Ines Katamso

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“I was at a party one night and I met this guy who really liked my shoes,” says Ines Katamso, a designer finding her way, one step at a time. Words: Stephanie Mee. Styling: Christina. Photo: Anthony Dodds.

“IF somebody starts to copy you, it means your product is good. So, don’t be mad about it – be proud about what you’ve made.”

Ines Katamso should know. Just six months ago she launched her eclectic, vintage-inspired footwear and accessories line, Curly, and already she has seen a slew of copycats in Jakarta pumping out cheaper versions of her shoes – even down to the unique colour combinations and cut-out patterns. Yet, she’s not too bothered, as she knows hers are the real deal.

“When I moved to Bali about a year ago, I couldn’t find low-cost, cool and elegant shoes, so I decided to make my own,” she says.

“I took a classic English Oxford and played around with the design, mixing the leather and the colours and cutting out sections so they were half open and half closed. People liked the shoes, so I thought why not go with it?”

The Curly brand was born out of a chance meeting.

“I was at a party one night and I met this guy who really liked my shoes,” she says.

“He offered to invest in my brand, but I didn’t really believe him at first. The next day he called and asked me if I had already found a craftsmen, and I was like, ‘wow. Okay then’.”

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Delve into Ines’ family background and it should come as no surprise that the 22-year-old has followed a creative path in life. Her father was a musician and a batik artist who loved to draw. Her mother and step-brother are both tattoo artists, she has another step-brother who is a graphic designer . . . and her step-sister models in Paris.

“When people ask me when it was that I started drawing and designing, I really don’t know what to say. I was surrounded by art when I was growing up, so it’s natural for me. And of course, my family supports me. My mom is my biggest fan,” Ines says.

At the age of 22, Ines graduated from an art and design school in Marseilles with a specialisation in fashion design. She was set to take the design world by storm, but she found it difficult to find job opportunities in France and was looking for new inspiration.

“After my studies, I wanted to go back to my Indonesian roots,” she says.

“The first place that came to mind for art and design was Bali. Jakarta was an option, but I don’t like cities. Cities are great for some people, but I like rice fields. Also, there are a lot of talented people here. It’s crazy because it’s so small, but that’s what interested me.”

Upon arriving in Bali, Ines landed a job as a designer with a Bali-based fashion label and devoted her free time to creating her distinctive black ink drawings that feature intricate line work and bold patterns.

“I don’t think of myself as an artist,” she says.

“I’m more like an illustrator. And I can’t really say what my style is. It’s always changing, always moving and organic. Every time I create something, I try to make it more personal. I might change the medium and try this or try that, but there’s always a bit of me in it. That’s just my style.”

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When she’s not exhibiting her drawings, showcasing her shoes in fashion shows or designing new bags and accessories, Ines is learning the ins and outs of the business side of the fashion industry.

“I’m trying to be more professional now,” she says.

“At first, I would just show up at shops and ask them if they wanted my product, but I would have to direct them to my Facebook page. Imagine doing that in Paris. I think the customers and the shops here in Bali are really cool.

They know that I’m a young designer so they understand.”

With her catalogue just finished, Ines will soon be taking her handmade shoes and bags on the road to Jakarta.

“I’m not sure about the market in Jakarta, as I’ve never been there, but I think the fashion design is getting better and better. People have really good taste there, and I’m really proud about that,” she says.

For most people, balancing a full-time job with a budding fashion brand and forging a path in the world of art exhibition would be too much to handle, but Ines pulls it off with aplomb.

“I’m an active girl, so I love it,” she says.

“Plus, the illustrations and designs are interconnected. Curly helps me become more business oriented and organised, and the art makes me free. One helps me to focus and the other refreshes my mind, so they’re in balance.”

Any last words of advice for the up-and-coming designer?

“It’s important to make your work personal. For sure you can get inspiration from other people, but make it your own. That way you won’t get bored with it. In the end, you have to love your product first.”

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