My Jakarta: Angie Valerie, Jeans Designer

When friends asked Angie Valerie to help them with a project, she never guessed that it would lead to a business. Though she is still in school, Angie is now a partner in Jakarta-based jeans company Vision Mission. That’s fine by her, because she’s been hustling since elementary school.
Today, the 24-year-old Angie shares with us her passion for her jeans and her love-hate relationship with Jakarta, and clues us in on what might be the next big fashion trend.

What made you decide to start your own jeans company?

It all started with my friends’ school project last year. They created a business plan for a jeans company and since I’m studying visual communication design at UPH [Pelita Harapan University], they asked me to help with branding and design. From there the project became serious and they saw my commitment, so they asked me to become a partner. I’ve enjoyed working on this project since day one, even though I wasn’t paid. I’m the only girl in the team, this brand is my baby.

Where do you manufacture the jeans?

Everything is produced and made in Jakarta, from the raw materials to the buttons, even the packaging. While searching for suppliers, I realized that I could find anything I needed in Jakarta.

How did you come up with the name Vision Mission?

We had a few choices for names, but none of them fit our vision and mission. Then we realized that we kept mentioning the words “vision” and “mission” repeatedly, so we decided to go with that name.

So, what’s unique about the jeans?

At the moment they’re only for men. There’s no hype; we just focus on quality, branding and basic needs, so that the boys in the team would want to wear the jeans themselves. We’re just going back to basics because, at the end of the day, that’s what people are looking for.

What’s the price range?

They’re affordable despite the quality materials that we use. The average price is around Rp 390,000 [$43].

Are you competing with any other jeans companies?

There are several brands in Bandung. Last year alone, around 10 new brands came onto the market. Competition is always out there, although each brand has its own market. However, we support each other because we want people to appreciate local products because they contribute to the country.

Who’s your target market?

Anyone looking for comfortable, quality jeans at an affordable price. I have a few pairs of VM at home. Even though they’re for men, girls still buy them to wear as “boyfriend’s jeans.”

What do you do to relax?

I’m a laid-back person. You can find me at a coffee shop or the movies. There’s this place called That’s Life in Senopati; it’s my favorite coffee spot because it’s on the second floor of the owner’s house, so it’s very homey. It’s a good place to chat and spend time with friends.

Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur or an artist?

I’m more of an entrepreneur, but I never label myself. I love art and music, but ultimately, I want to make something that I can be proud of. Like an artist, I want people to see my work. For people to appreciate your work, you have to be able to market it as well, right?

How many tattoos do you have?

Five. A bracelet tattoo that I drew myself of a Native American feather, one on the back of my neck, a tribute to my grandpa on my back, a triangle behind my ears and one on my elbow that has a very deep meaning.

Any hobbies or businesses outside of Vision Mission?

I enjoy photography, design and cooking. I like to try new things. I used to work as an event organizer and I have contributed articles to magazines. Even back in elementary school I used to print off song lyrics and sell them to friends for Rp 1,000. I like to hustle [laughs].

How do you like living in Jakarta?

It’s a love-hate relationship. I hate the congestion, weather and pollution, we all do. The fact that there are high-rise buildings only served by narrow streets shows a lack of planning, but on the other hand, that’s what makes Jakarta different.

Where can we find VM jeans?

Strictly online at www.visionmissionjkt.com. Starting up with a small budget has forced us to be creative and find an alternative solution to opening a boutique. Selling online is more effective because we can control everything better in real time.

Do you see a future for online shopping in Indonesia?

Yeah, I see a really big future, especially in Jakarta. We make use of media such as Facebook and Twitter to build personal relationships with our customers. The key to online business is trust.

So, what’s in? Are skinny jeans still hip?

They’re out, but it’s all personal preference. We have super slim and slim cut. Dry jeans are in at the moment. These are jeans that you never wash, so it adds lines and character to the jeans. And the prediction is that prewashed jeans will be back in style soon.

Angie was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Angie Valerie, Jeans Designer

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

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My Jakarta: Dhaswarda, Polio Survivor

Jakarta, like life, isn’t perfect. But dwelling on the city’s problems isn’t going to change things. Today we talk with Dhaswarda, 29. Even though he hasn’t been dealt the best hand in life he still sees the beauty in the city, from his neighbor who diligently drops him off at his spot under the Asia Afrika overpass on Jalan Gatot Subroto each day to the people who stop their cars, get out and hand him a few rupiah.

Can I ask you what happened to your legs?

I didn’t get vaccinated when I was a baby, so I grew up with polio.

It only affected your legs?

I don’t know exactly, that’s just how it is. I’ve been this way ever since I can remember.

Have you ever thought about using a wheelchair?

Before, I had a wheelchair — it was a gift from a bule [Westerner] who dropped it off on the street and gave it to me. But I’m used to getting around on these crutches. Plus, what am I going to do with a wheelchair in Jakarta?

Why do you prefer using the crutches?

Because it’s easier for me to get around the city. It’s also easier to get through the doors.

How do you make a living?

