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In Praise of Icy Professionalism

Model Snejana Onopka as Anna Wintour in L'Icone editorial - French Vogue

Recently I have had the opportunity of dealing with a certain businessman, a young entrepreneur even, on a certain project that is headed by my friend. I work as a freelancer for this friend of mine, managing his restaurant’s social media, but this project does not concern the restaurant, nor does it concern the company that I work full time for. My friend owns another company, an advertising agency, and this agency is handling the project that I participate in.

Like with the restaurant, I also act as a mastermind behind the project’s campaign on social media. This businessman owns and operates the media that we utilize for the project. I don’t want to go into details about the campaign, but let’s just say that I give orders to the businessman regarding what information to post, where to post it from, and when to post it. The campaign is very detailed and quite meticulously planned; I take it seriously. And it is also important to note here that my friend pays this businessman for the campaign, so everything is done professionally, at least on my and my friend’s part.

I said that because things haven’t gone very professional on the businessman’s part. For the most part, he is often late with the posting of information that I order every single day until the campaign is over. Obviously, that screws up with the meticulously planned timing of the campaign and could very well reduce the potential success of it. I let that businessman know, every single time, when he is late and, for the rest of his unprofessional part, he would always come up with an excuse after excuse.

The excuse wasn’t something out of a simple human error like “oh, sorry, I almost forgot that I had to post the information 15 minutes ago.” More than once he would tell me that a certain medium that we had agreed upon to use for the campaign has now become unavailable due to bla bla bla, so I had to put extra labor into converting the numbers of posting and redesigning the campaign. I can’t comment on whether all of these have made the campaign unsuccessful, but I know that his mistakes gave me frustration and there was nothing about the job that worth that.

Work gives us frustration; I know that and I can deal with that. However, regarding this campaign, I would rather see it fail due to my own miscalculation (and get frustrated by my own mistake) than to have someone I work with poorly execute the strategy. It’s bad and unprofessional enough that you poorly execute a strategy, but it’s far worse when you respond to complaints about your mistake with an attitude that is less than professional.

I have been communicating with this businessman via a certain instant messenger service. Every time, I would use proper grammar in my messages and address this person respectfully, but then this person would reply me with emoticons. When all things have went well, I would assume emoticons as signs of friendliness, but when we’re discussing about professional mistakes, they just seem like disrespect and nonchalance to me.

I’m very aware that even when nothing goes wrong I would still try my best to maintain my professionalism and a remarkable degree of formality. That is who I am (I’m sure you can quite tell that from the style of my writings alone), and it has pretty much been a source of complaints, particularly from my bosses. They have said things that would imply my disability to compromise and to deal with people flexibly, and even when they formally made me a part of the company’s Public Relations team they still felt nervous about letting me deal with people and just sort of be on the forefront.

How I am as a PR person might be unconventional. I got the impression that a PR person would have to be willing to go to great lengths to please the clients and the media and give them the impression that s/he and the company would do anything in exchange for good publicity or, at least, for the sake of not being deemed arrogant. It seemed to me that the only principle a PR person should hold on to is “to be unprincipled”: a PR person had to be warm and fluid, not cold and icy like I am today.

I have several good reasons to remain icy as a PR. For one thing, every company stands up for something, a certain goal, vision, and brand-positioning that just cannot be compromised. No matter how flexible the company should be, there are some rules that cannot be bent if the company doesn’t want to lose its identity and veer off the track altogether. Even when the company (or anybody) is forced to bend the rule, in face of a very desirable reward, the company shouldn’t do so too easily and too frequently. Why? Because essentially relation between the company and other party (and so is every form of human relationship) is a relation of power. The weak and the needy submit, and who is it that bends on command: the whore or the fucker? Correct, the whore.

The second reason (more like an example, actually) is Anna Wintour. Look at her; she is considered the coldest woman in fashion (also considered the most powerful) but she managed to rule the fashion world for more than 20 years as Editor-in-Chief of US Vogue. Everybody, from her own staffs to Marc Jacobs to Bernard Arnault, listens to her and do what she asks them to do. Most remarkably, she doesn’t do that by sucking up to everybody like a PR person supposedly should (it’s important to note that everyone in the company, with or without formal title like what I bear, is responsible for good PR). Rather, she does that by being decisive, by being able to let people know that she knows what she wants and why she wants it. That, and the ability to deliver satisfactory qualities for her clients. I would rather satisfy my clients with the quality of my performance rather than suck up to their feelings and be their next best friend.

