Christine Lafian, founder of SUKU Home
A journey into the realm of dreams of the Indonesian bedding designer. Interview extracted from Les Others Magazine Volume 1 : The Morning Issue.
I recently spent the morning in the home of Christine Lafian, SUKU designer, where we interpreted dreams, shared travel stories and played dress-up with some of her beautifully handmade pieces. Almost as an extension of her own unique space, the brand’s home decor line (SUKU Home) is an equally authentic and ethereal collection of home-wares, bedding and textiles that merge ethnic cultural influences into the modern household.
What does SUKU symbolize for you?
SUKU is like my own child. It’s a canvas. When I’m creating for SUKU I never have the finished product in mind. For me, it’s often more of a pursuit to find what’s interesting to me at the time the collection is being put together. Right now, I’m thinking about where and how I’ll shoot the next products and who I want to collaborate with. It’s not so much about the product, as it is the actual life that surrounds the item.
Where do you find inspiration?
My friends are the people who inspire me most, because they are real to me. I can truly talk to them, and this motivates me more than turning to a legendary figure. I’m also inspired by outside influences, but I also get a lot of my inspiration from inside myself, what is true to me. If you stick with what you’re good at and what is really true to yourself, something that you really love, people will relate to that. I always keep this in mind when I am putting a new collection together.
How important is art in your creations and designs?
Art is a tool that connects us to another dimension. It may sound strange, but I really do believe this. It’s almost another layer of the mind. To be able to create something that gives people feelings of euphoria, that tingly feeling is so important. You can honestly do this with anything – music, photography and even products. An object can remind you of something beyond the physical object that it represents, and a good artist should be able to make you feel emotionally connected. I want people who purchase items from SUKU to feel a deeper connection to the item. I think this is why it’s so important to me for each piece to be handmade and to have its own story.
The SUKU universe focuses on the concept of dreams. What is the most vivid dream you’ve ever had?
For me, dreams are almost like living in another world. Dreaming is simply another place for our creative minds to go. You’re able to contemplate whether or not these other worlds may actually be alive in some way, and that’s been an interesting topic for me growing up. I always remember a dream I had as a child. I was in New York, the whole city was dressed in white, and people were walking in unison down to the subway, except me, I was walking in a different direction. When I think about it now, it sounds a bit scary! At the time though, it wasn’t at all. Now that I’m older, I often try to interpret my dreams and I think that that particular dream symbolizes so much about my life. I grew up in a small town in Indonesia that was very traditional and controlled. There were so many social taboos, because Indonesia is a Muslim country. For me, the dream symbolizes my feelings of being very different from the culture that I grew up in. It makes me realize that during my life – although I value the tradition I grew up with – I have always tried to break away from forms of control. Looking back as an adult, that has definitely influenced my style as a designer.
You left Indonesia at a young age. Where have you lived since then?
I left Indonesia, alone, when I was 15. I always loved the land and the culture of Indonesia, but I never felt I belonged there. I went to New Zealand to study for three years and moved to Melbourne after that. I also lived in Perth and Hong Kong and then spent a year working for my mum’s travel agency as a tour guide in the Middle East. I was 20 at the time, and I was based in Egypt, Israel and Jordan.
Where else have you travelled that has inspired the aesthetic of SUKU?
Travelling to Laos was a turning point for me. When I went there five years ago it was still untouched. You could go to the market and find fabrics and artworks that people made with their own hands. There were women who would hike down from the mountains just to sell their textiles at the markets.
I have an interesting memory of a beaded skirt hanging outside a house in the village we visited. I asked if anyone was selling it, and a lady came straight out of the shower and out of the house wearing nothing but a towel. I bought the skirt from her and found that whole transaction fascinating, because people don’t do that kind of trading anymore. You never really know where products come from these days, and you don’t know who made it or the story behind it. I wanted to create a brand that appreciates the story. It’s important to know who made it, where it came from and the entire background of a product. Everything has energy inside of it.
So where does SUKU come from? What’s the story behind the brand?
I’m fortunate enough to know all of the women who work for me. I put together a studio in Bali, and the people working in the design studio are all friends of my family. At different times throughout the production process, there have been options for me to get everything made somewhere else in a cheaper and faster way, but I didn’t want to do that. Then I wouldn’t know the human story behind the product. Because of that, a lot of mistakes are made during production, but those mistakes are what make SUKU unique.
There’s a quote that says “style is created by limitations”. What do you think?
Exactly! That’s the creative process we have to go through for each collection. We also choose to work with bamboo rayon because I think it’s important to choose your canvas depending on whether or not it’s sustainable for the environment.
As someone who designs unique pieces for peoples’ homes, what’s your relationship with your own home and interior spaces?
This is a very interesting topic for me. As someone who’s moved around a lot, I’ve never really felt that a space was mine. Every time I moved, I left things behind. I really never felt very connected to a place until I moved to Melbourne. Now I have my own space here, and it’s something I have created with my own blood, sweat and tears. I feel at home here, so now I want to fill my personal space with things that I feel connected to and things that represent my own personality.
You’ve mentioned that you enjoy creating things that represent you as a person. At your core, who are you?
Apparently I’m supposed to be a very “airy” person. Sometimes I really do feel that way! I’m always floating around and moving from one place to another. That’s kind of what it’s like inside of my mind, too. I absorb everything around me. I like to fill all the space with information and chaos. But sometimes, just like air, I also like to be invisible. I don’t want to be the air that suffocates people. I feel the same way about everything that I create for SUKU. When I design something new, I want people to wake up and not feel suffocated by the things inhabiting their space. Instead I want them to look at the pieces in their homes and see each object as something that inspires a personal story or memory. Above all, I want everyone to feel a connection.
Photos : Charlie Romeo Brophy