April 27, 2011

Article at Wall Street Journal

Fashion: Who Made Lady Gaga’s Black-Tulle Gown?

In the May issue of the U.S. Harper’s Bazaar magazine, Lady Gaga appears in outfits designed by Versace, Alexander McQueen, Thierry Mugler… and Tex Saverio.

The Indonesian designer created the wildly ornate black-tulle gown the pop-star singer wears in the magazine. The delicate yet powerful dress, which features fine netting, flame motifs, and plenty of see-through material, is sexy yet bares almost no skin.

Mr. Saverio, still unknown to most in the West, is well-known in Jakarta to a certain set. His dresses are often seen at high-society events, worn by women who can afford to get one-of-a-kind creations and wear them just once.

The 26-year-old lives in the north Jakarta area he grew up in with his ethnic-Chinese parents. His design workshop is in a space adjacent to the home, and his studio, where socialites come to place orders, sits on the ground floor of the building.

Jakarta has enormous creative talent, Mr. Saverio says, but it needs to be better packaged to the world. “We just have to present the creativity,” he says.

He got a big break at Jakarta Fashion Week in November, when his collection—which incorporated intricate embroidery and unusual materials such as feathers, coins, chains and flexible metal—closed the event, held at the ritzy Pacific Place mall.

Three days later, a Tex Saverio outfit from the show was pictured on the influential U.S. fashion blog CocoPerez.com. “This dress is fierce!” said the blog. “We can’t help but think of McQueen when looking at this dress.”

The comparison to Alexander McQueen, the late British designer, resonated for many and it spread—but it caught Mr. Saverio by surprise.

“How can they compare me to McQueen when he’s such a legend?” he says. “I’m just a beginner.”

Lady Gaga considers McQueen one of her fashion soulmates, as is clear from the interview in Harper’s Bazaar—making it less surprising that Mr. Saverio’s work grabbed her attention.

Many Tex Saverio dresses keep skin largely under wraps. That's an influence, he says, of the more conservative culture that dominates Indonesia's formal occasions, where skin is mostly covered yet women still desire some flare.

Since getting the increased international exposure, Mr. Saverio says, he’s received dress requests from Singapore, New York, Dubai and elsewhere.

Mr. Saverio is considering where to set up a new atelier. Paris is high on the list, but he'll keep Jakarta as his base.

"I love Jakarta, and I love the people," he says, adding with a laugh, "I don't love the traffic."

For now, the designer’s focus remains on creating custom designs for the high-end local market, and he's often awake at 2 a.m. working on a client's dress.

His creative process differs from that of most designers, who typically sketch something first and then try to make it a reality. He says he finds that blueprint method too limiting. Instead, he prefers to play with ideas in his mind and drape things over mannequins first, discovering which designs or materials might work well together. Only after he's settled on that does he put pencil to paper.

A typical outfit (prices start at $1,500), he says, takes him two to three months to make, including the trial-and-error stage and the production phases. His assistants help him with the pattern-making and the details.

Mr. Saverio says that nearly every client asks him to create a ready-to-wear line for everyday wear. He isn't ruling that out. He admires the way Valentino, one of his heroes, combines simplicity and glamour in his ready-to-wear lines.

"For me this is just the beginning," he says. "I still have so much to achieve."

(See the article at wsj.com.)