Indonesian designer Tex Saverio on globally elevating Asian couture

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The Indonesian designer Tex Saverio is in Manila for Fashion Exchange International. Pictured are two looks from his Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Photos courtesy of TEX SAVERIO

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — This is part of a series of articles profiling designers who are presenting at Fashion Exchange International.

The designer Tex Saverio has sometimes been called the Alexander McQueen of Indonesia, but he’d rather be known as Indonesia’s Tex Saverio.

In that, he is becoming quite successful. Do a quick Google search of “Indonesian couture,” and one of the first things that come up is an article about how the Indonesian designer is bringing his country’s couture to global markets.

Saverio’s eccentric designs are almost theatrical; his bespoke collections feature intricate details of metal and embroidery, while his ready-to-wear line has the same tones. This dramatic quality has made him a choice of major Hollywood players like Kim Kardashian, who wore a custom-made piece in a 2013 shoot for Elle magazine; Lady Gaga, who wore a black tulle number in a 2012 shoot for Harper’s Bazaar; and, most notably, Jennifer Lawrence’s “mockingjay” wedding gown in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

TS 1.jpeg Tex Saverio (left) designed the wedding dress worn by Jennifer Lawrence in her role as Katniss Everdeen on "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." Photos courtesy of TEX SAVERIO

In spite of all this, he still chooses to keep his main studio in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Over email, Saverio tells CNN Philippines Life about integrating Indonesian culture to his designs, the challenges one can face when catering to an international market, and why he decided to remain based in Jakarta. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

TS 5.JPG Looks from Tex Saverio's Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Photos courtesy of TEX SAVERIO

How would you describe your evolution as a designer over the years since you first broke out in the fashion scene?

I started off designing intricate and elaborate gowns that were quite different from what the market was used to. Over the years, my team and I decided to translate my ideas and concepts from my couture brand into more wearable garments. As a designer, I feel the necessity to stay creative but relevant at the same time, designing collections that are different but also a staple in a woman’s closet.

Your designs have been described as outrageous and theatrical, which is why some people have branded you as the “Alexander McQueen of Indonesia.” How did you translate your ideas to turn them into a ready-to-wear collection?

For me, I always want to inject a touch of Tex’s DNA in each and every collection I create. As I am known for details and intricacy, I always make sure that every piece I make has those elements, so it differentiates my collections from other designers. In my ready-to-wear collections, it was important for me to stick to simple silhouettes that are easy to mix and match, but bearing the signature details from my couture collections. It is an honor to be regarded in the same caliber as McQueen. However, I would prefer to be known as Indonesia’s Tex Saverio.

TS 2.jpg Looks from Tex Saverio's Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Photos courtesy of TEX SAVERIO

The ready-to-wear collection was mostly designed for the upscale European and American buyers. What made you realize that they were into simpler designs? 

I have a very specific target market when we start designing a collection. In my ready-to-wear collections, it’s important for me to stay relevant and contemporary, creating styles that were relevant but unique. I want to design for women from all walks of life. I come from a bespoke background. Thus, I try to provide the same energy and DNA in my ready-to-wear collections. This implies many aspects when stepping on the international scene: seasons, cultures, religions, and lifestyles. It is very challenging but constantly enriching my creativity.

When you were designing those dresses for Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, what was it like for you to know that they were so well received? Has the jump to being recognized in terms of Hollywood red-carpet standards changed the way you see your brand?

I am so delighted that people take these stories as historical moments in the Indonesian fashion industry as well as in the brand’s history. It took ambition for those artists and Hollywood stylists to believe that this is a market we can reach, as the fashion industry in Indonesia is still developing itself and some people might perceive this as an unattainable dream. These experiences have been a way for me to say that we can open that door and deliver a message about who we are.

TS 6.jpg Looks from Tex Saverio's Spring/Summer 2015 collection. Photos courtesy of TEX SAVERIO

Given the acclaim you’ve received internationally, why did you decide to keep your studio in Jakarta? 

I definitely think that the Indonesian fashion industry is growing, and we are growing fast. Designers are finally realizing the importance of building the industry with strong pillars that also include the business, technical, and financial support. My ready-to-wear line bears the Jakarta name, to remind our audience of where we came from. We want to show customers and industry partners the potential that Indonesia can offer in the fashion industry.

What do you think designers have to remember if they want to go international?

As a designer, I envision Tex Saverio Jakarta to become a global luxury lifestyle brand. Developing a fashion label implies a lot of challenge, such as the different seasons and cultures. Indonesia doesn’t have four seasons, and without living in a temperate climate, it is extremely difficult to understand the requirements of fashion for the fall and winter seasons in terms of design taking proper consideration of the functionality and wearability in cold weather. The competition in the international fashion scene is very high, which brings a constant challenge to every designer during the design process and business side of things. When we did our first Paris Fashion Week, we were one in over 100 new labels being presented between the solo runway shows and the showrooms, where the buying and selling happens. Cultures are mixed together in the public and each designer must respond to the various needs of those contrasted cultures.

TS 4.JPG Looks from Tex Saverio's Spring/Summer 2016 collection. Photos courtesy of TEX SAVERIO


Fashion Exchange International will hold the second day of its premiere collection showcase tonight, July 8, at the Marriott Grand Ballroom in Manila Marriott Hotel, Pasay City. There will be a showroom and presentations featuring the works of participating designers, including Aranaz, Ann Ong, Jail Jeans, JR by Jeffrey Rogador, John Herrera, Ken Samudio, Maco Custodio, Proudrace, Rosenthal Tee, and Tex Saverio.