So far, I have managed to keep my professionalism, integrity, and decisiveness and I’m very proud about that. Call me arrogant, but any company that hires me should be grateful for my attitude because it is exactly what the company needs to prevent anyone from walking all over the company’s integrity and reputation. It’s no big loss when some other party doesn’t want to deal with your company due to your refusal to being a suck-up. As long as you can deliver the best, clients and customers will come.

The metaphor of ice in “icy professionalism” is apt. Ice is cold and solid, the solidity symbolizes principle, integrity, and decisiveness. The opposite of icy professionalism is the “warm water”, where the fluidity of the water symbolizes the whore and this doesn’t even deserve to be a predicate of professionalism. Warmth is good, but who said that cold is bad? The chill keeps you level-headed and, like an ice water down your spine, it snatches you back to sanity, to recognition of the reality of your professional goals.

– Taws Up! –

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Beyonce Runs Music Video

I stand by my decision that I don’t like Beyonce‘s new single Run The World (Girls). But the video, which was released recently and you can see here, is just a visual masterpiece. Francis Lawrence directed this video, the same guy who directed Lady Gaga‘s insanely succesful Bad Romance video. The static formation of people in this video is similar to that in Bad Romance.

I like everything about this video: the choreography (it was perfect with every beat of the song, and Bey is a way better dancer than Gaga), the set design, and the best of all is the costumes. Bey was not worn by the outfits, she looked so natural and comfortable in them. And that Givenchy Haute Couture gown from Spring/Summer 2011? Superb!

The most brilliant part of the video was when Bey shot by the camera, bending on the dirt, upside down in rotation. It was the first time I seen it and I think it was genius, regardless of whether Lawrence was the first to do it or not. (wait, Melina Matsoukas sort of did that too for Bey’s Upgrade U video)

This video is just what Bey needed to redeem herself from the poor performance of Run The World (Girls) single on iTunes and on the charts. And if I have this video to see, I’ll deal with the song anytime. Just watch it, watch this testament of Bey’s supremacy in Pop music industry.

– Taws Up! –

Shoes from Beyonce's Run The World (Girls) video - image from http://thefashionwhorereport.blogspot.com

The Fame Kitchen

Lady Gaga - Telephone video - image from http://www.sirensofsong.com

The world’s (or at least 34,226,046+ people in it) obsession with Lady Gaga continues. As we countdown the release of Born This Way on May 23, I can’t help but wonder how Gaga became this big (as statistics prove here, there, and somewhere else) when she only has one and a half album + a handful of singles under her belt? How did she get this famous? Or, perhaps, how did she manage to make herself this famous? We need to look back to the past three years when Gaga first emerged on the scene and climbed the stairway of stardom.

Gaga started off with Just Dance. It was a great song and a #1 in many countries, no less. She already had some style that was “out there” back then. Not as outrageous as Gaga from The Fame Monster era then on, but it was enough to separate herself from others and catch people’s attention. Both her music and her style was a fresh alternative to whatever was dominant in Pop music back then (Beyonce’s I Am… Sasha Fierce?).

Gaga’s fame built up with Poker Face, another #1 song from The Fame, plus dozens or hundreds of more outrageous wardrobe. Gaga had established herself as an anomaly in the music industry. Sure, Gaga has been compared to or accused of ripping off Madonna, Grace Jones, and other artists, but let’s be honest and admit that none of them ruled the music industry when Gaga appeared on the scene. So, though Gaga may have copied someone else’s formula of fame, she had no guarantee that it would work in the 21st century. At least the bravery is original.

The Fame Monster + Gaga’s collaboration with Laurieann Gibson, Nicola Formichetti, and more creative people in Haus of Gaga + her embrace of the fashion industry only served to bring Gaga’s fame and artistry to an even higher level. At this point the world (I know I am) can’t help but suck on whatever she had to offer with full pleasure. And now with 4 singles out from Born This Way plus a handful of snippets and exclusive previews, 2011 is looking like another year of Gaga’s.

People are always on the look for novelty. That’s how Gaga won a lot of people’s attention and affection with her fresh music and style. I said fresh, I didn’t say original (which is another source of problem I’ll discuss elsewhere). Yeah, Madonna had been there but she has been absent for long that people forgot what it was like to be shocked. And how people responded to Madonna in the 90’s (which I consider to be Madonna’s era) is different, at least scale-wise, to how people respond to Gaga now. With the help of Internet and social media, Gaga’s eccentricity and shock value are just magnified. Nevertheless, Gaga is also backed with some talents that Madge may not have.

