“The goal of my collection is to normalize traditional Chinese/ Indonesian clothing by taking aspects of it and incorporating them into things that everybody can wear”.
Samantha Darryanto is a fashion designer currently living in New York City. She studied mechanical engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before discovering her talent for fashion and design. We couldn’t help but be drawn to her beautiful creations so we contacted her for an interview.
EotB: Please tell us when and where you began as a fashion designer.
SD: As you may know, I never received formal training in fashion design/ sewing/ pattern design/ etc. I got my degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and went straight into the workforce after that. I started fashion as a side gig, back when I was a sophomore in the summer of 2013. I was interning in Utah over the summer and got so bored I decided to go to a thrift store and pick out some cheap finds to alter. The host I stayed with happened to have a sewing machine and I self-taught myself how to sew (very poorly but it got the job done!). From there, I participated in a few fashion shows in school as well as locally in Boston (RAW Artists), and started a fashion blog where I did DIY videos, fashion sartorial, etc. After graduation, I continued sewing in my spare time, as it was my creative outlet from a job I wasn’t passionate about. I did a few shows in NYC and from there, a few agencies reached out to me inviting me to fashion weeks in NY, Milan, and Paris. I honestly consider myself very lucky to have been noticed…
EotB: You are obviously inspired by Asian culture. On your website, you tribute this to growing up in an Indonesian household. We love the way you have incorporated it into your designs. Are there other elements that inspire your designs?
SD: Thank you so much! I would say yes, a majority of my work is creating a fusion of Asian culture with modern fashion, but in general, I am a big fan of collaboration and using fashion to create art. My earlier collections, for example, were collabs with local artists where I’d create an outfit specifically based on the media they typically use for creating art and having them paint on it. I.e. I worked with an oil painter, so the material I used for her outfit was more rigid and stiff. I worked with a watercolorist, so I used flowy chiffon, etc. The final product was a marriage of both of our creative visions. I don’t think I’ve found my “signature” yet because I’m so inspired by different things, every collection my ideas have been more transient than a signature. Whether that’s through traveling/ different cultures, looking at art, seeing a nonconventional material, and thinking ‘oh that’d be cool if it were wearable’, it’s always something different.
EotB: Tell us about your creative process from concept to atelier.
SD: Each time it’s different. Most of the time it starts off by seeing an interesting material first and then feeling a vibe (is this romantic, edgy, street, geometric, etc). From there I sketch up silhouettes to visualize the ‘vibe’ with the material I have in mind. Once I have a more concrete idea, I’ll buy the material and start draping it on the mannequin to see what looks good. Most of the time, the shapes I create are totally from draping and different from my original sketches. After draping, I’ll use cheaper material to create a prototype design to test. I’ll make the necessary changes on the prototype, pass it along to my seamstress to make it ~legit~ with the real fabric, and that’s that! Again, since I don’t have a technical background a lot of my process is quite messy. Now that I’m taking this more seriously though, I’ve dabbled in pattern making and being more technical in my process.
EotB: What is the most challenging thing that you face as a fashion designer?
SD: Not having a strong technical background really sucks, because it makes it really tough to scale my production. For example, the last pieces I made for NYFW, I haven’t been able to sell because there is no pattern for it aside from the one piece of it that I made. I’ll have to focus more on how to scale my production upward in order to move forward as a designer.
EotB: What comes easy to you when it comes to designing fashion?
SD: Ideation! I feel thankful that I’m able to see a vision/ vibe/ idea strongly if I’m inspired. I was a semi-finalist in Project Runway one year (semi-finalist meaning I didn’t get to the last round where they put you on tv haha), and the feedback they gave me was, I had a very strong vision and the idea and creativity are very present in my work, but I need to work on my technical skills to express that.
EotB: Do you have a favorite piece? If so, which one and why?
SD: I do! It’s definitely not a wearable piece, more art than function, but I love it. It’s a 2 piece ‘swimsuit’ that has a qi pao crop top and high waisted bottoms, both made out of Chinese silk. It’s covered with a see-thru tulle poncho and belted on the waist.
EotB: What type of person do you design your clothes for? Describe them.
SD: Bad bitches who are also super into their culture! Honestly growing up in an immigrant household, when I was younger I tried so hard to fit in. I tried to immerse myself in American culture to not be made fun of/ looked down at for being Asian or not being able to assimilate. And now that I’m older, I’m making up for lost time– all I want to do is share how beautiful my culture is to the world, without making it look cheesy or tacky. The goal of my collection is to normalize traditional Chinese/ Indonesian clothing by taking aspects of it and incorporating them into things that everybody can wear. So I guess my ideal demographic is an Asian American who is proud of their heritage and wants to rock it.
EotB: Tell us about your experience showing at Pier59. All of the looks we saw were incredible.
SD: Ah thank you so much! It was amazing, to say the least! I was so nervous and anxious leading up to it, and even during the show, it was quite stressful making sure everyone was dressed on time and wearing the garment as it should be worn. But watching my clothing walk down that runway, and having my loved ones there to experience it, I almost cried like 5 times haha. It was a magical moment and something that really inspired me to keep going. I worked with Oxford Fashion Studio where I was one of 8(?) designers in their show. They handled the models, hair/ makeup, as well as all the other logistics, and all I had to do was show up with my designs. It was so easy and I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity.
EotB: Are you currently working on your next line for Summer/Fall FW?
SD: Yes I am! I’m actually very thankful for quarantine as it has given me unlimited time to ideate and create. As of now, it will be 6 pieces, 3 male/ 3 female pairs. This collection will be streetwear themed, very excited to step out of my comfort zone
EotB: Where will Samantha Darryanto designs be showing next?
SD: The plan was Milan FW but with this quarantine not sure if that will happen.
EotB: Tell us how you would like someone to feel at one of your shows. What kind of vibe or inspiration are you hoping they feel?
SD: I’m hoping they feel like its a fresh take on fashion, and that they can really see the cultural inspiration behind it. I want them to feel a new appreciation for different cultures and realize that culture can be fashion.
EotB: How would someone go about purchasing one of your fashion designs?
SD: We’re still working on that. Everything is available on my website as made to order, but we are thinking of how to make it more scalable and thus more available.