In conversation with Clarissa Octavia

I A M E C C U

It was around 2 pm when I arrived, I was worried about the weather because the breeze is getting cooler. The circle spot on the ground was evidence of the rain shower a few minutes before I arrived. This is the first interview I had for Byl Journal, so it has to be perfect, but the clanking of construction workers made my hand twitch.

My affogato was melting when a custard linen strikes from a distance, a smile follows.

It was Clarissa Octavia, the 24 years old sociopreneur behind I A M E C C U, a sustainable clothing line based in Bandung. The brand itself was one of the very few linen and cotton local brands. I had bought a few facemasks with various colors from her, including the one I wear every day. Her picks of color are soft and calming, making people yearn for minimalism.

I A M E C C U started two years ago, a humble beginning with a sheer design that she sold through Instagram. Her signature style was inspired by simplicity, minimalist and sustainable living. But like many business women I’ve met, Clarissa Octavia a.k.a Eca started experimenting with business years ago, from custom made shoes called voestuck to a balloon gas for parties, she had done it all.

I was just graduated from university and it was only a few months before Eid Mubarak, my cousins were all already working at some corporations, and I was there thinking, I should do something quick before aunts and relatives interrogates me, I don’t want to be left out and not being able to say ‘Yes, I work, in fact I have my own business’” she joked when asked about why she decided to start the clothing line.

Eca emphasized on the stigmation of having our own business often being underestimated by family and friends, especially for women. But, her eagerness to find her own financial freedom leads her to absorb a thinking that having a passive income later in life should start from now, and then she could relax and enjoy her time being a fulltime mom in the future.

Eca studied interior design, but her fashion sense points her to a different direction. Her parents and relatives told her to work for someone else and learn from it, rather than applying a learning-by-doing business model. Time and time again her faith was shaken, but she believes on what she could achieve ahead, the ups and downs of starting her own business has started to shape who she is.

At first, it was tough, but somehow I know that I just have to move forward, I know what I want and it’s ahead of me.” She said, explaining the struggle she had against her parents disagreement of starting her own business.

Why sustainable clothing?

She smiled and stared at the morpho sky like catching the cloud before she answered “It’s a funny story really, there’s this professor at my campus, his name was Mas Aji. He was this kind of famous, cool professor that everybody has a crush on, he had multiple projects from abroad, but the weird thing is he almost always wears the same shirt, only with different colors everyday. I’ve gotten to know him because I was working on my thesis and he was my thesis adviser, he told me he really loves linen, it could be casually worn with some jeans and still formally appropriate to meet with important people. And then, I thought to myself, this guy has a really interesting point, that kind of clothing is still very rare, especially in Bandung, so’ I started to learn about minimalism, discovered Marie Kondo, start taking sewing lessons and begin my experiment on selling my clothes, and that’s how the business took off, really.

How sustainable is your clothing line?

Well, I would say I always try to make it as sustainable as possible, slowly transitioning and basically following the right thing to do for the earth,” she said.

The conversation went on as she humbly explains what sustainable brand means.

There are three types of sustainable brands, first was eco-friendly, which means to use materials and fabrics like linen and cotton that are safe for the environment. And then we have slow fashion, a term for a clothing that doesn’t have to make many different styles or designs every month, so in order to fulfill that, I prefer quality over quantity. So’ I don’t always have a lot of stock in me, I only re-stock once it was all sold out, and the last and most important thing is ethical fashion, it might be underestimated topic but paying the right amount of fee to the people behind the curtains is one of the obligations we as a business people should and have to fulfill.

What is “I A M E C C U” for you?

This question appears after I asked her the birth of I A M E C C U, but somewhere along the line, the answer pops out again as Eca tailing her history and process of how she got here.

It’s a place to learn, not only for a business term, but for myself-growth. If it weren’t for Eccu, I wouldn’t know what I’m capable of, I was a shy kid, unable to identify who I am and I always felt a bit lost and awkward, but these days, I can be sure that I can identify as a CEO of my own clothing line. People always said that owning our own business couldn’t give us financial security, but so does being an employee, somewhere along the line something bad could happen to any of us. So what’s the difference? I think the growth in me is different than anyone works behind somebody else’s desk.” she sighed a relief.

Written by: Regina Virza

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