Gaga was right to move fast and upward with her artistry and style, breaking boundaries by exploring different sounds and different visual presentations at a very quick pace. So when followers of the similar “fast sound + abnormal style” formula started to appear (Nicki Minaj, Ke$ha, red-headed Rihanna, and Christina “Bionic” Aguilera, for example) Gaga seemed like an original and is far above the rest. Thus Gaga scored another point in popularity contest. That’s how you do it: when a copycat appears with your recipe to try to beat you at your own game, show them that you’re the best in delivering the goods no matter how perfect your formula has been copied by others.

Now that the competition has gotten fierce, it’s time to diversify the music and the style, showing the people that you are not “one note”. Gaga has done that with Alejandro, then Born This Way’s facial prosthetics, and now the Catholic-nun-goes-heavy-metal-biker look she’s been sporting since Judas then on. The latter seems to be the new manifestation of Gaga’s artistic vision, considering the design of Born This Way album covers and the fact that the album has a lot of rock and metal influence. Gaga herself did call the genre of her new album “avant-garde techno rock”. This diversification means another novelty (in Gaga’s career, not necessarily novelty in the history of music and performance) and people are always excited about that. That’s how Gaga became so famous.

But that’s not all. There’s more to Gaga’s fame than all the novelty and qualities that she presented. It is her mixing of quantity of those qualities. Allow me to elaborate on that point. To me, the maintenance of fame is like trying to satisfy hunger. When you’re hungry, you would want to eat something that tastes good with enough portions to make you feel full. Sometimes you’re hungry for something specific and that hunger can only be satisfied by something specific as well. But regardless, we will always appreciate some good new tastes that come to us at a surprise since we don’t prescribe what’s good and limit ourselves to it.

Gaga is like a Degustation Menu. The appetizer is called “styling”, one main course is the “singing”, another one is called “dancing”, still another main course goes by the name “music”, “choreography” would be the dessert, and we snack on the “humor” and drink on the “news”. We eat the menu and it varies from one day to another. The level of satisfaction that we get from each dish in the menu also varies. Sometimes the music is great, the singing is good, but the dance is just fair. We always like every degustation menu offered on the table, yet we often end up with the feeling that something was missing on this dish, or the entire menu would’ve been greater had this dish were that way or that dish were this way. In the end, however, we always look forward to eating another menu with the hope that the new menu would be improved. Something about the menu keeps us excited about it.

That is the best analogy I could come up with for Gaga. She is such a great artist and performer but she isn’t the best at everything, there’s always something that could be improved about her acts, something that often makes me go “ugh, why did she have to do it that way?” And when I said that she isn’t the best at everything, I didn’t mean to point out to her imperfections. Rather, I was implying that I can’t quite tell just how good Gaga is at what she does. I’ve listened to audio records of Gaga’s live performances and I thought she sounds quite average when live. But then I heard her sing on Oprah’s Harpo Hookup Show (where Johnny Depp was in the audience) and also her rendition of Nat King Cole’s Orange Colored Sky at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend and I thought “hey, I never heard her sing this good before.” The same goes for her dancing, she often makes me go “oh, Gaga, move your feet!” She did say that she herself wouldn’t say that she was one of the best dancers, but the flux in her performances gets me confused. At BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend, Gaga looked like she was gasping for air, but when I saw her for the first time in that LoveGame video, she moved like a real pro. The Judas rehearsal that was recorded on Gagavision no. 41 also proves, to me, that Gaga is actually a good dancer. So, what caused the fluctuation?

The cause might’ve been Gaga herself and the flux might’ve been intentional all along. It is very possible that Gaga holds back on her performance on certain occasions, sometimes delivering great singing but average dancing or vice versa, but never to disappoint entirely. The flaws might’ve been intentional to keep the fans expecting the better and for the critics (and the haters) to make comments that will then spark discussions about her over the Internet. That’s free publicity for Gaga, and I believe that there’s no such thing as bad publicity for her. Only Gaga and her team know whether it was all intentional or not. But even if it wasn’t, that is what you should do to keep your level fame.

It is important to remember here that as an artist or anyone seeking fame you should be talented and able to bring a lot to the table. You have to have what it takes to satisfy the fans’ hunger, yet you should never fully satisfy them. Give them something good but never make them full, just like the degustation menu: you have great pieces of, say, Foie Gras, and Lamb Chop, and Cheesecake, but they are all just pieces that make up a full course. When you eat a degustation menu, you’ll get full because of the small dishes combined, not because of one dish with a big portion. And eating degustation menu is actually never about getting full, but about tasting different things that are good (Tasting Menu is the synonym of degustation menu). Degustation menu shifts your attention from filling the stomach to refining the palate, and that’s what Gaga does with her art and her self-presentation: she gives you a taste of everything but never lets you be full of either one.

