FA' EMPEL: WONDERWOMAN
“Will you #BeBoldForChange on International Women's Day 2017 and beyond by taking groundbreaking action that truly drives the greatest change for women.” - internationalwomensday.com
She’s a model, an actress, a musician, a designer and creative director for her own sunglasses brand - a woman of multiple talents that never ceases to give back to the world through her environmental activism. We had the pleasure to talk about inspiration, hard work and passion in an exclusive interview with the Indonesian WONDERWOMAN.
You are juggling several creative projects at the same time: you're a model, an actress, a musician, a designer and creative director for your own sunglasses brand, an environmental activist. Did we miss something? How do you mix them all? And what inspired you to start designing?
I do really try to focus on one thing at a time. It does get difficult, purely to the fact that creative motivation and windows of opportunity aren’t necessarily a choice, so when they appears, I feel the need to run with it.
At this moment PAWAKA is the main priority. It grounds me in a way that there are so many layers and responsibilities internally and externally that come with a business. You can’t really take your focus too far away from it. I’m still learning every single day.
I started designing with sketches when I was young. I continued sketching all sorts of objects that included eyewear shapes in my spare time or on set when I was modelling full-time. I had been living between Hong Kong and Tokyo working for 8 years and when I returned to Indonesia from Tokyo, I moved to Bali. This was when I started to realize actual objects from the drawings I had been piling up. We have an abundance of creative resources and craftsmen in Indonesia, and everyone around me was creating something, so I was very much motivated to utilize what I had available to me.
Why eyewear and not clothing or other accessories?
I think eyewear chose me… It just came naturally to me. At one point several years ago, I actually did have a complete ready to wear clothing label that included a few eyewear shapes I had created. The business didn’t work out as planned between myself and business partner at the time, so we went our separate ways. I took the small eyewear collection I had been working on and established my previous label to now, Cast Eyewear; this is primarily when I started working in eyewear.
Fast forward to today - I was presented with an undeniable opportunity 2.5 years ago to start a new eyewear label from the ground up. I had wanted to work with European craftsmanship for a while, so I packed up in Bali and moved to Berlin as a base in Europe.
PAWAKA is one of the latest additions to our designer mix, and we’re thrilled to present to our customers an exclusive handpicked selection of sunglasses and optical styles. We are fascinated by the geometrical clean shapes (with a twist) that you introduced through PAWAKA collections. Please tell us what inspires you and what is the story behind the brand name?
I am a third generation PAWAKA!
PAWAKA was the secret code name that was given to my grandfather during World War II. He fortunately survived, and when he returned from the war, he officially registered the name as his surname. Most Indonesians from his generation were only born with a single name. PAWAKA obviously then became my mother’s surname, and when I was born, I was given PAWAKA as my middle name. The name is Sanskrit and means Fire.
The inspiration and creative DNA of PAWAKA stem from my culture in the Dayak tribe of Borneo, as well as Native American philosophy and evidently, all our shapes have a strong connection to sacred geometry.
All our eyewear is finished with a custom Five (5) line temple – the five lines represent the 5 elements of nature Aether, Fire, Air, Water and Earth.
Every shape of eyewear has a particular name. How do you come up with them?
All our shape names are in numerical order of Bahasa Indonesia. It’s just a small token to my heritage. I guess we will never run out of shape names…It’s great when we hear our team and network of clients talk to us and say the names of particular shapes, not knowing themselves they are learning to count in Indonesian!
If you were to choose three music artists / bands that whose music inspires your design mood, what would these names be?
Philip Glass and GAYNGS forever inspires, and right now I will say Martin Nonstatic. Music x Aesthetic inspiration is Prince. Sorry, that is four - I can’t take one out.
Your eyewear pieces were spotted on a large number of celebrities. Who were your early adopters and how would you describe the perfect PAWAKA eyewear ambassador?
