Breaking barriers to follow his imagination, Amot Syamsuri Muda brings a breath of fresh air to Indonesia’s fashion scene. This is his story as told to Maya A. Siregar.
Finding stylish men in Jakarta isn’t hard, as style references from all around the globe are readily available. Local designers, however, still face an uphill battle trying to balance what the market wants and their own idealistic visions. Amot Syamsuri Muda is one designer who has been blessed with the chance to do just that, with his eponymous brand—AMOTSYAMSURIMUDA—becoming one of the most sought-after menswear brands in the local fashion scene.
DA MAN: Hi Amot, it’s really nice to finally have the chance to sit down with you. So, let’s start from the beginning. Have you always wanted to become a fashion designer?
Amot Syamsuri Muda: I’m not sure, but I always knew that I was headed towards the world of fashion, design or art. I knew my chosen path since I was in junior high school, because I have never been good in other subjects like math. I was so lazy. I think the way I was brought up made me feel too comfortable at being myself. If I don’t like something, I won’t do it. Apparently, in school I can’t do that. But school is only a couple of hours a day and after I go back home, I can do whatever I want and I would start living in my own world again. I think that’s the privilege that I always had since I was a kid.
I recently asked this to my mom: “How can you know that I will love art?” Because my mom always allowed me to take art classes. Whether it is painting or something else, she always approved. She never minded that I didn’t take mathematics or other science classes. And when I was in 11th grade, I was already accepted at La Salle college in Singapore.
DA: How did that happen?
AM: So, one weekend, I went to Singapore for the sake of bailing from a school activity. I got bored of wandering and on impulse, I asked a taxi driver to take me to an art school. That’s how I got to La Salle. They gave me a tour and asked me to send them my portfolio. I did so and I got a phone call from them saying I got accepted. But I still couldn’t enroll right away because I was still a year away from graduation and they said: “We’ll wait.”
After that, I was pretty much not really into high school anymore. I just waited for the last year to pass. I didn’t even come to my graduation. After prom, I went to Singapore straight away.
DA: Did you finally feel accepted once you started studying in college?
AM: I did! I used to think that I was weird, but at La Salle everybody was just like me! Looking back, I remember feeling that my life was on track.
DA: What did you learn at La Salle?
AM: So, in my first year, I had to take art—painting and sculpture—and design—interior, fashion). Turned out I was good at fashion and interior design. I took fashion because it was more relatable to me; I’ve always liked cutting fabric and making clothes since I was a kid.
DA: All in all, what’s the best part of your experience in art school?
AM: The best thing that ever happened to me during those days was finding myself. After I graduated from La Salle, I met my lecturer who told me that “no one was as colorful as you among the new students.” I didn’t understand what he meant at first, but after working in fashion for years, I finally did. Every time I create, I am always being honest to myself. It’s all about celebrations, very pop-culture-ish and that’s what my collections are all about. I thought my lecturer was talking about my appearance, but he was talking about the character of my designs. I learned so much about how to find myself as a designer and as an artist in that school.
DA: So, now, what inspires you the most? What does your mood board look like?
AM: I am always inspired by fabrics. I never put fashion photos on my mood board. I like to see things that inspire me, like butterflies or floral patterns, and make them masculine. There’s always something feminine that I leave in there; it can differentiate my designs from others. Sometimes, my friends would even put their own photos on my mood board. So, basically, anything that inspires me, but never fashion objects.
DA: You designed womenswear for the ISIS label before you created your own menswear brand. What was the transition like?
AM: After college, I got two of my first jobs in Singapore and one of them was as a fashion stylist for a year. That was when I realized that when you design clothes, it needs to be wearable and relatable for people. After I returned to Jakarta, I was styling Dimas Beck one time and Dimas—who’s a friend of Andrea Risjad—asked me: “Do you want to work in Jakarta? There’s this lady who’s looking for a fashion designer for her fashion line.” Long story short, I said yes and found myself working as a fashion designer at ISIS for seven years. At La Salle, I learned how to be myself; but they didn’t teach me how to be a fashion designer. When you work for others, you learn how to sell your design.
DA: What was it that made you decide to create your own fashion line?
AM: Back then, I told myself that I could work for other people until I turn 29. That was my goal. Because I wanted to create my own fashion line by the age of 30. But here’s the thing: I didn’t know what my own line was going to be all about.
DA: Why did you choose to create menswear?
AM: I was always scared of creating menswear. Back when I was still in college, I remember a lot of people making fun of my menswear designs because they were too loud with too many things going on.
One time, I was at an event, and Ria Juwita came up to me and asked: “Mot, have you ever tried designing menswear before?” I was like, “No, never.” And then she said: “You should.” That was when I was working at ISIS. I brought up the idea to create a menswear line and she agreed to give it a go. We did menswear at ISIS for three years and it was well received. And that’s when I got really passionate about it.
So, after all that, I finally knew that my line’s starting point would be menswear. I wanted to create something that my friends, myself and everybody can wear. That’s how we started.
DA: What was it like when you created AMOTSYAMSURIMUDA’s debut collection?
AM: I was scared. I did a small presentation at a restaurant for my first collection. Fortunately, it went well. And even better, Plaza Indonesia noticed it. So, that year, I got my first slot in Plaza Indonesia Men’s Fashion Week event to present “The Red Collection.” It was a turning point for me.
DA: Did it meet your expectations?
AM: Did it meet my expectations? Yes, because I set it very low. I didn’t make money out of my collections up until the fourth. It’s basically taking baby steps as I try to differentiate myself from other brands and re-introduce myself as a designer. I called it “The Red Collection” to get people’s attention. At my first runway show during Plaza Indonesia Men’s Fashion week, I presented all black pieces on the runway. And for the finale, I presented pieces all in red. Why? First, it represents how I didn’t give up on my career after ISIS. Second, to get people’s attention and get them talking. And it worked.
DA: What was it about the fourth one that made it your first commercially successful collection?
AM: I had a very simple idea: I wanted to make shirts—16 of them. I want to create something that felt right for me at that time. A shirt is very versatile and unisex. At that time, I managed to sell all 15 of them in one week.
DA: What do you think about muses and influencers?
AM: I’m very selective when it comes to my muses. For me, a muse has to be someone that is really inspiring. Lucky Oetama is one of my muses. And recently I did a collaboration with him as well. Influencers and social media do help my brand a lot, especially during the early stages after it was launched.
DA: You also do a lot of collaborative collections. What is it about collaborations that you like the most?
AM: I wanted to focus on doing collaborations since early 2019. I felt that I needed to learn more. By doing collaborations, I am able to talk to other people, see how they think and gain new perspectives. My first collaboration was with Atreyu Moniaga. For me, a collaboration is a great way to learn things from the viewpoint of others and to introduce my brand and myself to other communities.
DA: What do you think is missing in Indonesia’s fashion industry? Particularly in Jakarta…
AM: During fashion weeks, I never see buyers from Surabaya, Bali or Bandung. Why don’t we have them at the shows?
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