– Taws Up! –

The Edge of Release

The Edge of Glory - art from http://jannmarrythenight.devianart.com

Lady Gaga’sThe Edge of Glory” was probably one of the most anticipated songs from her new album, Born This Way (out this May 23). The release of that song a little more than a week ago felt so abrupt, as if Gaga was trying to make people immediately forget about Judas that didn’t do as well as Born This Way (the song) on the charts. But that didn’t change the fact that The Edge of Glory was highly anticipated and much welcomed by the fans, becoming a #1 song, reportedly, in 22 countries where iTunes was available.

The Edge of Glory, written by Gaga after and inspired by the passing of his grandfather, was boasted by Gaga in an interview as “fucking beautiful”. Rolling Stone’s Matthew Perpetua also commented about the song that “if any of these new Gaga tunes demands to be a big fat hit, this is it.” And Stephen Hill, BET’s President of Music Programming, reportedly was also calling the song “phenomenal”. Naturally, all those praises built the fans’ expectation and judging by the song’s performance on the charts, a lot of people were satisfied.

I’m one of the Little Monsters that fell in love with The Edge of Glory. I didn’t love the song instantly on first hearing like I did with Judas (yes, that’s true), but after hearing it for three times I have grown to love it. The song, however, did not sound like what I expected it would. I tried to digest the pre-descriptions that some sources have provided and I thought the song was going to be faster and louder than it is, like Judas. But, no, the song is entirely something else.

Right before I arrived at my office to download The Edge of Glory, the read a tweet from @GagaIndonesia, saying that the song sounded like a Disney theme song. After I heard the song, I would have to agree with @GagaIndonesia and I think they provided the best description of the song. Not only that The Edge of Glory sounds like a Disney tune (I can’t be specific which one, it just sounds like one) but it also feels like one, especially because of the way the song makes me feel and the sort of images that the song impresses on me.

What do we usually find in Disney productions? Magical landscape, enormous castle, colorful trees, animals that can’t stop smiling, and fireworks in the sky (please, this has nothing to do with Katy Perry). I imagined all of that when I heard the song and I started getting tears on my eyes, much like Popjustice.com’s reviewer did and some Little Monsters out there. It wasn’t because I felt Gaga’s emotions through the song, but because when I was playing the Disney scenes in my head, I imagined the characters being either on a roller-coaster ride up to the sky with fireworks blowing and colorful hot air balloons flying on the sides or running so fast up on a hill, with big smile on their faces, ready to jump off the cliff with the sun on the horizon.

Both are the kind of situations that get you feeling exhilarated, like you have been freed from your problems and pains and just set free without any burden whatsoever. Listening to The Edge of Glory made me feel like I was finally in that state and it felt so good to finally be freed and let go whatever it was that I needed, unconsciously, to let go. The song gave me some sort of release and that state felt like glory to me.

– Taws Up! –

Ability Crisis

The intersection. Which direction to take?

I left my office with a bad feeling last night. It began when I was just about to finish managing this blog for that day. I decided that I would make some subscriptions to some other blogs, most of them belonged to my friends and the remaining two were Bryanboy.com and Diana Rikasari’s blog, Hot Chocolate & Mint. That’s when it hit me and the bad feeling started to build up on me.

Try to check out Hot Chocolate & Mint, if you haven’t, and you’ll understand why that blog is #1 in the country according to Indonesia Matters and receives more than 2,000 visits per day. The blog is very fun to look at, the photos are great, the clothes look cute, and Diana always looks like she’s having fun and she sort of infects that on you through the screen. Hot Chocolate & Mint is both hot and cool.

Then I look at this blog of mine, and I think you’ll shout “amen!” when I say that my blog looks like a damn collection of philosophical essays. My writings are often lengthy and not made more beautiful with visuals, which are potentially boring. To be fair, I have been absent from my blog for more than two years and Diana has always been active on hers. Moreover, lengthy argumentative writing is my style. Not that I cannot make short posts loaded with photos like Diana does, but when I have thoughts on something, I’d like to vomit all of them out. Given this difference of style, why the jealousy, then?

