Fashion designer Kukuh talks to Laurie Osborne. Photo: Lukas Vrtilek
KUKUH, where did you grow up?
I was born in North Jakarta. When I was eight years old, we moved to the south. I’m the youngest of two sisters and one brother, and we grew up in an army family. My Dad was a soldier. I worked as a stylist in Jakarta for about 10 years before moving to Bali about seven years ago.
What first brought you to the Island of the Gods?
When I was 23, I went to Bali on a holiday with friends to party. At first, I thought there’s no way I could live here. A week in Bali seemed pretty boring. Now, my outlook is the opposite: I could never go back to Jakarta. I can maybe handle four days, but that’s it.
Your clothing label’s called The Story Of. Who is it designed for?
The Story Of was conceived for girls that want to be themselves and don’t care about following trends. You can’t put them in a box, and they are free to do whatever they want.
It sounds like you might design for yourself?
Yes, myself for sure. And now, I’m also designing for little girls aged one to eight years old with The Story Of Kids. We’re going to New York to put on a fashion show soon so I’m pretty excited about that. We’ve already started selling in Australia, and have had a very good response so we thought let’s go to New York to show the range.
Congratulations. What was it like styling on the movie, Eat Pray Love?
I was doing product development for Minkpink when they asked me to style for the movie. I decided it would be a really great experience so I took that on too. In every scene, we had to prepare the clothes and costumes for the lead actors and extras. There was a huge wardrobe full of clothing. It was a crazy, huge project, and I’m very happy to have been a part of it.
Did you know much about the book before accepting the job?
I only read the book when I got the offer. I’d heard about it, but I’m not a wide reader. I only read things I know I’m going to like.
As a designer, how important were the years that you spent as a stylist?
I learned so much from styling. I have a lot of friends that design too, and my husband is in the industry. It’s not that easy designing for other people. Sometimes, what I like just doesn’t sell.
What kind of role does your husband play in The Story Of?
He helps me stay within the red lines. Sometimes, when you’re creative, you’re very excited about an idea. All you want to do is make it, but you need to be aware of price points. There are a lot of processes that need to be looked at so you have to adjust your design in many aspects. I learned a lot working with Minkpink, a brand that does very well in Australia. It’s not just about creating. You also have to consider whether or not something is going to sell. Is it going to be popular with your customers? It’s a long process, but I really enjoy my job. That makes the workload easier for me. If I get a little stressed, it doesn’t feel like real stress.
You launched The Story Of in 2010. What were the greatest obstacles that you faced, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was presenting my designs. It was a challenge to make every single design presentable. Every time I wanted to present, they would ask me a thousand questions. When I’m designing, I’m happy, but it’s always hard for me to express myself verbally.
What is Kukuh Kulture?
That was my original brand name, but there was another company in Australia called Kuku so we had to brainstorm to come up with a new brand name.
How did you land on The Story Of?
I love to read poems, and stories. I saw the opening words, “The Story Of” and I just loved the phrase.
And where did the inspiration for your owl logo come from?
I simply love owls. I’ve always loved them.