Jo and I have been following Jakarta based Kemala Home Living on Instagram this year. Both of us having a soft spot for traditional products with a modern twist, and often commenting on how much we admired their textiles and wooden pieces, particularly their cushion covers and teak boards.
I can never have enough cushions in my house, and I’m always on ‘the look out’ for a ‘new print’. I can’t pass up a teak board either. I not only love the functionality of a teak board, but each piece is unique in its own right and has endless uses apart from serving cheese!
Just recently, we had the pleasure of spending the morning with Dian Rosa; the founder, manager, coordinator and curator of Kemala Home Living. We spent our time together amongst some of our favourite Kemala Home Living textile prints and teak boards. Bliss!
Dian is an impressive young lady; ethically minded, globally aware and a lot of fun to be around. She is passionate about the locally crafted, the skills of local artisans and her own family heritage.
Did we mention, Dian manages and is building her business outside the hours of her 8-5 job? No small feat!
Read on for Dian’s story.
Please tell us a little about your background – Where did you grow up, study and live?
I’m originally from Lampung, but spent most of my childhood in Yogyakarta. My family and I moved to Western Australia towards the end of primary school and we lived in Perth for approximately 5 years. As for my studies, I did my first degree in Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta and was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the British Government to pursue my Masters in St Andrews University, Scotland (and no, I did not meet Prince William, in case you were wondering!)
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I’ve always had some sort of pull towards the arts. As a child, I fancied myself to be a ballerina or a dancer. I actually did take up contemporary dancing when I was in Perth, and participated in group competitions (e.g. Rock Eisteddfod).
Have you always been interested in Indonesian local design and craftsmanship?
I grew up in Yogyakarta which is famous for its handicrafts, so I learnt to appreciate handmade products from an early age. I recall, for a school presentation, I explained to my classmates about my favourite handmade necklace from pretty, tiny beads. It wasn’t until I completed my studies, though, that I fell in love with the numerous locally made fabrics that I encountered through my travels.
Why did you establish the Kemala Home Living brand?
I wanted to work with local artisans, and my motivation when sourcing makers was to provide decent pay, and reward for effort and skills. For example, one of the tailors I am working with is based in Yogyakarta. In the past she was working for a t-shirt manufacturer and was really underpaid, so I advanced her a sewing machine in the hope that she would eventually become a freelance tailor (who get paid quite well). We initially did some trials with sewing and now, she is one of my most reliable tailors.
I’m also exploring to collaborate with diffables, especially the deaf. Diffables in our society are not provided equal opportunities and this negatively impacts their self-esteem and chance to thrive and succeed. I aspire to contribute to empowering diffables, no matter how small.
Kemala Home Living is evolving organically. I started launching products in March last year on Instagram. The previous 6-12 months I was researching, and after 3-4 months the website went live. Then I sent some samples to bloggers, such as Living Loving (livingloving.net). We will be having an event together, soon.
How did you choose the name Kemala Home Living? I think “Kemala” sounds beautiful and it is my paternal grandmother’s name. She was a successful trader in Lampung Province, Sumatra and so, I hope I can follow in her footsteps and become a successful businesswoman too.
How would you describe the Kemala Home Living style?
Traditional mixed with modern. Traditional or locally sourced fabrics with a modern edge. The products include cushions, wooden kitchenware, textile products (table runners, coasters, placemats, napkins) and bespoke skirts.
How has the brand developed since it opened in March this year?
It has been developing organically from 0 to some 5,600 followers on Instagram. Sales have come from people who have bought products and their endorsements. I also make skirts. They are bespoke! People can order by contacting me on email or Whatsapp and International buyers can order through the web site.
Who is the Kemala Home Living shopper?
So far, the majority are Indonesians between 20-40 years, coming through Instagram and word of mouth. They are usually newly weds and new home owners, or simply love home decor. They also like wooden kitchenware for practical purposes but also because they love taking photos on wooden boards. Internationally, I don’t have as many buyers but the overseas sales are growing and, in terms of numbers, my international buyers usually buy in bulk. I have one retailer in Melbourne and hope to have more international retailers in the coming year.
We love that Kemala Home Living products are locally made and designed. Can you tell us about the designers and craftspeople?
The fabrics are predominantly from Bali, Flores,Yogyakarta, Cirebon, and Makassar. In each of those places I work closely with 2-3 suppliers. When we meet I look at their products, workshops, and conditions prior to signing them up. They work with local craftspeople and I talk to all the people involved. I go to Jepara, Central Java for the wood and I’m currently speaking with a girl who is working with batik tulis to develop my products using such material. I like batik tulis a lot because each piece is hand painted and therefore has more soul. The standard material for batik is 2mx1m and not one piece is exactly the same, hence the uniqueness!
