THE LUXURY OF SIMPLICITY. The woman power behind fashion and lifestyle brand Biasa, Susanna Perini meets with DA MAN Style to discuss designing for men, having a muse and delivering the right campaign message
Perini with her muse Olop Arpipi
The year was 1994 when Susanna Perini, an Italian-born designer, decided to open a store to sell her airy, contemporary-shaped clothing pieces in Bali. Named Biasa, which means “usual” or “ordinary” in Indonesian, twenty years later the original store has expanded to five outlets all featuring a vibrant space that also brings art and lifestyle into the concoction. Furthermore, the clothes she creates are anything but ordinary. There is a certain luxury captured in the brand’s simple pieces that possess an effortlessness, which actually encourages the wearers to push the boundaries of their dressing habits. Utterly wearable and comfortable, the pieces are relative thirst-quenchers in the sometimes fickle and highly transitional domestic fashion industry. More than just clothes, the brand’s dynamic and non-trend approach has also infiltrated the lifestyle of many urban dwellers in Jakarta and Bali, spurring them on to look beyond trends and concentrate on elegance instead.
DA MAN: Hi Susanna, congratulations on Biasa’s 20th Anniversary! How do you view the development of the brand from its inception to today?
Susanna Perini: Thank you very much! Well, I am still surprised to think that it’s been 20 years since I founded Biasa. We’ve come a long way—the first small store was opened in Seminyak, Bali, and was surrounded only by rice fields. Starting with a sense of trust, we ventured into an experiment in my favorite albeit fashion-less island (Bali) and shaped the character of the brand right from the first day the store opened. I should say that over the past 20 years the development of the brand has been an organic and sustainable process. I’m therefore very proud of everything we’ve achieved, especially as it is still true to my original philosophy of being unique, simple by design and community-oriented by action.
DA: How about your own start in designing? Is it something you wanted to pursue all along?
SP: I grew up in a family of couturiers—my mother successfully ran her own company in Italy for many years, and I grew up very exposed to all aspects of the high-end fashion business. It felt very natural for me to continue with my own brand even though I had to adapt to a very different environment. Perhaps, it was my destiny to continue working in fashion.
DA: Can you tell us some more about your design aesthetics? For instance, whether you have certain characters in mind when putting together a collection?
SP: Unique, innovative, simple, deconstructed, sophisticated—I design for those who are comfortable with who they are. I am drawn to characters with strong identities, worldly travelers with a taste for comfort and non-structured elegance.
DA: Having both menswear and womenswear under your creative direction, how do you differentiate your approach between the two?
SP: Womenswear designs are developed with my team, yet they are the projection of how I feel as a woman. Meanwhile, the menswear designs are developed using the excellent feedback given by my closest male collaborators. We have a lot of fun exploring different trends and developing themes for the collection.
On a similar note, I like to push the boundaries for both men and women, whether it’s cut, color, embellishment or fit. Therefore, pieces often feature details that are only visible when you take the time to have a closer look. On top of it all, my philosophy of “beauty in simplicity” is projected in both lines.
Susanna Perini in her workshop in Bali
“A muse is a source of creative forces that influence, stimulate and inspire”
DA: Your latest collection for men this season looks particularly fun, with all the sporty pieces and vibrant colors.
SP: Indeed! This season’s men’s collection takes on a new direction to introduce sportswear alongside more “city” friendly pieces such as linen zipped jackets. It also showcases our signature menswear pieces: lightweight cotton and linen shirts and trousers, tailored jackets, brightly colored linen T-shirts, colorful scarves and sarongs. We like to experiment each season with something new and exciting for customers. And for this season, I wanted to capture a sort of “playful intensity” through colors and cuts.
DA: Let’s talk about your new campaign. Why did you choose to gather Bali’s creative entrepreneurs? What message did you want to convey with the campaign?
SP: All those models are Bali “kids”—not models actually, but real people. They were born at about the same time as my children, mostly from mixed-culture parents in Bali. Besides being young entrepreneurs, they represent a global group, the “Third Culture Kids.” They really have an expanded world view, a high sensitivity and tolerance to other cultures and ways of life as a result of being a mix of an elaborate number of countries.
By choosing them instead of professional models, I wanted to bring attention to the sense of open cultural boundaries. I also wanted to bring to light the immense talent on the island and give these young, bright up-and-coming creative heads a contextual exposure for what they are achieving. At the same time, I feel close to the concept of the campaign as 20 years ago, I did the same thing: I took a risk and decided to follow my own path, embracing a new place and a new culture. All the creative heads featured in our new campaign are doing exactly that; they are taking their own path to discover their potential, being deeply inspired by Bali and Indonesia.
A total look from Biasa’s latest collection
DA: What about Olop Arpipi—your muse for the men’s collection? How did you meet him and why does he resonate with Biasa?
SP: Olop is a very well-known Iyengar Yoga teacher based in Bali. I first met him over 20 years ago when he just started to practice yoga in a newly built yoga bale, a wooden-floored structure shared with only a few friends. That bale has now become a worldfamous yoga school! I continue to be a big fan of his yoga classes and a big fan of him as an individual. He is strong and confident. He loves to joke, laugh, dance, and continually explore the body, mind and soul.
Being elegantly eccentric, Olop shows great creativity in combining strong ethnic eastern pieces with sharp western fashion accents effortlessly. As a matter of fact, the cross-pollination between East and West is a very contemporary phenomenon that will continue growing with the far-reaching arms of mass media and Internet. Those new tastes and parameters derived directly from the meeting of opposite cultures greatly enrich the global culture of our century. And they definitely resonate closely with Biasa’s aesthetic and philosophy.
DA: What does a muse mean to you?
SP: For me, a muse is a source of creative forces that influence, stimulate, and inspire. A muse is the manifestation of a creative potential in which the artist recognizes him/herself. Even more, muses bring forth a fluent potentiality in an artist through a certain kind of magic they embody.
DA: Where do you envisage the brand being in five years’ time?
SP: I want our clothes to be very accessible online, and I also hope for some pleasant surprises! For now though, I hope Biasa continues to inspire people to explore art, lifestyle and idealism.
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