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September 19, 2022
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Authenticity in Fashion : Jacqueline Loekito

We got the chance to meet amazing the designer Jacqueline Loekito at this years Modesuisse edition. A delightful conversation around gender, fashion and the next generation of creatives.

Naïma Stark- So how is it being at ModeSuisse today? How are you feeling?


Jacqueline Loekito - oh, I'm actually really nervous. It’s always like that for me:  the day before the show, I'm always so nervous. Thinking too much, you know, imposter syndrome.You think that you're not good enough. And then, yesterday we had the fitting and everybody's so talented and does amazing stuff.

So, of course, you're like, kind of comparing your work to others. But then, it's also weird because I love competition, too, you know? Well, it's not real competing compared to where I’m from, London. There it’s bitchy competition. Here, it is healthy, and I love it. That's one of the reasons I'm also here today.


NS – And how did everything go at the fitting?


JL- Well, it was amazing.  I really didn’t have to do a lot of changes or tweaks.  What’s important is that I always bring my own people. Queer community, of course. And often it goes like them saying: " Fuck it, Jacqueline dress me! " You know? And I love that passion.

 

NS – what are the core values of the brand?

JL- The brand really is about freedom of dressing, of thinking and of course freedom of speech. So, I don't care what it takes, please be individual! I think this is what we're really lacking here as a society.

And my fashion is not just that, it's educating.

Especially when I first started; everybody was like:"The fuck is this ?!" Seeing men in skirts with heels and hairy legs.To this, I'm like: "Honey, don't you know any fashion history?" Back in the day men were already wearing makeup, wigs, and heels. I'm not doing anything new here, I'm just pushing people; "Hey, come on!" and encouraging openness. I’m Just trying to remind people of the things they forgot about.

Let us just be free, you know. And, also, growing up in Jakarta it was quite conservative, there was just no freedom in what we wear. And when I moved to London, I was finally liberated.


NS – So growing up in Asia and then knowing more of European culture by moving to London. How was your experience and what did it bring to your designs?

JL- I mean, I knew by eight years old, that I wanted to be a fashion designer. My mom’s British, so I had the privilege to move to London and be with her. My parents were separated. So, then it came down to my fashion career, my mom said; “you're not doing that inJakarta, you do fashion, you do it in London”. I was like, Yeah, that’s fair enough.

 

The transition was crazy because Jakarta is so different. It's the biggest Muslim country in the world. But then, it's also very harmonious: my whole family has different religions; Buddhist, Hindu, I'm Christian, some are Muslim.

 

The big thing is that there's no gender in the Indonesian language. That's why thatGerman or French is so hard for me, because of everything being binary. It’s also shaped the way I think. Yes, the gendered are separated in role “Oh, this is male, or this is female.”; ugh, It doesn't work for me. Everything should be considered the equal. So, to answer the question, it was shocking, overwhelming. But I said to myself: “Fuck, finally, I have the freedom to do whatever I want here in London".


NS – So, your gender fluid and inclusive approach comes from there then? The language and your environment?


JL- Plus, it was just so restrictive back home. Things were very coded; you cannot show this or that. Of course, I have still had some freedom, but I also wasn’t really allowed by my parents to step too far from the line.

An interesting thing to me was, some of my friends going to the mosque, and the men wearing dresses and sarong to go there. I was always thinking; well, hold on a second.

They socially actually could wear all those things. There was a lot of trying to make sense of all of it. It’s when I started studying, that I knew that there shouldn't be any restrictions and it's just the society telling us what to do. At the end of the day, we decide, we shouldn't just blindly follow it.


NS – You got to work with Giles Deacon and the brand Meadham Kirchhoff. How was the experience for you?


JL- Amazing. That was my time in London when I was studying. I was in my first year of my BA and started there in 2009. It was around the time they were like a really a big thing inLondon, and it was amazing. I loved Giles’s personality also Meadham/Kirchhoff were a really cool combo back then. The big downside was the people that worked with Giles. They were so bitchy. One time, I even cried in the bathroom whilst eating cake because how mean they were.

NS – Were you interning there?


JL- Yes, it was really rough. But this is so normal there.

And it’s also like that when I am working at theFashion Institute. I'm trying not to perpetuate this culture (at HGK Basel).It’s an old school way of thinking. That if you do fashion, you must be mean.When at the end, we are a big fashion family.


NS - There's kind of this stigma of fashion being very bitchy, very cold, and coded. And you're bringing something else to the table, what are other experiences you have?


JL- Thank you, well, especially with school (HGK Basel), we're trying to open up the way we think, so they don't think in the code’s way anymore. We’re slowly not thinking that way anymore and I'm hoping that everybody’s seeing the change. And I think it's already very much is a reality: I know of lots smaller brands, you know, or just like mine. And none of them are mean and conniving like it is to be found in London and Paris, and all around the world.

So, it can be a good experience too.

NS – And how is it now to be teaching and sharing, after being yourself a student and going through all of these internships?


JL- To be honest, I don't really like the term teaching because it’s old and connoted. I see it more like guidance - accompanying the student and it’s just like talking to a friend. As soon as they start their first year, it's like: "show me your world."I want to see their desks full of their own stuff so I can enter their universes. Let me in and then I can help you and I want to push the best out of you.

Sometimes It’s also by questioning, you know, “are you sure of this ?" Let's open things up because you have more talents, it's like exchanging with friends. It’s very honest and that's why it works so well with them. The coaching and working together; I don't sugarcoat things, most of the times when teachers go: "yeah, interesting". That doesn't help.Really good criticism helps in building you up and evolving. And I expect that from people too.