I just got really interested in blogging again and now I care about my blog way more than I did before. And when I care about something, I could get frustrated when I know that what I have or what I have done hasn’t been the best of its kind. Add my own impatience to this mix and you’ll understand why I felt like I needed to rush myself to Diana’s level. But it’s not about being #1 in the country, or receiving 2,000 visits per day, or being a professional blogger like Diana is. Well, not at first. But it’s about being able to put all I’ve got into my blog (and everything that I work on) and make the best out of it.

I got frustrated that I haven’t been able to do that. I got frustrated knowing that I have so much creativity to offer yet still unable to manifest that in a tangible work that is my blog. It frustrates me even further not knowing how to get started. It seems like there is a lot to do, so many skills (like design and photography) to master, and so much catching-up needed to be done. It seems that my frustration and panic have culminated in creative paralysis.

When it comes to battle between bloggers, we can unanimously say that I’m still the loser, but in general I’m not always one. Many people have praised me for my command of English, and my eloquence, and my writing skills (if you happen to disagree, maybe it’s because you’ve seen someone better. I didn’t say I was perfect, darling!) and I really appreciate that. How I feel right now is like Christina Aguilera: I and the people know that I’m a good singer/performer and they praise my mastery of the techniques but I just never really had a hit and establish myself as the best in anything. And then Lady Gaga comes along with her average vocal ability, complemented with some piano and song-writing skills, helped by fantastic styling and image-making, and suddenly she’s the biggest Pop star in the world that makes me sound like an old news.

Like Aguilera, I feel like I haven’t found what I’m really good at and try to stick with it. I feel like I still want to venture into different territories and try to cultivate different skills (which is a good thing) before I can establish myself as the brightest star of a certain constellation, if you know how to decipher that metaphor. What feels bad for me, about all of these, is knowing that I’m about to turn 25 and I have just begun trying to discover my path and decide which direction to take, something that I should’ve done years before.

But maybe I’m just being too impatient and not enjoying the journey. Diana, Bryan Boy, Perez Hilton, none of them became super-blogger overnight, right? They, too, have worked so hard for what they earned today. So I just need to accept the fact that I have dues to pay. But, still, I’m about to turn 25 this November. I’ll be damned!

– Taws Up! –

Underwear, Underneath My Skin

Confidence Underwear Cookies, sweet in every bite

Attending CLARA Revival Night Lights on May 13 this year was a valuable experience for me. I got to be there because I won a contest, I got to watch three collections being presented (one of them by Tex Saverio whom I looked forward to the most), I got to get introduced to Didit Hediprasetyo (for whose recent haute couture collection I drafted the press release), I got to meet again with my friend from Junior High School that I had not met for 10 years, and I got other valuable things too.

Sadly, I was not entirely happy. There was nothing wrong with the occasion, the fault was entirely mine. During that night, again for the hundredth time in my life, I felt insecure. Why? Basically I felt intimidated by the people that attended the event with what they wore, how they looked, and they fact that they seemed to know each other and I knew nobody. I felt really under-dressed and out of place.

For the record, I dressed quite properly for the occasion: I wore a Monday To Sunday shirt on top of a 16DS jeans and a pair of Zara high top sneakers. But I can’t deny that, compared to the other guests, I felt like I should’ve dressed . . . more. So, had I dressed “more” for the occasion, would I have felt secure? Presumably not, because I realized that my insecurity did not root at what I wore. It rooted at something deeper.

Someone who was among the guests did wear just this: shirt + shorts + a pair of hiking sandals. Less proper than what I had on, isn’t it? But that same person gave and received dozens of kisses during the event. That person was well-connected and knew and known by a lot of the guests there, I was not and that fed into my insecurity. That person was secured by his connection and enormous wealth (I know this for sure), I was not and I guess that was the biggest blow to my security.

Had I not come to the event with my boss, I would have gone to the venue by public transportation or maybe taxi (I did have an invitation of my own as a contest winner). When I left the venue at Pacific Place mall, I had to walk all the way to Semanggi to catch my bus. It was later than 9 pm.

Whenever I’m in that kind of social situation and my insecurity kicks in, I would feel like everybody is looking at me. Not that they always do, but when they do I feel like they do it in disgust. “Ugh, look at your oily face”, “ew, what a shabby clothes”, “are you sure you’re invited here?”. Those thoughts probably pass people’s mind when they look at me. This is the same feeling that prevented me from going inside a boutique, even just to look at its collection of jackets and jeans, because I would feel that the shopkeepers knew I wouldn’t buy anything and think inside their heads “oh, please, these clothes are too expensive for you!”.

