Falling In Love With Glamour
TFCS caught up with Singaporean designer Indra Murak on how he keeps his thriving fashion business going strong
Singaporean fashion designer Indra Murak has been busy, to say the least. He has partnered with luxury jewellery brand Tiffany & Co for Singapore Fashion Week 2016, launched his couture bridal collection, and collaborated with Florence-based shoe designer Mashizan Masjum on the exclusive Indra|Murak Fall Winter for Mashizan collection. He shares his journey from TFCS on how he went from working in his living room to showcasing at the Singapore Fashion Week in collaboration with luxury jewellery brand Tiffany & Co.
TFCS: Please share with us your vision as a designer, how it all began and why you choose to focus on evening and bridal gowns?
INDRA MURAK: My vision as a designer and brand owner is that I want every client to have her dream gown on the biggest day of her life.
Since young, I’ve been watching my mum sewing her own curtains. She would ask me to help her wind the bobbin for her sewing machine, which set a pretty good foundation for my sewing skills, I guess! In secondary school, my ambition was to be an interior designer or product designer as I’m good at drawing. After my ‘O’ levels, I applied at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA), and was offered a spot in the course. I was so happy that I cried.
TFCS: How did your parents react to your decision to pursue design?
My parents were not too supportive, as they felt that doing designing and sewing is not a man’s job and they refuse to pay my school fees. I was very sad, but I followed my gut and accepted the offer.
I had about eight months before school started, so I applied for a job at Marks & Spencer. With the salary saved and CPF, I managed to pay my school fees. I continued working during school term, but only on the weekends in order to pay for next semester’s school fees and buying materials.
I was quite rebellious in my 1st year! All my other schoolmates graduated in their third year, but I could only graduate in the fourth year. In my last year, I had only a few classes a week, so I approached the head of department to ask if I could work as a teaching assistant for sewing class. He saw that I had improved a lot, so he decided to give me a try. I worked for NAFA Fashion Campus as a sewing teaching assistant for a year till I got called up for National Service.
My parents were not too supportive, as they felt that doing designing and sewing is not a man’s job. I looked for a job to save up, and continued working during school term on the weekends in order to pay for next semester’s school fees and materials.
TFCS: What were the highlights and struggles you went through while building your brand?
INDRA MURAK: After National Service, I was struggling to find a job.
I started freelancing with Jerome Awasthi Production as an assistant stylist. I have been working with him for the past 5 years as a dresser, and finally got “promoted” to an assistant stylist in 2015.
In November 2015, Jerome asked if I could help him design a dress for a Raffles City Shopping Centre Christmas campaign, with his tailor sewing it. The campaign went well and receive a lot of good reviews. Jerome then decided to let me design and sew for the next campaign, which is the CNY campaign.
A good friend from my unit in the Army asked about my business as he had heard about it and liked my ideas. I emailed him my business proposal, and he decided to invest in me. Once I had funds, I immediately called an agent for a unit in Harvest@Woodlands. I really needed the studio space as I work with long fabrics. Before the studio, I had to work in the living room of my house, and only in the mornings and at night after everyone has slept to minimise disturbance, especially to my young niece back then as my work equipment can be quite dangerous.
Indra’s Tips for Building A Career in Fashion
1. Never give up on your dream.
2. Find ways to work around obstacles. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
3. Look for opportunities to collaborate and grow.
Images from Indra Murak’s Instagram
TFCS: Why the focus on bridal design?
INDRA MURAK: During my studies, I also worked for my best friend’s grand aunt’s Malay wedding catering business over the weekend when I’m free. All the dresses look the same with the same silhouette, just in different fabrics. There was even once when I saw the same dress twice on different brides.
That got me thinking, every bride deserves to have an exclusive wedding gown. My first assignment was designing my best friend’s wedding dress. Instead of going the traditional route, I took it to the next level to modernise the typical Malay wedding dress.
What interests me about wedding gowns are the intricate details, such as the hand sewn beading and lace patterns. I’m an adventurous and glamorous designer, so I think wedding and evening gowns would be perfect for me to explore and grow creatively.
TFCS: You also conduct sewing and pattern making classes.
INDRA MURAK: I love teaching. That’s why I work at NAFA as a part-time lecturer teaching part-time students in the evenings. I started in late 2015, as I wanted to impart my skills to others who can’t afford to attend full-time courses at art schools such as NAFA or LaSalle. Some of my students are housewives who want to pick up fashion design as a hobby. My schedule is very flexible, so it’s perfect for them.
TFCS: With designer collaborations catching on, who would you like to collaborate with and why?:
INDRA MURAK: I would really love to collaborate with Ashley Isham as he was my very first role model when I started. He does gorgeous evening gowns, and is a homegrown talent who’s popular locally and internationally.
Before I had my studio, I was working in the living room of my house, and only in the mornings and at night after everyone has gone to sleep to minimise disturbance. My niece was pretty young, and I didn’t want to risk any accidents as the tools I work with can be quite dangerous.