Designer on fire

Designer on fire
Pieces by designer Tex Saverio.

In the 2013 film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the second instalment of the popular dystopian series, the flamboyant character Effie Trinket falls uncharacteristically silent for a moment, awestruck by the sight of heroine Katniss Everdeen in a jaw-dropping wedding dress.

Viewers may be equally surprised to learn that the white, multi-layered gown with a sculptural winged bodice and crystal embellishment is not the work of a world-famous marquee designer but a little-known Asian designer, Tex Saverio.

Hailing from Jakarta, Indonesia, the 31-year-old is the creative force behind an eponymous brand founded in 2010.

The label, which is known for its dramatic, statement-making eveningwear (right), was barely two years old when Saverio was contacted by the costume designer, Trish Summerville.

In a phone interview with Urban from Jakarta, Saverio says: "The wedding dress scene was one of the most anticipated, so when I got the project, I was like 'oh, really?'

"I was a nobody, so it was a huge opportunity."

Summerville, who also worked on the memorable Girl With A Dragon Tattoo film, had previously seen the Indonesian designer's work online and thought of Saverio for that scene.

She asked him to create a design based on some previous Tex Saverio gowns.

It was a high-pressure experience, says the Indonesian, but both the costume designer and actress Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss, were very nice and easy to work with, he adds.

He flew to Los Angeles to fit the dress on Lawrence, who reacted with her well-known humour and candour.

"She was like 'oh my God, this is so heavy!'," Saverio says of the dress, which weighed almost 15kg and needed three people to help manoeuvre.

"But it was fun, too. She did a great job."

The Internet is also responsible for Saverio's work appearing on celebrities such as singer Lady Gaga in Harper's Bazaar and reality TV star Kim Kardashian in Elle.

Stylists such as Nicola Formichetti reached out to the designer after seeing his work online.

"Celebrity dressing gives us a lot of buzz," says the single Saverio (right), on its undeniable benefits.

"It's great for a new brand because we need the exposure."

Strong women also act as inspiration for his brand, he says, with muses such as actresses Tilda Swinton and Angelina Jolie providing a starting point for previous collections.

Fashion has been the designer's one and only dream from a young age.

Saverio, whose family works in the food and beverage industry in Indonesia, read a manga about French queen Marie Antoinette that kick-started the journey when he was nine years old.

"I was so inspired by the grand drama and fashion of her life," he says of the infamous royal.

"And it's fascinating to see women in such beautiful creations."

The seeds planted by Marie Antoinette bloomed as Saverio turned to drawing dresses, eventually studying fashion at Bunka Fashion School and Phalie Studio in Jakarta.

After winning several competitions, including the Mercedes-Benz Asia Fashion Award in Jakarta, he started his brand with a focus on eveningwear evocative of haute couture.

Since the fall of 2013, he has also been producing ready-to-wear with his signature embellishment and textural detail.

The brand is available in multi-label boutiques and online stores in Indonesia, China and the Middle East.

In Singapore, the Tex Saverio brand is available at online store Gnossem.

Pieces start in the four-figure range.

While he declines to share sales figures, the designer says the bridal market is unsurprisingly a significant portion of the business.

"One of our missions is to become a lifestyle brand, not just a fashion house," he says of his plans to expand into other categories.

Still, the ambition is a smartly tempered one.

He has been compared to the iconic late British designer Alexander McQueen, whose work was characterised by similarly opulent and dramatic themes.

Says the Indonesian designer in response: "It's an honour for me to be compared to a legend like him, but I think I'm not there yet."

This article was first published on January 23, 2015.
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