For example people wouldn’t come in here and tell me:“Hey, Jacqueline, I think you need to improve this.” and I truly wish they did that. Often, they're just standing either silent or approving everything like;“oh, yeah, great. Sure". And I’m like come on give me something here. I need tough love otherwise I don't grow.



NS – So you see it all as a synergy and working together?


JL- Yes, I always listen to people. I’m lucky there are a lot of great people coming to me; “hey,Jacqueline can I model for you?" They feel like they're comfortable asking me, that’s great. And it’s always with pleasure of course.

That exactly happened with Sascha (@whereasthis onInstagram). Do you know Sasha? They are one of the firsts that, called themselves transtrender/nonbinary. They’re from a small village in Switzerland that only has 1500 people in it. They really are one of the first people that spoke out and, actively talked about this issue, it's just incredible to be working with people like them. I remember they dm'd me last year when Brandy walked (@auntieactivist on Instagram) walked for me last year. And they were like "Jacqueline! I also want to walk!" It’s all of this is important things that we’re slowly but surely putting into existence and into the fashion scene.


NS – you’re a devote advocate for diversity, is it still hard sometimes?


JL- That’s the funny thing; the establishments are so restrictive and set on what we know as a model: white and skinny. And I, myself am not that. I'm voluptuous and I'm different, and I'm not going to represent that when in my essence, I’m not it.

Of course, my mom is white, my dad was Asian, but that's why I always bring my models or my people from outside and I'm always pushing them to have their limelight. Even when there’s resistance, it’s primordial to me.

And the funny thing is, they're always the one that end up receiving the most attention. Of course. So then why is it still a thing? Why, as an establishment, do they not consider taking these people in as they cast from the start on?


NS - So, what brought you to Switzerland after London?


JL- I’m here because of love, darling. My husband is Swiss! We were in a long-distance relationship, and I said to myself; “fuck it, let me come to Switzerland, shake it up a bit.” I was so fed up with London at that time too. So yeah, it’s been because of love.


I'm married and have a child now. The crazy thing is, I never wanted to get married or have kids. Nothing like that. It's always like that. You know, it's a nice surprise. But I proposed and he changed his name to mine. I was like: “sorry,I'm not taking your name”.

Just saying, you know, we can do whatever we want.


NS- Do you still feel like exploring other fashion scenes in other countries, for example ?


JL- I think I can do whatever I want. It doesn't matter where I am, the digital world brings everything so close together it isn’t an issue anymore.

I still want to live in New York, for example. I still want to live in Vienna. I've moved from Jakarta to London toParis, now Switzerland. Nothing is stopping me; I don't know what's next.


NS- Can you please go more in depth about the collection (all I ever wanted was everything) you’re showing at this edition?


JL-So, in the beginning of the year, I was reflecting on the fact that I am now a mother. My daughter is two years old. So, it's also a time to find out who I am, as a mom, as a designer and somebody that works at Fashion Institute. I was thinking, you know, I want everything and I was being honest with myself.  And that is the message I wanted to send; AllI ever wanted was everything.

And then one day, inMarch, I was discussing exactly this topic, with my students. We were sharing what everyone was doing, and we were sitting on the floor with biscuit and all that. There, I was expressing that feeling and explaining it.

And then, one of the students, Lorenzo, said that he was vibing with that feeling a lot. That it was an honest statement and he felt like that too.

He’s also a drag queen(@tessatesticle on Instagram) and it felt so right and that's why I asked him to walk today’s show. As Tessa, in drag.

We all want everything. I mean, who doesn't? Don't we want a nice holiday? Don't we want great sex? Don't we want great hair, great nails, you know, all those things?And sometimes we just don't want to say it out loud. We want the best. Nobody says it. Yeah. Nobody's... I don't know why nobody says it. We all want fucking everything!


We cannot achieve all of it at once, of course. But hey, slowly, and when the right time comes, there's something for all of us. With small steps and small goals. We all have to try, right?

That’s what it’s all about.


NS- is there something specific you want your models to do this time around?


I always tell the models, just please be yourself and authentic. Don't do the classical moody face.


No one walks like that, okay maybe when you're in a fucking bad mood, but that’s all. We're all human beings, we have feelings.  

I tell them, all the time, to flirt with the audience and then, it’s always well received. And I think the models enjoy it because it's not the usual resting bitch face, we see in a lot of shows. It’s kind of sad. But then sometimes it's also what the designers want and that's fine. I respect that.


NS- The mood and spirit seem to be a whole process, don’t they?

I always talk to them intimately because I want them to feel comfortable with the clothing. And if they don't, we can change the garments. I'm making sure that they're like good and feeling well.They're going to represent me, and I want them to feel proud whilst doing it.


NS- Were all of today’s models chosen by you?


JL- With ModeSuisse, it's always last minute because they will give you the model list a few days or a week before. But the people I take with me, like Tessa, Lelani and Sascha. we already have conversations beforehand to build a relationship and doing fittings.

To have more freedom in casting it’s nicer to organise my own shows, but sometimes it's too expensive. And when there’s an event like this one, of course it is a good opportunity.


NS -Lastly, it’s been so nice and inspiring being here and seeing everyone’s style and propositions; It’s rich, and varied, isn’t it?


JL- Absolutely. And you know, I respect everybody here because we all have a different point of view, and everybody should be and is different.

(Thank you so much. Sorry, I talk too much.


NS- No. Just the right amount. Just the right amount (everyone laughs))

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