Sometimes I also source fabrics during my travel overseas if they resonate with Kemala Home Living’s values and style. For example, I recently went to Myanmar and bought some fabrics from a women’s textile group who make great handwoven fabrics sold at a fair price.
Three of your favourite Kemala Home Living pieces?
This is tough because I love everything I sell, hahah. But my favourites I guess would be the ikat “Dancing Butterfly” for its gorgeous, neutral tones; the “Maharani” skirt because the material is super gorgeous and makes me feel so regal when wearing it; and the “Skinny Teak Board” for its versatility and style!
Any new projects you are working on at the moment?
Absolutely. I have four main areas of focus at the moment. Firstly, hampers which will consist of modern batik tulis (hand painted batik) table runners and cushion covers and wooden kitchenware. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, I am exploring the potential to work with diffables, specifically the deaf, for the sewing of my products (this is a very special collaboration which I want to foster). Thirdly, I want to make my own fabric prints to strengthen and distinguish Kemala Home Living as a brand, and fourthly, I really hope to open my own shop (this is rather a long-term goal, though). Wish me luck!
Home or fashion trends you are following this year?
Chevron, monochrome and neutrals. Basically I am a sucker for those 3 timeless trends.
Can you list 3 resources that you turn to regularly for creative inspiration for the brand?
I love reading blogs and books about interior and fabrics. For example, Bright Bazaar’s blog and book, for colour scheme inspirations; Apartment Therapy because I just love peeking into people’s beautiful homes; Design Sponge; Spoonflower.. and many more. Also, because I love travelling, I tend to source my inspirations from random encounters and observations when I find myself in tiny villages, mountains, beaches and talking to local craftsmen! Last but not least, I love bouncing off ideas with friends to see what would work to ensure that I stay true to the style of the brand without sacrificing quality nor the market!
What does a typical day involve for you?
I work full time in a development cooperation. It’s an 8-5 job, which I enjoy a lot (especially when I get to travel!) but it means that the time that I dedicate to grow the business is limited. After work I recap orders received during the day to make sure that they can be sent off the coming Saturday. Operationally I handle orders and take care of overall quality control. I have a part time assistant to help with the packaging and shipping, and for pictures I outsource the editing of photos for my website. I muse a lot, everyday, and that’s usually when new ideas pop up.
3 words to describe your Jakarta?
Busy, Vibrant and Creative
Book you are reading at the moment?
I’m reading two books at the moment. The first one is “The Dusty Sneakers – Kisah Kawan di Ujung Sana” written by my good friends Teddy Wijaya Kusuma and Maesy Angelina. It’s very well written, engaging, and heartfelt. I highly recommend it! The second one is “A Place of My Own” by Michael Pollan. I find his style of writing very compelling!
Music you are listening to?
Jazz, blues, pop, instrumental, and interesting local artists (e.g. Endah n Rhesa, Jogja Hip Hop Foundation, Sore).
Magazines you are reading?
I read many, but some favourites are Kinfolk, Elle Decoration, Martha Stewart Living (so sad they closed in Indonesia!), Home and Decor, Living Etc.
Any tips for new expats wishing to decorate their new home in Jakarta?
Take your time to pick up pieces through your travels. Indonesia is culturally rich. Each piece tells a story.
Favourite place to eat in Jakarta?
Am a huge foodie so I have a ton of favourites. To name a few…
Pad@28, Senopati (Western/Indonesian food)
Bakmi Permata (noodles shop with many outlets)
Mie Chino, Pasar Santa upper floor (excellent noodles!)
Bunga Rampai, Jalan Teuku Cik Ditiro, Menteng (Indonesian food with very classic and Dutch-inspired décor)
Lara Djonggrang, Jalan Cikini Raya (excellent Indonesian food and presentation by Tugu Hotels group)
Midori (Japanese cuisine and adjacent to a great, no-frills massage, Bersih Sehat), Jalan Wahid Hasyim not far from Jalan Sabang
Favourite homewares store in Jakarta? After Kemala Home Living of course.
Ceramic plates and glasses I like Jenggala (Bali-based but has a branch in Menteng). I also like these makers – Tekuni (Bali), Ayu Larasati (@ayularasati), Kandura Keramik (@kandurastudio)
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
Travel! Other than that, pretty much the standard: Watch a movie and hang out with friends and loved ones!
Where do you go to relax in this busy city?
Go to parks (e.g. Taman Suropati, Taman Lembang) or treat myself to a body massage!
*Kenalkan: let me introduce
Words: Liz Photography: Kemala Home Living