Through her company, The Clique, Faye Liu explores fashion talents in Indonesia and beyond, that are then brought to the global stage.
Going international is a dream for many talented fashion designers. No matter how much raw talent one might have, however, the journey to the world stage can be tricky. This piqued the interest of Faye Liu, and with her experience and expertise in the apparel industry, she decided to create a platform to refine and promote talents that are worthy of a global audience, through a company called The Clique.
Established in 2016, The Clique is a Hong Kong-based PR agency offering image consultancy, as well as brand consultancy and management. The idea of starting the company came up after Faye had the chance to work together with Indonesian couturier Rinaldy Yunardi, who encouraged her to establish a platform that can help Indonesian talents gain worldwide attention.
Fast forward to today, and The Clique has embraced a vast number of fashion designers and developed a strong network of professionals. The company has also connected designers with global celebrities and public figures. This year, The Clique has successfully enlisted the skill of Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen to dress Indonesian diva Rossa for her “25 Shining Years” concert, marking one of the company’s greatest achievements.
Recently, Faye shared with us the story of The Clique, as well as her vision and dreams for the designers and fashion industry.
Let us start with your passion – fashion. How did you first discover your love for that passion?
I have loved fashion from a very young age. One of the first designers I discovered was American designer Patrick Kelly. I remember watching his fashion shows on one of the fashion channels when I was about 10 years old and how I was intrigued by his work. Patrick Kelly was the first American designer admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter, which governs the French ready-to-wear industry. Since then, I have followed fashion ferociously but only pursued it as a career after moving to Hong Kong. The first Indonesian fashion designer that I worked with was Tex Saverio.
Can you also tell us the story behind the beginning of your business, The Clique?
Upon graduating from Boston University, I joined my family’s apparel business established in Indonesia in the early ‘70s. The experience developed my business acumen and expertise on the global apparel industry, including networks in related sectors. Despite the fact that we were expatriates, Indonesia continues to hold an important place for our family and The Clique was my manner of reciprocating by exploring the creative potential of Indonesia.
The Clique was conceived through my work with Indonesian accessory couturier Rinaldy Yunardi. A 2014 collaboration led me to his atelier, and his archives of beautiful and lavish creations piqued my interest. A series of discussions followed on promoting his designs globally through my international networks. I vividly remember asking him: “Where do you want to go?” And Rinaldy’s reply was: “I don’t know.” And my response to that was: “Let’s go international”.
The casual endeavour substantiated as Rinaldy requested that I start a company that would promote Indonesian fashion talents to the world, and he entrusted his namesake brand into our hands. With the successful launch of Rinaldy internationally, our team of talents grew to encompass fashion designers and a strong network of photographers, videographers and beauty industry professionals, each with their own edge and signature style.
What is the vision behind your company?
The Clique is a boutique firm known for discerning taste and distinct methodology for our PR, brand management and brand consulting. We have a clique of well-curated fashion talents working towards a common goal of propelling Indonesia’s fashion talents onto the global fashion map. It’s definitely a grandiose ambition because, more often than not, it is challenging to have strong talents working seamlessly together. In essence, it’s about empowering one another through The Clique’s affiliation – and this became our USP since our incorporation in December 2016.
Through our human, social and knowledge capital, we developed global networks, strategic synergies and genuine trusting relationships between our portfolio of talents. They embraced our vision and mission that we can achieve bigger things as a strong collective. You can say that the unity of our talents is one of our critical strengths. At The Clique, we believe in quality over quantity. Although we touch on PR, The Clique’s unique methodology ensures our talents are foundationally reorganized and/or revamped aesthetically to suit international tastes before international exposure. This is significantly different from what a pure PR agency does.
Also, we are confident that my fashion direction highlights each talent yet presents a strong collective. Working discreetly behind the scenes is my sister JJ Liu, who oversees the corporate vision and mission, management of large-scale project participations, business strategies and negotiation.
What are some of the challenges that you expect to face in the future as times change?
A lot of changes have happened in the past few years due to the COVID situation. It has changed the way consumers shop and the way we can present and sell fashion. There is also the rapid rise of digital fashion that will to be incorporated in our work. The Clique has always thrived by not staying in our comfort zone.