I just hang out on the street, under the bridge. Before I used to sell Teh Botol Sosro in the Tanah Abang market, but since they renovated it and it went under new management, you have to pay even just to stand around outside.

So now I just sit here under the overpass on Gatot Subroto by the House of Representatives compound. I don’t walk around and beg, I just sit here and people give me money. Some people even get out of their car to give me the money.

How much can you make a day?

I can make around Rp 20,000 to Rp 60,000 a day. I’m very blessed.

Where do you live? Do you have a family?

I live with my mother in Jalan Jati Bunder, near Tanah Abang.

You’re not married?

I need to get my career and finances in line first, then I’ll be ready to find a wife. But the last time I had a job was 10 years ago. A wife would be embarrassed.

If you could have any job in Jakarta, what would you do?

I’ve been looking for a place to start a small warung [streetside stall], but it’s difficult to get permits, and after that you have to pay off people and preman [street thugs].

What would you sell?

I would sell something that had a fast turnover: drinks, snacks or clothing.

Have you ever thought about seeing a doctor about your legs?

I don’t remember the last time I saw a doctor. I’ve been to a dukun [traditional doctor], but that’s it. He said it’s from the gods, it’s a challenge in my life and there’s nothing he could do about it.

Do you think that you are being punished?

I had a twin. He was healthy at birth, but he died when we were 5 years old. I don’t feel like I’m being punished — at least I’m alive. My mother was too focused on trying to find treatment for me, and that’s why my brother died. I don’t remember how he died, that’s just what my mother told me.

You make your living right next to the House here, has anyone from the government ever tried to help you?

No, never.

Would you leave Jakarta if it meant that you could have a job somewhere else?

I always have hope in Jakarta; I’ve been here all my life. I just need someone to believe in me.

What time do you come and sit out here each day?

I’m here at 12:30 p.m. and stay until 6:00 p.m. I go home before the call to prayer.

What do you do at home?

I take care of my mother, because she is old and often sick. My father had a stroke a few years back.

How do you get here every day? That’s a long trek from Tanah Abang?

My neighbor brings me on his motorcycle every day on his way to work. He has to pass here anyway. And then he picks me up on his way home.

Your neighbor gives you a ride to work and people go out of their way to help you. So, the people of Jakarta aren’t too bad, are they?

No, they’re really nice and very helpful. I get a lot of help.

Do you know other beggars here? Are there certain places that people have laid claim to?

No, we mind our own business. The guy who looks like Tarzan walks by every day. He might look scary but if you don’t bother him, he won’t bother you. We respect each other.

Dhaswarda was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Dhaswarda, Polio Survivor

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Irna, DVD Rental Manager

In Jakarta, you can get almost anything delivered to your house, but can you think of another place besides Subtitles, in the basement of Dharmawangsa Square City Walk, that can deliver a copy of “12 Angry Men” to your doorstep?

Today, Irna, the managing director of one of the coolest DVD rental shops in the city, talks about her favorite films, how Subtitles got started and which movies Jakarta film buffs crave.

How often do you watch movies?

I try to watch at least three or four a week.

What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?

Something from the Oscars, like “Up in the Air” or “The Blind Side.” I watched them more for reference than anything.

How long have you been working here?

I’ve been working here since 2006. My partner, Rico, started this with only 30 DVDs. It used to be just a club; it was like a hobby. Then we got more movies and incorporated more genres, so we thought why don’t we make this hobby into a real business? That was in 2004.

How many titles do you have here? Are there any movies you want but can’t find?

We stock around 4,000 movies; they’re all originals. We hunt them down from all over. We buy them from suppliers, Amazon.com, Kaskus.us. Rico worked in Singapore, where he could find other titles, and now he works in London, so we get movies from there too.

How many new movies do you get a week?

Around 20 or 30 a week. We update the system here [there are six computers for browsing] and the Web site so our members know about the new titles we get in. They are always asking us, “What new titles do you have this week?”

And you deliver?

The premium and platinum members can have their movies delivered to them.

What are some of the most requested titles?

Independent movies. Right now it’s “500 Days of Summer” and a French anime movie called “Fear[s] of the Dark.”

What kind of people rent movies here?

We have two target markets: the rentals rely on adults and the [four] viewing theaters here rely on college students. We also have the “movie freaks” who are always searching for films from certain directors or certain countries and looking for the special features you can’t find on pirated DVDs.

Can you sneak your own popcorn into the viewing theaters?

We provide snacks and drinks.

Provide?

We sell snacks [smiles]. It’s just like a regular movie theater.

The movies shown in cinemas here are cut for censorship reasons. Is the same thing true for the movies you rent here?

Our movies come from either Region 1 [United States, Canada] or 2 [Europe, Middle East, Japan]. If you bought an original here in Indonesia, it would be cut so much that you wouldn’t be able to enjoy the movie — but that’s not our aim. Our purpose is not simply to rent out uncut movies. We’re trying to expand the knowledge of people who enjoy films. Most people only watch Hollywood movies, but we want to open their eyes to movies from different countries.

Do you rent out Indonesian movies?

