Whether they are brand founders, fashion designers, models, creatives, or stars, women are changing the fashion and beauty landscape. In our series “Words of Women,” EnVi talks to inspiring women about their goals, achievements, and journey in the fashion and beauty industry. In the second installment of the series, EnVi chatted with Peggy, Petty, and Lydia Hartanto, the sisters behind the Indonesian fashion brand PEGGY HARTANTO. The trio discussed the trials and triumphs at the helm of a high-end fashion brand.

Known for refined creations that uphold a touch of whimsicality, PEGGY HARTANTO is a leading Indonesian womenswear label that has taken the fashion industry by storm. An alumnus of the Raffles College Of Design And Commerce, Peggy acts as the Creative Director of her namesake brand. Meanwhile, Lydia handles business management and Petty leads the marketing team. The sisters have successfully scaled the brand to become the prestigious name it is now. And this is how.

Photo courtesy of PEGGY HARTANTO

EnVi: Before founding your brand, what were you doing? Can you share a little about your background and what inspired you to launch your own brand?

Peggy Hartanto: After graduating from Raffles Design of College and Commerce in Sydney, Australia, I worked with Collette Dinnigan — an Australian Ready-to-Wear brand — for a year before I decided to return to Surabaya to start my own label. It was hard to find an occasion wear that suited my style back then, therefore it inspired me to start PEGGY HARTANTO.

When did your interest in fashion begin?

Peggy: Since I was little, my mom and grandmother always dressed me and Petty (my twin sister) with their handmade clothes. I took the leftover fabrics and dressed my dolls with them.

Who would you say are your biggest inspirations?

Peggy: My mom and my grandma, as they are both examples of women who can do anything in life — having a career and being a wonderful caretaker at home.

Starting your own fashion brand isn’t easy, were there any challenges as a female creative director?

Peggy: I think when you are starting, every experience is a learning curve. Generally, there were challenges because we learned by doing and from people we met along the way. I learned fashion at school, but my sisters didn’t have knowledge about fashion at all, so we learned from books, got some mentoring, and through trials and rejections. I would not say that they are related to my role as a female creative director though. 

On the business side of things, what were some challenges the brand overcame in its beginnings?

Lydia Hartanto: Finding out and carving out the identity of the brand. For us, it took us some seasons. Training the human resources with the standard that we were aiming at. Trial and error on the sales and marketing strategy, as we were aiming for a contemporary Ready-to-Wear (RTW) that was not commonly known back then in Indonesia.

What are some misconceptions people might have when it comes to being a fashion designer and a brand owner? How is reality different from these misconceptions?

Peggy: That a brand is heavily relying on the fashion designer. It is partly true, but most of them are not. A fashion brand is a big teamwork, and creativity is a part of it. 

What are some things young creatives should keep in mind when starting their own brand? 

Lydia: First thing — getting a cofounder that can complement you. It will make the journey easier and more fun.

Photo courtesy of PEGGY HARTANTO

If you could give a word of advice to Peggy from 10 years ago, what would it be and why?

Peggy:  Form a team as early as possible. We were perfectionists and tend to do things ourselves, but now as we grew our team, we wish we did it sooner.

Before starting your namesake brand, you had the chance to work in Sydney. What difference do you notice between the fashion scene in Australia compared to Indonesia?

Peggy: The ecosystem, I would say. In Australia, the ecosystem in the creative industry is more mature; they have the support systems needed for a designer to grow. But then again, the fashion industry there is older than in Indonesia, and we are currently catching up.

On the other hand, as a veteran in the local industry, how would you say the industry has changed now in comparison to when you first started out?
Peggy: The fashion industry in Indonesia is more vibrant, and so many new brands are emerging. It slowly creates the whole ecosystem, with the media, retailers, incubators, agencies and so on. It will be exciting to see where Indonesia’s fashion industry goes from here.

Luxury RTW fashion is still a niche market in Indonesia, how do you manage to continue growing a business in a sector of the industry that’s still not accessible to most of the general public? How do you maintain and grow a clientele in a niche market?

Petty Hartanto:  Indonesians have been a clientele of luxury RTW fashion brands from overseas, so our homework back then was how to switch this into convincing that Indonesian fashion brands also have quality and creativity that is able to compete with fashion brands from overseas. Consistency, creativity, and quality were what we constantly put out there, and it was not a direct change. We were also lucky that we were at the right time when the contemporary RTW in Indonesia was growing, so we were not alone. Together with our designer friends then we co-founded ARA, a multilabel store that focused on this. 

Photo courtesy of PEGGY HARTANTO

What advice can you give to local brands looking to expand their business internationally?

Lydia: Strengthen the product quality and try to be consistent with the brand’s PR.

Some might be wary of starting a business with family and friends out of the fear of work interfering in their personal lives. Did you struggle with this too?
Not at all; we grew up in an environment where family businesses are the norm, and that’s why starting a business with siblings also felt normal for us.

How do you draw the boundaries between work and personal life to maintain the bond and relationship you have now? 

Lydia: I think our work and personal life blended well, and we didn’t try to separate them. We love what we do and we get to enjoy that as a family.

In some parts of the world, people still believe in the patriarchal view that women are expected to follow traditional gender roles. Did you have to fight this prejudice when you were starting the brand? And how did you gain the confidence to go against the imposed norms? 

Petty: We didn’t. Some of the women that we work with in our company are the breadwinner of their households. Therefore, we would like to provide more opportunities and a safe space by employing only females in PEGGY HARTANTO and having a more women-oriented working culture for our team.

Women empowerment and equality are steadily rising to become popular topics amongst young Indonesians. Do you feel there is an improvement in gender equality in the professional world as well? 

Lydia: Yes, [there] definitely is. Being women ourselves in a society that previously glorified women’s role at home, it is liberating to see that we have more freedom to choose now than before.   

A lot of young girls dream of becoming fashion designers and fashion brand owners but might feel discouraged at times, what advice would you give to these young girls to encourage them?

Peggy: Don’t be afraid to dream. We dreamed a lot when we just started, and we still do, as there are always goals to achieve. Everyone once starts somewhere. However, be ready to work hard. If possible, get a mentor. And always be nice to whoever you meet.

Interested in more Women’s History Month content? Check out the first installment of our Women’s Words series here.