me and other people is probably that my interests for stickers never rubbed off (laughs). It feels as though I stopped getting older after turning 23.

How old are you now?
I’m 31.

We hope to age the way you have because you don’t look a day over 25.
Aww, thank you!

It’s true though! Anyway, besides patches and bright colours, there’s also a lot of dual-tones, what was the decision behind that and how did you ensure that it’d look cohesive?
I love preppy looks but just to spice it up we added patches — but even after adding them, it didn’t look unique enough. I wanted it to look better than just a regular shirt with a patch on it, you know? Then, I felt adding a bell sleeve in a different colour would do the trick, so we came up with looks that are wearable to both the office and a café; blouses you could wear with shorts or a denim skirt.

“I wanted to create a line that was wearable for people who wear hijabs but also for non-hijabers.”

source: Schmiley Mo

“’Wearable quirky’ because it’s not too ‘out there’ to the point of it only appealing to a niche audience.”

Was that the approach for the entire collection? Using simple silhouettes as a foundation to create something special?
Yeah, it’s essentially basic clothing with quirks — “wearable quirky” because it’s not too “out there” to the point of it only appealing to a niche audience.

This brand is relatively young, what were the first few months of operating like?
Yeah, at first my vision was to create a clothing line that focussed on prints. I had hired an illustrator to execute the ideas but we did some research before starting the process and found that customers didn’t respond to [prints] too well because they thought it was too much.

Yeah, prints are a little tough to pull off. 
I was still adamant on having prints but from a business perspective, I had to be realistic, so, I had to find alternatives to work with. We decided to do patches for our first collection — since it’s in-trend and it’s fun — we substituted illustrations to patches to make it more wearable. Just so it’s not too bold, we did another round of research for our new approach, and people liked it! So, we continued with the idea and went into production shortly after, like, we had two rounds of sampling, then we were good to go for the final ones.

That doesn’t sound too painful! How many people are in Schmiley Mo’s design team? And was it difficult to get everybody on the same page as you in terms of churning out ideas?
There are three designers. I send them references, just so they know what I like and what I dislike — so, they’re clear (laughs). I even share which fonts I prefer and point out the ones I don’t — typography matters!

Indeed it does. So, what do you not like?
I don’t like things that are too girly — I like colourful stuff but they can’t be too girly.

That was unexpected ‘cos this collection is pretty girly. What’s your definition of it? 
Girly is like super sweet pastels. Mint. I can’t have that. It’s like when I wear something very feminine, I need to balance it with something masculine. So, if I were to wear baby pink, then I’d pair it with something black, so, there’s an edge to it.

Where did you get this sense of style from?
I don’t know…

… did you dress like a tomboy when you were younger?
Yes! I always thought band t-shirts, denim shorts, and sneakers were the coolest getup in the world. They still are, but then I got into skirts (laughs).

source: Schmiley Mo

Have you already started planning your next collection? You seem like someone who doesn’t stop working.
(Laughs) Yes, we are currently working on the second collection already but we’re still not sure of the theme. We’re trying a lot of stuff — maybe it’ll involve a lot of sequins or fringes, we’ll see.

Before becoming a designer, you were known for being a blogger. How did you transition from that to owning your own shoe brand to getting involved with a clothing line?
Well, I started blogging in 2007. At that time, I was still in University; I studied engineering and business…

Hold up. You studied engineering? 
Yeah, I wanted to take up Graphic Design but my parents weren’t too keen on the idea because they were very much into banking, so they suggested taking something related to Economy and suggested Industrial Engineering instead. I did it and I survived! Now, when I come to think of it, if I had known of this passion of mine from then, I would have taken Fashion Design instead.

How long did it take for you to realise this was your passion?
It happened when I started blogging. People knew me as a fashion blogger because I took OOTD posts everyday. From that, I began making a lot of friends within the fashion industry — designers, entrepreneurs — whom I socialised with frequently, and I felt comfortable being there. I liked this world, and when I saw them designing, I felt like I could do that too and I’ve never looked back.

So, what were you doing prior to blogging?
I was working as a market researcher but everyday after work, I always made a point to blog before I slept. The things I blogged about were mainly about fashion. So, after a few years in a corporate world, I felt like I should explore that side of me — I really like fashion and I couldn’t stop writing about it, plus, I received many job opportunities from it. So, in 2011 I resigned from my then job and I started my first shoe line — UP.

source: Schmiley Mo

“I believe that life works itself out — like the Universe works it out for you.”

Why did you opt to design shoes first instead of clothes?
I asked myself before starting that if I were to do something in fashion, it should be focussed on an item that I really like — I really liked shoes, so, why not start off with a shoe brand? UP is doing well but over time, customers have asked for us to do something beyond shoes — like an accessories or a clothing line — but I didn’t want to rush it because I wanted to establish myself first; I wanted it to be able to run well without me [being there all the time] because I have a good team. Finally, after working for five years, I felt like it settled; the system is running and it was time I venture out into something new, hence, Schmiley Mo.

There’s a lot of pressure within the Asian community for a person to have their life planned the second they graduate from high school. As someone who’s had success in a somewhat “later” part of her life, what would you guide be to people who are going through similar obstacles?
Sometimes, finding one’s passion can be a lifelong journey — you never find it or you don’t get it right. I think it’s about constantly exploring and if you think that you like something — even if another person discourages you from it, but you feel like that’s something you want to do, keep doing it. You never know what will happen because the world is such a different place now — like being a YouTuber is an actual profession. What was that in the ‘90s? (Laughs) Keep your options open and never not do something just because people say otherwise. Also, I believe that life works itself out — like the Universe works it out for you.

What’s your parents’ perception like now since you’ve managed to keep yourself financially stable with this career?
Now they’re fully supportive. They’re like, “We get it!” But when I wanted to start a shoe line, they weren’t really into it, so, I had to use all my money — it was savings I had kept from my previous salaries — they weren’t too convinced until they saw the sales I’d been earning. Though, even at that point, they didn’t get it.

How’d you change their minds?
I convinced them to create Instagram accounts to understand me from that perspective and from the people who follow me — now they fully get it.

That’s sweet! Alright, last question, what’s your favourite JUICE?
Anything that’s new. Not necessarily something new for the world but something for yourself — never settle for something, try something new everyday.

See what Diana’s parents see on Instagram here, or follow Schmiley Mo here.