We pulled up a chair at RUPAHAUS with Stephanie Chandra.
Growing up in an Indonesian household, Steph always held the Indonesian culture close to her heart, though what pushed her to build a fashion HAUS around it (pun intended)—apart from her deep love and appreciation for the culture—was her desire to preserve it, and to “interlace tradition into stories”.
What made you start RŪPAHAUS?
It all began as my personal interest in textiles and traditional craftmanships and the opportunity only arose in 2016, when I’ve worked in various fashion brands and seen it first-hand, how selfish the fashion industry really works. The idea of supporting what the fashion industry is really doing to the environment didn’t sit well with me ever since and I knew if I were to start my own, I would take a complete different approach to it, so after calling Berlin my second home for the last 8 years, I took a sudden decision and finally decided to go home to Perth and bring my dream to life.
Growing up as an Indonesian, my appreciation for traditional craftmanships has been embedded in the complexity of Indonesian culture and traditions, The initial goal to start RUPAHAUS was to create a bridging platform for the artisans to get worldly recognised for their traditional skills, however social aspects such as putting local resources into use in creating the products, while providing a medium for the traditional textiles to evolve together with time, in the hope to sustain the dying art of creating textiles as well as the artisans vocations in Indonesia, and educating them back to care for the environment they’re surrounded with through ethical processes and responsibly-sourced materials add to the equation with one goal in mind, promoting the local economy while preserving tradition at the same time.
The collaborative operation behind RUPAHAUS runs under the motto ‘’interlacing tradition into stories’’ and with it, we want to highlight the artisans and set their stories in the focus of the brand, by approaching it through a different perspective, we can still create not only ethically handmade products full of meanings but also rebuild the beautiful communities of artisan collectives and coincidentally still be kind to the environment we’re surrounded with.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
I take my dogs for a walk at 7:30am every morning. The walk usually lasts for 1 hour, and I like to vary my route from day to day. This walk helps me set the day right. I’d leave all my gadgets at home – this is really a time for me to set the day right and think of the priorities for the day. It allows me to freshen up my head every morning before I start anything.
What’s the biggest barrier you’ve found to succeeding as a socially conscious business?
I believe the public awareness of conscious consumerism in Australia is still relatively at its infancy, so a lot of our efforts go to helping to public to understand the costs associated with fast fashion and the overall socio-environmental benefits of knowing where and how your clothes are made.
Within the ethical fashion community, there’s a big question that we ask which is ‘who made my clothes?’. In the scope of RŪPAHAUS, who made the things you sell? Can you tell us a bit about them?
We partner up with traditional artisans across rural Indonesia; this means they are their own independent enterprises (and we don’t own them).
Each artisan collective brings about their unique signature through colours and textures you can see on each textile piece ever made.
We always try to highlight this signature through our textile and with each collection curated, we develop a deeper understanding of the artisans’ skills and craftsmanship – this enables us to help them showcase their best abilities.
Once the raw materials are processed, hand-dyed and manually produced through hand-loom machines, we pass on these fabrics to our partner production workshop (consisting about 20 people, including seamstresses, and pattern makers) and they then bring each design to life. We believe in growing together; this is why we have chosen to work only with small workshops and collectives rather than big industries.
Why did you pick the fabrics you have chosen to work with?
As we all know, fashion industry is one of the biggest pollution contributors in the world; but we can’t simply eliminate fashion altogether because a huge part of the textile world is tied very closely to fashion. Killing fashion to resolve the issue, would also kill a lot of vocations and people’s livelihood. So when we thought about starting a label, we consciously opted to retain traditional vocation and people’s livelihood, but minimising the associated resulting waste of fashion – this is why we choose to do plant-based and natural processes only.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Always have good intention in everything you do; because you’d reap what you sow. This always sets everything in a positive direction, no matter what I do.
What’s next for you and RŪPAHAUS?
As much as we have integrated sustainable practices into all aspects of RŪPAHAUS, we are yet to be a zero-waste brand. Our aim is still to turn our operation into a complete circular system by maximising our upcycling, and purposefully reclaim our waste into beautiful articles. So stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled, because beautiful things are coming your way!
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
‘’Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change It’’ by Daniel Klein. A refreshingly interesting, and witty book filled with wisdom from the great Philosophers, a well-put thoughts into the values behind these wisdom and so easily read. A helpful tool to put things into perspective, every time I read it!
Are there any other Movers & Shakers out there in your world that you think people should know about?
To be honest, I couldn’t be more grateful to be surrounded by so many movers and shakers in my own community and it is only fair to give a big shout out for this bunch for doing so much good things in so little time.
However, I’d like to mention these 2 amazingly talented souls that just never stop to amaze me with their work and dedication. First one is Liz from Argent Silversmith for being so independent in her work and really pouring her pace and progress into it, and like that’s not enough, little things with that she does in leading her lifestyle for a better world is just so inspiring and the second one I’d like to mention is the beautiful duo behind @theroadwest_, Melody and Cedric Tang. Their love for nature captures through all of their work and such talented eyes behind these lenses. Their dynamic really shines through everything they do and sky is really the limit when it comes to working together with them.
Fallen even more head over heels for RUPAHAUS? Us too.
Check them out in their full glory, here.
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