This is exactly an instance of Jean Paul Sartre’s idea of “the look”, and I would feel like an object, scrutinized and judged by the subject (others), whenever I felt insecure that way. I feel like when the others look at me, they could see right through my soul and my history, knowing where I came from, my social status, my level of economy, and every little facts of my life that I may not be proud of. I need a reversal, become the subject of my own world and not the object of others’ world. But how?

Stylists would often suggest us to be confident in what we wear. Implicitly: be delusional that you are somebody, that you are the star of the occasion. I guess they are right, and even if they’re not, the self-fed delusion certainly works to get you through the night before reality breaks in. Reality. Perhaps I was being too real and too good at perceiving the reality that a lot of people looked down on me. But what exactly is real? What if I wasn’t being real and that my insecurity was the delusion that I created, instead of creating the delusion of confidence? How am I supposed to tell what is real? How am I supposed to tell that I’m not paranoid?

I don’t know. All I know is that the delusion of confidence doesn’t work for me. “The look” is just too strong for my barrier to hold against. And it’s also because I know that it isn’t just clothes that I wear to any occasion, but it’s also my life: who I am, what I do for living, how much I make per month, what I have achieved, etc. I can’t change the “bad” things in my history, but I can make up for that by becoming a “better” person in many ways. Myself and everything about my life are my wardrobe that I wear wherever I go. What I need to do is clean this wardrobe, stitch up the holes, do what I can to make it look brand new and damn precious. Then I can wear it and be confident about it.

– Taws Up! –

Tex G-O-L-D

Tex Saverio opening visual at CLARA Revival Night Lights

If you look back to read on some of the major fashion publications and news outlets in Indonesia for the past few months, chances are you would come across an article of a new, 1984-born designer named Tex Saverio. Rio, I believe that is how he is usually referred to, has been gaining a lot of attention from the fashion community, especially editors, for his avant-garde, couture-quality designs. After securing the honor of being one of the designers making presentation at Dewi Fashion Knights in Jakarta Fashion Week 2010 (he was showing with senior designers), Rio got an even bigger boost to his name, one that instantly brought him to prominence: a feature of one of his designs on May 2011 edition of Harper’s Bazaar USA worn by Pop superstar Lady Gaga, no less.

Tex Saverio at CLARA Revival Night Lights - look 1

How did Rio’s design ended-up being worn by someone as big as Gaga? Basically, his presentation at Dewi Fashion Knights was covered by the press, including the foreign ones. Some photos of his presentation were then found by super-blogger Perez Hilton and posted on his Coco Perez blog, and then that post was found by Lady Gaga’s stylist, Nicola Formichetti (who is also the creative director of the newly revived Mugler, fashion director of Uniqlo, and fashion director of Vogue Hommes Japan and other publications. Perez could have told Mr. Formichetti about the dress, too, since both are close friends of Gaga’s.)

Mr. Formichetti then gave Rio a call, asking him to send his dresses to be worn by Gaga in a photo shoot for her upcoming Born This Way album. Unfortunately for Rio, his dresses arrived late and the photo shoot was over, so he had to be content with having his dress featured in Harper’s Bazaar USA only. The dress is a long-sleeved black corset dress with embroidered skirt, very fitting for Gaga’s extravagant style and in perfect contrast with her pink hair.

Tex Saverio at CLARA Revival Night Lights - look 2

Last Friday (May 13, 2011) during CLARA Revival Night Lights, I had the privilege of being an eye witness to Rio’s presentation. The collection was understandably short because, 1st of all, it was not his private show, and then he had to show without break after Andreas Odang and KLÉ. These two brands presented collections that were relatively minimal but readily wearable, the exact opposite of Rio’s beautifully complex yet hardly wearable collection.

Rio’s collection (I’m not sure if he had a name for it) consisted mainly of gold. His presentation was opened by a model wearing golden body suit, something that would catch the attention of performers like Gaga, Kylie Minogue, and Dita Von Teese. The model emerged from a dropped white curtain that revealed The S.I.G.I.T band and Bina Seni Vokal (BSV) Choir that provided soundtrack for all three presentations, and she was immediately followed by 5-or-so models, one wore a knee-length dress and the rest wore ball gowns.

Tex Saverio at CLARA Revival Night Lights - look 3

All dresses were dominantly gold and heavily embroidered, with a little touch of black here and there, particularly on the final dress worn by model Paula Verhoeven. The embroidery was probably inspired by flowers, but I hope that Rio had been thinking of mosses and mushrooms because it certainly looked like them and they would have been a more genius reference than any obvious flower. The embroidery was very meticulous, it was swirling rows of golden petals layered on top of each other and three-dimensionally crafted to make the floras. The final dress was black (the skirt was probably layers of tulle) and gold embroidery was on the body to create the look of a fitted jacket with pointy shoulders that looked like raging flames.

