Nafa student jumps at chance to design fairytale gowns

Nafa student jumps at chance to design fairytale gowns
DREAM PROJECT: Miss Erica Devi Handika is a die-hard Disney princess fan.

Her childhood fantasy has come true.

Well, sort of.

Miss Erica Devi Handika has long been in love with Disney's princesses.

So when the opportunity came to design a gown for her favourite princess, Cinderella, the petite 23-year-old Indonesian jumped at the chance.

"I have always been a big fan of Disney and its princesses," the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) student said.

"I have watched the cartoons and movies since I was a kid, so I immediately volunteered for this project when I heard about it."

Walt Disney Studios Singapore approached Nafa last year to create a mini collection as part of the publicity campaign for the upcoming Cinderella movie.

What materialised was the Disney's Cinderella Inspired Dresses Designed by Nafa project, which consisted of gowns for characters such as Cinderella, her Stepmother, the Fairy Godmother and an SG50 dress as part of the celebration of Singapore's golden jubilee.

Opening here on March 12, Cinderella sees British actress Lily James in the title role in director Kenneth Branagh's live-action retelling of Disney's classic fairy tale about a servant girl who wins the heart of a prince (Richard Madden).

Cate Blanchett plays the formidable Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's wicked stepmother, while Helena Bonham Carter is the kind fairy godmother.

Miss Handika took about a month to come up with various designs for each of the four costumes, turning to all the Cinderella movies she has watched over the years for inspiration.

It helped that the Singapore permanent resident, who is pursuing a fashion degree offered in collaboration with the University Of East London, is really interested in costume design.

She recently volunteered her services as costume designer for The Chest Of Shadows: A Musical, which was held last month at the Victoria Theatre as part of the Indonesian Arts Festival in Singapore.

While creating the gowns came naturally to the die-hard Disney princess fan, she sought assistance from Mr Anthony Tan, the vice- dean of Nafa's Fashion Studies Programmes, to help fine-tune her designs.

"It was a consultative interaction between Erica and I," said Mr Tan.


"My advice to Erica was that the fashion element needs to be a priority, and to be mindful not to turn these dresses into fancy costumes."

Mr Tan, who has been teaching fashion design for more than 15 years, added: "We went fabric shopping together as well. While she was the one leading the selection, my role was to provide advice on which fabric will work better and what will be effective to achieve her vision."

Miss Handika, who wanted to pursue fashion design since she was 13, attributed her interest in costume design to her mother.

"She used to make me princessy gowns when I was a kid, even though I had no events to go to," she shared, laughing.

When we met last week, she had only the duchess satin Cinderella gown made and had yet to put the finishing touches - the bling, in the form of Swarovski crystals.

Swarovski has sponsored more than $21,000 worth of crystals in a variety of shapes and sizes (right) to be featured on the costumes.

Besides getting the frocks ready before this Saturday, where it will be modelled at the Disney's Cinderella Fashion Show at 313@somerset, Miss Handika is also preparing her final-year collection.

But juggling a few projects at a time does not seem to faze the energetic student.

She is confident all will be ready in no time, as she is "used to tight deadlines", said the finalist of the 2014 Star Creation Award, an international contest organised by Audi Fashion Week, adding that she spends about "13 hours a day in school".

Her masterpieces will also be on display at 313@somerset from Sunday to March 14, and then at Kallang Wave Mall from March 15 to 27.

Three costumes - Stepmother, Fairy Godmother and the SG50 gown - will subsequently be auctioned off for charity, with proceeds going to the Asian Women's Welfare Association.

Though she cited the Stepmother's dress as her favourite because of its "striking emerald-green colour and edginess", there is no question which gown she would pick if given the chance to keep it.

"The Cinderella dress, of course!" Miss Handika declared, laughing.

This article was first published on Mar 4, 2015.
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