No, not yet. There is a problem with distribution and the quality of the stories in the films themselves. But we do sell them. We have the Jive Collection from Blitzmegaplex for sale.

Indonesia seems obsessed with horror films. Are you?

Sorry, but I’m not a fan. The stories just aren’t really that well thought out.

What local movies do you like? Who are your favorite actors?

Mengejar Mas-Mas (“Chasing Dudes”) and Laskar Pelangi (“Rainbow Troops”). I really like Nicholas Saputra and I like Joko Anwar’s films.

What about international filmmakers?

I like [Martin] Scorsese and I was amazed at Ben Affleck’s directorial debut, “Gone Baby Gone.” I also like the work of Wong Kar-wai.

What’s your favorite place to catch a film here in Jakarta?

I like to watch movies at Premier 21 in Plaza Senayan.

Have you ever caught anyone making out in the rooms?

Well, we provide private rooms, so that’s private [laughs].

Irna was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Irna, DVD Rental Manager

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

My Jakarta: Ejang, Plant Vendor

Where do you go when you need plants? Ejang wants you to come to Jalan Asia Afrika in Senayan. Not only does he offer a wide range of shrubs, shoots and flowers at his roadside shop, but he will deliver them to your home and pop your purchase in the ground for you.
Here, Ejang explains why he doesn’t have to pay rent for his shop and why nighttime is always a bit of a risk in his line of business. 

I haven’t seen any cars pull over to check out the plants. Is it a slow day? 

In the plant business you never know when a customer might come. The weekends are slightly busier, we have a lot of traffic and customers on those days.

Does everyone along these two blocks sell different kinds of plants? How do you guys all decide who sells what? 

It’s like those cellphone shops in the malls, people come here and walk along to check and compare prices. Pretty much everyone sells the same kind of plants, but each vendor provides different services and has his own customers.

Is this your full-time job, do you have any side businesses? 

Yeah, I can’t really depend on this so I offer other services such as gardening and landscape design to my customers. My repeat customers always have small landscaping projects for me and that’s how I earn extra cash. I need that. Sometimes, I can stand here all day and not sell a thing.

So who are your regular clients and customers?

Mostly landscaping companies and housewives.

Which plants would you say are the best-sellers? 

Jasmine and anting putri [princess flowers] bonsai trees are the most popular. Anting putri gets its name because the flowers the tree produces look like the kind of earrings a princess would wear.

Isn’t jasmine supposed to smell really good? 

No, it doesn’t really smell like the jasmine in teas or household perfumes. They are popular because of the pretty flowers and because people like to use them in ornamental design.

How much for that 2-meter-tall jasmine there? 

The tall ones are around Rp 1.2 million [$132], and the smallest are around Rp 300,000. People come here and bargain for the best price.

Where do you get all your plants from?

Some plants like the anggun ayu [variegated laurel], I grow at home and the others I pick up at the plant and flower markets around Kelapa Dua.

How long have you had this spot on Jalan Asia Afrika? 

In the beginning I sold plants at home, but then I moved here around eight years ago.

Do you have to pay the government or anyone for a permit to sell plants here on the street? 

We used to but we don’t have to pay anymore. The plant market here in the Senayan area has been around since I was a kid. I think it gives the area a bit of character. Everyone in the city knows that you can come here to buy plants. The government allows us to sell plants here on the street to promote going “green.”

How did you end up in the plant game? Did you study botany? 

This is a family business, my parents started it. I started working with them and that’s where I learned everything I know about plants. Then when my parents retired, I continued with the family business.

What do you do with the plants at night? Don’t you ever worry that someone might steal something? 

I leave them here, we all do. It’s our own risk and sometimes people do steal the small plants. That’s why I have bigger plants!

How do start your day? 

Every day I come from Rawa Belong [West Jakarta] to work here in Senayan. When I get here, I clean everything, reorganize the plants and sweep the street. After that I water the plants, give them fertilizer and then wait for customers. Sometimes I get a call to do a landscaping job, in which case I close early, but otherwise I stay here until the evening.

Any secrets or tips on the perfect mixture for potting soil? 

It’s always better to add cow or goat manure to the soil. But it’s not easy for us to find manure easily in the city anymore, so I have to buy it. Can you believe that? I buy manure!

Could you ever see yourself working in an office?

I can, as long as there was a training program. It’s really all about the cash. You have to take every opportunity out there. Sure it’s relaxing to work here, but if there was ever a chance for me to work in an office, I would give it a try.

What was your dream when you were younger? 

I wanted to become a pilot. But as I grew older, I began to realize it wasn’t possible. I was like young kids in the villages nowadays who think they can grow up and become professional footballers.

Do foreigners and expats come here to shop?

Yes, I’ve seen them from time to time. I have a bule customer who lives in Kemang, near Amigos. He pays me to come to his house and do landscape design as well.

You have a water pump here. Is the water free? 

Yeah, there are two pumps like this in the area, everybody shares. I’m lucky because one of them is right here. Being close to water is supposed to bring good luck [laughs].

Ejang was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Ejang, Plant Vendor

Picture by Iwan Putuhena