I beg your forgiveness if this article and the photos that I provide don’t add much details about the clothes. I sat on the 2nd row next to my boss that came together with me, and all I had to photograph those exquisite dresses was my BlackBerry. The quality of the camera was so bad and we were no nearer to the stage than the photographers at the pit were. But if I can be allowed one excuse, that was not how something like Rio’s design should be presented and appreciated. The context of the presentation did not do justice to the clothes. Not bad, just unjust because the clothes should have been presented in the same way Riccardo Tisci has been presenting his haute couture collections for Givenchy lately, especially if details and workmanship are what needed to be highlighted about the collection. But, regrets aside, Rio still managed to wow the audience.

Tex Saverio at CLARA Revival Night Lights - look 4

After that night, I found Rio to be so significant not merely for his talent, what he has created, and his dress being worn by Gaga, but because I felt that Rio was the new symbol of hope that Indonesian designers can really break into the global scene, presenting their collections during fashion weeks at the four fashion capitals or, perhaps, by turning Jakarta into the next fashion capital like Brazil and Japan. We have always known that Indonesian designers have got what it takes to take on the world stage, and even if they haven’t quite managed to break into the global business yet, they still have enormous design talent to offer. However, I suspect that many designers have grown content with being successful in Jakarta alone, having rich socialites as their loyal clientele. It seems to me that Indonesian high fashion is now more about the money and dressing the ‘It’ girls for the ‘It’ parties instead of about setting the ultimate standard of beauty.

I have a belief, and hope, that Rio won’t end up being one of those designers. You look at him, covered in tattoo and sort of hiding beneath his hooded jacket, and you don’t think that he will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Adinda Bakrie or Fernanda Tjahjadi at Louis Vuitton customer gathering. I look at Rio and he reminds me of Hyde, the lead of Japanese rock band L’Arc-en-Ciel (you will agree that Rio looks like a Japanese or Korean TV star). I look at what he presented that night and tried to estimate his talent, and I thought of Alexander McQueen.

Tex Saverio at CLARA Revival Night Lights - look 5

What Rio has presented so far doesn’t qualify as wearable in any normal social occasion. If Rio is going to be more than a designer that creates theatrics, if he is going to make women look sanely beautiful in wearable clothes, he would need to learn how to pull himself back when creating ready-to-wear and even custom-made dresses. I think it is good that Rio started off his career by doing too much and immediately setting himself as a promising couturier, because it would be easier to tone down all of the extravagance that he puts in his designs rather than trying to force himself do more after he started off his career by not doing enough.

I think what Rio needs to do to go further with his career is find a business partner that looks at his design, first and foremost, as a creative force not a commercial force. His business partner would have to be able to afford not gaining commercial success in an instant and has to be able to genuinely appreciate the critical acclaim that Rio could very well receive and to promote his creativity through the right channels to the right people. Rio had better maintain a good relationship with Mr. Formichetti because he is one among few fashion editors that have enough creative influence to push his designs into a wider audience.

Tex Saverio at CLARA Revival Night Lights - look 6

Like the collection that he presented that night, Rio himself is a gold that is raw and precious. But nobody wears gold when it is still raw. Rio, too, has to undergo process and polishing.

– Taws Up! –

Tex Saverio at CLARA Revival Night Lights - finale

 

Musing of a Monster

I dedicate the following poetry to Lady Gaga who, gradually after the release of “Born This Way“, has been under attack from certain people for her artistry and her belief in defending the rights of LGBT and other different kinds of human being. I composed this poetry as a response to the accusations made to her regarding the message of her 2nd single, “Judas“. Regardless of where Lady Gaga actually stands, in the light of God or behind the presence of Satan, this is where I stand as her Little Monster.

Musing of a Monster

“I just want to dance // until I reach the state of trance // Though I’ll be beyond repentance // I won’t care, I’ll take my chance

My spirit is a solid lance // stands erect with a perfect stance // Mine and yours make our fence // Against evil they’re our defense

Your belief will face resistance // so arm yourself with persistence // In life you need some prudence // so you can live your romance”

I posted the 3 parts of this poetry on my Twitter account, @MrTawakal, on the evening of April 17, 2011. They are the 1st of a series of my Twitter poetry that I entitled #PoeTwit. I hope that Lady Gaga will read this one day, and I hope that she and everyone else that reads it, feel somehow empowered by it.