Most recently when I saw Rihanna wearing one of our shapes in her PUMA x Fenty Campaign, I was in a car ride after a really long day on set filming my last movie in Jakarta. It was a random social media post, so it was a big surprise to see it passing on my phone feed. As you would know many labels are selected on photo shoots, and we knew some of our pieces were taken, but never confirmed on what was used – so it brought so much energy and excitement to me.
For me, though, the best feeling is when I see a stranger on the street passing by wearing them.
I guess the ultimate ambassador was and is the late Prince.
After having spent quite some time in the fashion industry, what are the biggest learnings for PAWAKA as a brand?
Learning the art of patience in many aspects – I strongly believe that everything in life is all about timing. I personally am very impulsive, so building PAWAKA is teaching me to understand patience. I’m not going to paint a pretty picture; it has been tough for me. Up to now in my career, I have very much only had myself to consider and make choices for. With a brand, I have so much more outside myself that needs be considered. I am learning that for longevity and for good things to stay good… It requires both a solid foundation to build upon with a solid team moving in the same direction. So I’d like to thank my business partners that support in creating this platform and are teaching me more than they know every single day, especially Suzy the other half of PAWAKA, she’s the one that builds the pillars for us every day. I am too much of a creative person that works with feelings and emotions, but hopeless when it comes to sustaining the consistency required.
Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bali, NYC, Berlin - you lived and worked in so many different cities and countries. Which inspires you most and why? Where do you see yourself settling in the future?
Travel is definitely where I get my inspiration the most, it offers me a sense of freedom. So, I figured if I can somehow attain this feeling on a daily basis, I will continue to be inspired every day. Right now, Berlin gives me a lot of freedom, all the options in the world to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Therefore, I feel very alive and open to receive it.
I find inspiration everywhere, the harder part for me is the motivation in utilising it.
Settling? Please ask this question again in a few years.
Which fashion week scene is closest to your heart - New York, London, Milan or Paris?
I think Milan and Paris always been the closest, only because I’ve been part of it since I was 18. I have established families in these two cities and only reunite during fashion weeks. They have become my safe havens.
Referring to your modelling career, what are the some of the greatest runway experiences you can remember?
I would say when I was walking for Armani Privé as part of my very first fashion week season in Milano. This was a big dream of mine that finally came true. To become an International model was my sole goal when I was 13. I remember when I got an interview for a teenage magazine at that time; they asked me what my biggest dream was and where I would see myself in 5 years… so I manifested that pretty early.
Do you have any favourite photographers to work with and why?
I cannot really point out my favourite photographer, I feel truly blessed to have worked with some amazing photographers, all with their own particular skill and energy. I always like to work with someone that has a carefree attitude and has the ability to let things happen naturally, this is when magic is usually created. I guess the instant emotion felt on a shoot and the flow of energy is imperative – you can almost always see it in the outcome.
To end the interview on an inspiring note, as we’re in full spring mode after the season's change, please let us know what is the idea behind PAWAKA’s latest campaign?
I will start in highlighting that I believe all elements and living things are here as each other’s support system, we are one. The PAWAKA SS17 campaign was inspired by way of Spatial Thinking – consciously opening the thought process to see particular things, shapes, objects, nature, and their relation to one another to form the whole. It is influenced, by both creative visualization and process visualization – the awareness of space.
Working together with creative collective Duende, PAWAKA launched: “A Visceral Journey” - a short video for the Spring/Summer 2017 campaign, starring dancer, performance artist, and choreographer Tarren Johnson. Equipped with only a pair of PAWAKA glasses and a poem by writer Katerine Niedinger, the artist from Los Angeles tells a tale about the in-between, reminiscing of smoke, the name giving element for the campaign, located somewhere between solid and liquid, constantly changing and evolving.
To top things of and we are glad to let you know that PAWAKA was named alongside FAKBYFAK - another independent eyewear brand you can find in our eclectic gallery - one of "The 5 Up-and-Coming Eyewear Brands to Know, Straight From The World's Largest Sunglass Fair" - 2017 MIDO Eyewear Show by W Magazine. Have a great spring and #BeBoldForChange!
photos of Fa' Empel: Viktor Sloth