It was one of my favourite days of my 3 week trip to Bali when Christine Lafian scooped me up and proceeded to give me an incredible peek behind the scenes of not only the manufacturing process of her brand SUKU Home, but also the life of her Indonesian family and friends.
With one foot in Melbourne and the other in Bali, Chrissy has spent much time relentlessly researching and building partnerships with skilled makers in her homeland to bring to life the dreamy style of homeware that reflects her own aesthetic. She has the ability to design and curate a collection that is bang on in terms of current popular style and vibe but brings a super super fresh angle to a market that is bulging with options! I feel lucky to have met SUKU in its youth, as I see only great things for its future with Chrissy at the helm!
Armed with a van vs. the immense (and intense!) scooter population, we negotiated narrow “gangs” (alleys) and bustling streets to visit some of SUKU’s valued team.
First up was the family owned business that use traditional batik dying methods to transform silky bamboo rayon into the highly recognisable SUKU fabric finishes.
As I learnt very quickly on visiting many workshops and small factories in Bali – places of manufacture so near the equator have much work happening outdoors in yards or very basic buildings. A totally different environment to what you would find down under but nonetheless run by skilled and successful business owners and makers.
This was a beautiful and fascinating process! The colours were rich and the witnessing the deft skill of the dyers creating the SUKU “look” by hand was super interesting and a lesson in their knowledge of their artform.
After a delish lunch with family and friends we then headed to the factory to check out the finishing of the SUKU bedlinen. There was a lively, bustling atmosphere there with a large team of sewers, expert ironers and folders – these are the last hands that prepare the products before they arrive at homes around the the world.
Before setting off for a quick trip with friends to explore Ubud, we stopped back in at Chrissy’s Bali base, the home of her grandmother, a savvy local businesswoman. This was another side of Bali I felt so lucky to see – a beautiful large home filled to the brim with family and co-workers all involved in the business.
Chrissy’s life in Bali, while a tad more exotic to look at than most, really was no different to the day to day of most small and ambitious brands I come across. She is entirely hands on in the management and shape of SUKU, choosing and forming relationships with her makers, sourcing further artisan products to compliment and bringing these handmade products to a modern, savvy and largely internet based market.
I could have spent a week with this sunny soul and still not have had enough!!
Take some time to explore our day together in the imagery below, Chrissy’s own thoughts on her brand SUKU and the latest imagery from her collection.
Photography by Julia Atkinson for Studio Home
Where were you and what stage in your life were you at, when the seed for your business first sprouted in your brain ?
That one summer when I first moved into my own place and had my own decent income. I was so excited to put together my room but couldn’t find a good bedding for it ! So I though, why not start my own homeware brand.
What was it about Bali that attracted you to its shore’s to follow your dream ?
I was born in Indonesia and it seemed the natural thing to go back to where I came from to start this great venture. I wanted to work and support the local community. Bali is not just a pretty face, when you get to know it, there’s so much hidden talent here.
Of course there is no such thing as a typical work week but what would some of the tasks, jobs, activities be that you might experience over a week ?
A working week for SUKU may consist of flying to Bali, meeting with a few local batik craftsmen (this is what we call our print makers, they work mostly with dye and wax), get stuck in traffic, spend time in the studio (where all magic happens), get stuck in traffic again, have coffee in between, catch up with friends, swim, read book, then back to meetings and studio sessions all over again.
It’s normally a very packed schedule. It’s not easy trying to do work in a tropical climate environment when the beach is calling!
If you could share some advice with anyone else looking to kickstart their own small business what would it be…?
Work and learn from a similar minded brand before you start your own brand. You can even start your business using the savings from your day job – or working at both at the same time. A lot of people these days mistakenly jump into a new business without any prior knowledge of how to build a brand because they think the creative bits is all you need!
You need a viable way to sell your product to justify your idea. So that’s when business skills come in handy. Unless you have some extra savings to pay for a sales agent, you need to learn all the business side of things yourself. And remember not to rush into things, take ‘baby steps’ – because all good things take time!
Some secret, off the beaten track spots in Bali that you love ?
Nung Nung waterfall, secretly hidden up the mountains but it’s my fave waterfall in Bali surrounded with this lush green forest.
Imagery courtesy of SUKU Home
Photography by Charlie Brophy
WHAT I LEARNT FROM CHRISSY LAFIAN:
You can be ambitious, innovative and business savvy while still being friendly, smiley and relateable!