DAMAN Style Designer Interview: Susanna Perini, Founder of Biasa

The Journey Carries On – Susanna Perini, the woman behind fashion and lifestyle brand Biasa, shares with DAMAN about the latest collection from the brand, the current state of men’s fashion and more

Fashion and lifestyle brand Biasa, which means “ordinary” or “usual” in Indonesian, was founded by Italian-born designer and art enthusiast Susanna Perini back in 1994. As a label inspired by Indonesian lifestyle and Italian design ethos, they were the first on the island to offer visitors and residents sophisticated resort-wear collections along with treasures from around the world; hand cast homeware, objects d’arts and exotic handmade furnishings. On top of that, there is a certain luxury captured in the brand’s simple pieces from many of their collections that possess an effortlessness that actually encourages the wearers to push the boundaries of their dressing habits. Now the brand have grown to become an award winning and internationally recognized label, art space, with a growing reputation, fans, partners and customers not only from Jakarta and Bali, but also worldwide.

DAMAN: Hi Susanna, thanks for having us! What’s keeping you busy these days?
Susanna Perini: It’s been a beautiful and busy start of the year. On a personal note, there has been a lot of celebration, as my first grandson was born in Bali six months ago. For Biasa, I have been focusing on the launch of the new Summer 2019 collection. To top it off, we are constantly upgrading and expanding, like our new menswear floor in Kemang, Jakarta as well as new enhancements to our store in Ubud in Bali. We also have some very exciting new projects, including an experimental line of mini Biasa pieces for small boys and more, which I hope soon to reveal.

DAMAN: First of all, how did you initially work on the design signatures of Biasa?
Susanna Perini: My vision for Biasa has always been nonconformist. After spending early years in the industry in Rome and Milan, I wanted to create silhouettes that moved with the spirit of Bali and reflected my inherent desire to merge art and fashion; thus Biasa was born. The process is not a science, but an art form that comes to life, moulded to the human body through fabric and craftsmanship. It’s less “You are what you wear” and more “You wear what you feel.” Ultimately, though, I always start with defining a sense of freedom.

DAMAN: Have they developed since the first time you launched the brand?
Susanna Perini: Our collections have grown and transformed, living and breathing with the times. In all this transformation, I have always stayed true to my initial vision of a timeless elegance compatible with summer moods. Case in point: Our “Signature Collection” is our foundation capsule that has become part of the very fabric of the brand. Aside to that, we have our seasonal designs inspired by new silhouettes, new fabric treatments, colors and new assembling concepts.

DAMAN: If we’re not mistaken, the brand’s ethos is “Extraordinary Simplicity.” Can you elaborate more about this one in particular?
Susanna Perini: It’s a beautiful juxtaposition, considering the meaning of Biasa in Bahasa Indonesia. The lines are simple and sophisticated, the collection is free flowing, yet the work that goes into achieving this simplicity is truly extraordinary; it involves skill and experience, we are craftsmen and craftswomen, storytelling through handwork, weaving, stitching, hand-dyeing, hand-painting on very light natural materials.

DAMAN: How do you normally start a collection?
Susanna Perini: I recluse myself into my studio, kick off my shoes, put on my favorite music, experiment and play with forms, fabrics and colors. Often ideas spring from invisible interconnectedness between those collected objects, materials, colors that become all of a sudden obvious to me in that moment. I also have imaginary postcards of what is left in my mind after travelling or during special moments. A collection happens as soon as those images dialogue with each-other.

DAMAN: Given the many collections you have to create, where do you usually draw inspiration from?
Susanna Perini: I’m most inspired by the journeys I take each year, by art and by people. The world is filled with beautiful characters and experiences, all leave a specific flavor and I guess these are interwoven into everything I do.

Tony Narotama, Peter Zewet, Arimbi, Robert Emilian, Mateus Correia, Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta, Biasa

DAMAN: What about Biasa’s Holiday 2018/19 collection? What’s the inspiration behind it?
Susanna Perini: The Holiday 2018/19 collection brings the essence of Bali Resort Chic to life, sophisticated and elegant yet revealing and playful. The focus is on adapting the way we live and change, the way culture is shaping us into a kind of elegance that is beyond trend and remains timeless, yet absolutely contemporary.

DAMAN: In the Holiday 2018/19 collection, you bravely experimented with vibrant and intense color palette, matching prints and various motifs. Is experimentation a constant part in your designing process?
Susanna Perini: There is no innovation without experimentation and this rings true for many things in life; especially fashion and art.

DAMAN: This season the brand’s also introduced a new “total look” concept, with matching prints worn for tops and bottoms for both men and women. Do you approach menswear design differently from womenswear? Are there any specific challenges you have to overcome?
Susanna Perini: I prefer differentiating by form or body type than gender, taking the styles and creativity and exploring how they work on the male and female form. I always include unisex styles in all collections as well. We propose loose pants and kaftans to be worn by both men and women. The “total look” is fun and breaks an old habit to pair different tops and bottoms, we love it. I like to inspire an attitude tuned into true self confidence.

DAMAN: Given the expanding market of global men’s fashion these days, how do you see the current state of men’s fashion?
Susanna Perini: Vibrant and innovative. There has never been a more interesting time than now for men’s fashion where boundaries are being pushed and explored. I personally love to see genders becoming more fluid. This cultural aspect of our time is reflective of an important assertiveness of personal freedom of expression.

DAMAN: In this e-commerce era, do you think it is important to reach consumers through digital and online formats?
Susanna Perini: I think it’s important when done in the right way and we are working hard to achieve a balance between our “brick and mortar” and digital experiences. We like to feature our clients on our social platform @biasaonline, under the tagline “Beautiful in BIASA.” This helps form a community of those who appreciate what we do and wear it with grace and elegance. I will always opt for a personalized service over an algorithm and encourage Biasa customers to explore our digital platforms but also experience our boutiques, touch and feel our collections and immerse themselves into our “clear oasis” off the buzzling street of Bali and Jakarta.

DAMAN: Speaking of consumers, what is Biasa’s primary market at the moment?
Susanna Perini: Those who think off the box, bon viveurs, explorers and idealists. We have a really strong presence in Indonesia and a growing global appreciation and presence.

DAMAN: Correct us if we’re wrong, but Biasa will be launching the Summer collection soon. In the end of May if we’re not mistaken. Can you tell us more about the new collection? Or it’s still a secret?
Susanna Perini: I am excited about our Summer collections—especially what we will have in store for menswear! That is all I can say at the moment.

DAMAN: What story would you like to tell in the Summer collection?
Susanna Perini: The story of Biasa continues, with a few surprises that I think you will like. This Summer the accent is on white special shirts, crispy, pleated, precious, designed for the tropics. To be worn with attitude and confidence over sarongs.

DAMAN: Furthermore, how do you see Biasa evolving further in the future?
Susanna Perini: We will certainly evolve to have a stronger digital presence and our global reach continues to extend into Mexico, Thailand and Middle East. Our focus remains in Indonesia as this is our home.

DAMAN: Last but not least, what kind of aspects do you still want to develop for the brand?
Susanna Perini: We are constantly exploring interesting collaborations with artists and creative thinkers and will continue on our journey of ‘Extraordinary Simplicity’ that I share with those with a unique eye for life’s exquisite glow.

For the look:
Photography Tony Narotama
Styling Peter Zewet
Grooming Arimbi
Model Robert Emilian/Tayu Models, Mateus Correia/e-Models
Location Shangri-La Hotel, Jakarta, Kota BNI Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav.1, (62 21) 2922 9999, shangri-la.com