Thank you for making me dance, Mother Monster.

– Taws and Paws Up! –

Stoned

Back in March 2011 I had the opportunity to meet my sister and her American family that I had not meet for about a decade. They gave me, my mom, and my other sister and her boy a paid trip to Bali. We stayed for about 6 days at this villa in Canggu. Clearly, I have a lot to write about the trip, but I want to focus on an experience that I had while I was at Canggu.

One afternoon, we decided that we would have lunch by the beach. It was the Echo Beach, and it was walking distance from the villa. The lunch was nice, I had a good Tuna Salad and tasted other dishes that we ordered. But the lunch wasn’t the best part of the afternoon. I brought my camera to the restaurant, and before our food was served I took some photos around the beach. I snapped some pictures of crabs when I walked up a cliff.

After lunch, I separated myself from my family for a walk down the beach. To my luck, the tide was low and that enabled me to walk further down the beach, stepping on the algaes and the corals. I also explored the bottom of the cliffs where I found something both disgusting and astonishing: sea urchin. I was thrilled that I got to see that creature in person, but I also felt kinda itchy just looking at them.

I was strolling down the beach, walking not above sand but on water and corals, wearing a slippery pair of sandals with both camera and BlackBerry on my hands. The sun was scorching and I had no hat on. I probably had sunscreen on but it really didn’t matter because I was so captivated by the scenery and the experience.

I took lots of photos, I explored all the cliffs, climbed to their top when possible, basically just trying to get lost in this new sensation and make the most out of the few minutes that I had before the tide goes back up or I pass out from the heat. It all paid off, I had one of the best times during that trip and in my entire life. It felt so good to get in touch with and intoxicated by the nature.

Everything that I photographed at the beach—the reef, the cliff, the algae, the beach—it wasn’t as good as what I’ve seen on documentary and on Google, but everything felt so precious. The experience at the beach, and some other encounter with Nature that I had during the time spent in Bali, gave me a whole new appreciation and love for the nature.

I have always cared for nature and green initiatives—I still don’t litter, I use recycled paper when possible, and If I were to purchase a car I would still consider a hybrid (except that something like Toyota Prius is damn expensive in Indonesia)—but after the trip I felt like I finally get why green initiatives mattered.

Maybe a personal experience like what I had is what it takes for others to get on board with living a “greener” life. That is understandable: you can’t value something that is alien to you. Now I’m just glad that I made the decision to walk down the Echo Beach. I’m just glad that I was still that kid who wondered about the nature and the unknown. I just hope that I won’t ever lose that.

– Taws up! –

Back for Good?

A white lamb I found in Lembang during company outing

I guess The Almighty does work in mysterious ways. It’s been about 2 years since the last time I posted anything on this blog (formerly named “Either/Or” or “Speak My Mind” or something else), and now I have a renewed interest in writing on my blog again.

So how did The Almighty work to renew my interest in writing? I think S/He made this happen for that reason: I got a BlackBerry Message from my boss this morning, asking me to come over to Social House where she was spending time with her daughter and some business associates. She did mention something about blog in the BBM, but before I got to her I thought she wanted me to help her with creating blog or whatever professional thing she had regarding her new fashion agency venture.

I sat down and then she revealed that she wanted me to help her tween daughter set up her own blog. I thought “OK, cool. It’s not something that I would get paid for, but what’s the cost of doing a small favor like this? Let’s do it!”. Me and her daughter explored the daughter’s WordPress account on her mom’s iPad (I never really touched an iPad before, so it was a new, challenging experience). She was supposed to write something about her school field trip, but we had to set a theme first for her account.

That’s when my interest began to spark. I browsed through all of the themes that WordPress had to offer and thought “hey, this theme is quite nice, that theme looks kinda good”. The visuals really caught me, and it felt so good browsing on iPad. After it all ended (we decided on a theme for the daughter), I felt that need to do it all over again.

I spent the remaining day at the office working on my blog, finding a new theme and basically setting the blog up to look more decent than it was. I was going back and forth between my own interest and what I had to do to keep the salary coming, and as I was doing so I started to realize how I have much to write.

Honestly, the sudden return of interest did distract me from my job. I began to, and still, feel that writing is what I’m supposed to be doing. And if I continue to do so seriously, maybe I’ll be able to make money out of it like many other bloggers do. Who knows?

I don’t know how much I can commit to this blog. I do know that I have materials to write about, time and facility to write them down, so maybe I’ll do better than how I have done for the past 2 years. We’ll see.

– Taws up! –