Who are the Indonesian designers that have joined?
Indonesian designers in The Clique include Rinaldy Yunardi, Didi Budiardjo, Adrian Gan, Monica Ivena, and Maison Met by Mety Choa. We are also supported by senior couturier Eddy Betty and Thang Shoes. There are plans to collaborate with Tex Saverio in 2023. Furthermore, The Clique also provides consultancy to a few undisclosed designers on their rebranding process.
We have also expanded our repertoire to other areas pertaining to fashion. In 2020 we started working with one of the top luxury couture fabric stores with a 20-year legacy in Jakarta, designing and branding a new store called f[AB]bric society in Pondok Indah Mall 2. At the beginning of 2022, we started collaborating with top Indonesian diva Rossa on her image direction. One of our major achievements was working with top international couturier Iris van Herpen to dress Rossa for her 25 Shining Years concert. Rossa is the first Southeast Asian singer dressed by Iris at a live performance.
What’s your process like when bringing in new talent and then telling their stories on a worldwide stage?
Whenever we work with a new brand, we first try to understand the history of its inception. We review the short- and long-term goals with all our designers. After establishing a deeper understanding, we work on rebranding their brand image to cater to an international audience. The work involves brand consulting, fashion direction, fashion styling, and strategic celebrity placement, curating and nurturing the talent and presenting it to the world. We look for grit and resilience in our talents on top of all the other critical creative factors.
What are some of the biggest achievements The Clique has accomplished so far?
Since our inception The Clique has successfully promoted our designers to Hollywood, Bollywood and Asian celebrities. Collectively, we have worked with more than 130 international celebrities and public figures from Madonna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Khloe Kardashian, supermodel Naomi Campbell, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, Aaron Kwok, Sammi Cheng, Jolin Tsai and many more.
One of our biggest celebrity moments was at the Met Gala. Rinaldy Yunardi became the first Indonesian designer to accessorize celebrities on what may consider the most prestigious fashion event. It was truly an honour designing for Madonna when she was the host of the Met Gala in 2018. Another major achievement was a successful collaboration with China’s biggest production house that started with season two of “The Mask Singer” that aired on one of the country’s largest TV networks. It became China’s number one TV show with 1.2 billion views.
On the art scene, I am proud to say that Rinaldy Yunardi won the top prize at the World of Wearable Art competition twice, first in 2017 and then in 2019. He competed against more than 115 designers. Commercially, our designers have established a successful presence catering to clients from all over Asia, the Middle East and America.
On a related note, what are the main challenges that designers have to face in this era?
The biggest challenge for new designers is finding a clear brand image and identity while navigating the shifts in retail. My advice for young designers is to create boldly while managing the commercial aspects of their business. It is unfortunate that I see too many cookie cutter designers on the market. Their work is dictated by the market instead of carving out their own voice.
How do you see the influence of Southeast Asian fashion talents evolving in the years to come?
There are a lot of emerging talents from Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam that have successfully penetrated into international markets, such as Rinaldy Yunardi, Michael Cinco, Lynn Bann and Cong Tri.
The cultural diversity combined with deeply-embedded Western influences serves as a great foundation to be translated and modernized for the fashion business. It’s also noteworthy that Southeast Asia’s population of over 670 million is about 8.5 percent of the global population, with Indonesia being the fourth most populous country in the world at 270 million, which translates into one of the highest numbers of digital users.
In the next decade, with the developments of beneficial trade agreements between Asian nations to increase the Asian bloc prosperity, South-East Asian designers will play an increasingly significant role in the fashion industry as nations enhance their creative and manufacturing sectors.
On top of that, the rapid digitalization of these emerging economies will benefit from its fairly young population that are digitally savvy. As the world embraces diversity, curiosity and interest in talents from other cultures will pique globally, and social media will continue to play an important role in increasing the awareness of these talents globally.
The Clique sees these potentials, hence we believe it is important to prepare talents creatively while ensuring a strong back-end for business activities as relying on talent alone will not suffice.