For our next issue of FAB12, we sat down with Farhanna Pura, the visionary behind Na Forrér. Ever since she was a preteen, Farhanna Pura has always wanted to become a fashion designer. Juggling from a full time, eight to five job every day and being the founder and fashion designer of Na Forrér, you would probably be interested to find out how she does it.
Read further and be sure to watch our video at the very end.
1. Describe a day in the life of Farhanna Pura.
So basically on my weekdays I work from 8 to 5. I’m also an IT analyst, a product lead for an IT system. I work for a corporate company that’s basically how an entrepreneur in Brunei really works. Because I do hear a lot of creative entrepreneurs that work from 9 to 5 and they have other creative things to do after five. So for me, from 5:30 to 6:30 on weekdays it will be business hours and right after 6:30 I’ll be a full-time mom. So that’s basically my weekday. But on a weekend I make sure Saturday is my business day, and Sunday would be just family time.
2. How do you get inspired for your designs?
I do a lot of people watching. When I go travelling, it’s my most favourite time. I love sitting in cafés and people watch. I analyze what they wear and what they’re actually inspired by. So I do a lot of daydreaming when I analyze, I think that’s how an IT analyst for the past ten years works so.
3. Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
Always! Ever since I was a preteen. Before I was a preteen, I wanted to be a film director and I wasn’t too sure how, so you know what, I thought maybe fashion designer was easier. Um no it is not easy at all!
4. Describe the fashion scene in Brunei.
The fashion scene or the fashion market in Brunei is growing. We do have a lot of fashion influencers now who are also going out of Brunei which is great, but at the same time there is still a taboo in the fashion industry where a lot of, when it comes to clients, they prefer the fashion designers who are more established, who are more how do you say.. not local. But Alhamdullilah, I think in the past few years, I’ve been in the business for nine years now. I think the creative scene is booming. I think we are getting there.
5. What are the key lessons you have learned so far since starting Na Forrér?
I think the whole process of fashion designing, not only fashion designing, being a creative, is actually a long process and there is a lot of things you need to do from start to finish. When I first started, I didn’t realise that.
6. You were given the opportunity to showcase Na Forrér collection and designs in London, Malaysia, and Qatar, how did you feel being a fashion designer representing Brunei in a community where the fashion industry is relatively small and new?
I feel really proud bringing Brunei’s name outside of Brunei, especially in those countries where you have lots of fashion designers who are top notch. To be honest, I was intimidated, but at the same time you know, you know the phrase fake it to make it, did just that! When I first met Anna Wintour, I didn’t really meet her, I actually looked at her, and she looked at me, so that’s kind of meeting right? My recent visit to London, we actually showcased an evening piece in Buckingham Palace so I got to meet Kate Middleton. There were also a lot of fashion decision makers at the event and talking to them let me learn a lot about the whole fashion scene and what is missing in the fashion industry in Brunei.
7. How do you think Na Forrér has grown since it first started?
When we first started, I wanted to learn a lot about the process. In my first year, I bought ready-to-wear designs from different designers, and I wanted to study the market first. I didn’t really build my business foundation. In my first year, it was a lot of mixing of processes and trials. I wanted to understand more about the market. Over the years, I noticed that when it comes to fashion, we have a lot of personalization. Clients would always want to look a certain way, they have a certain style, their body measurements are not always the same, so that’s when I first started the made to measure service and it has become my number one service and I actually thank the thought of having made to measure for my success.
8. Who is your fashion muse?
That’s very easy, if you know the Spice Girls! Are you young enough to know the Spice Girls?? I was inspired by them as a preteen. Their personalities actually gave me the idea of having the made to measure as my added value for my clients.
9. What would you never wear?
Never wear? I’m not really a daring person to be honest, I think I would never go with over the top bright colours. I’m more of a minimalist at heart.
10. Describe Na Forrér, what makes Na Forrér stand out among all the rest?
I think the made-to-measure service is my added value, so when I tell my clients that you know, we can actually customize your baju, your preferred colour according to your measurements, what kind of silhouette do you like, and all of the professional stuff would come from me. When it comes to international designs, I always bring the songket outside of Brunei so that I can actually tell the history and the story of the originality of Na Forrér because Na Forrér is a Bruneian designer, so I would like to tell the story of the Bruneian songket: how it’s different from the Malaysian songket and the Indonesian songket, so that’s the whole idea of what is different from Na Forrér.
11. What is one fashion word (or trend) that you wish everybody could stop using and why?
You know when you always say ‘fashion influencer’, there is a limit to it. When you say ‘fashion influencer’, I wish people would bring the “influencing”, instead of being the humble show-off. They need to live up to it, to be a fashion influencer.
12. How do you define self care?
Self care, a very good question, because a lot of people are suffering from depression now isn’t it, I think self care is putting yourself first; understanding your needs and wants, understanding if your body can take it or not. Not only your body, but also your spirit, are you happy or not? That is one thing you need to understand. I think self care is all about selfish but not overly selfish.
13. Who makes you laugh the hardest?
I have a best friend who I share laughs with ever since 2001, my husband.
14. What is your quick and on the go beauty routine?
I don’t really have a beauty routine, to be honest. I was just telling the makeup artist, Nabzybeau, I don’t wear a lot of makeup but I think one thing that is good would be to moisturize and to drink a lot of water. Now that I’m almost 34, I think moisturizing is the go-to thing to not have wrinkles!
15. Give us a fashion hack.
One fashion hack: I really hate when zippers are not, you know when you can’t put your zipper up to your waist, sometimes it just gets stuck in the middle, just add Vaseline to it and it will go right up!
16. How do you deal with critics?
I would say, ignore them. Sorry, don’t ignore them! Or do half-half. If you ignore them totally, you won’t really learn from them. I have one very good story about a critic, she’s a Datin from Malaysia. She told me, back in 2015, back when I was exhibiting at Malaysia Fashion Week, she was just telling me how my collection has no theme, no connection to each other. So she was telling me, she doesn’t understand my brand back then. So from then on, I told myself, okay I think she has a point. I understand where she’s coming from, so I actually curated Na Forrér and made sure that there is a story, the whole collection and the design actually intertwines together, so from then we improved our brand properly.
At the same time, sometimes when people talk about Bruneian designers are not going to achieve what they want to achieve and not gonna make it, I say go for it. Prove them wrong. At the end of the day, I don’t want to say it’s just fashion designers, I would like to say business owners in Brunei, go for it, don’t be scared when it comes to wanting to achieve your dreams.
17. How do you stay positive in a negative situation?
I smile a lot. That actually helps because sometimes when you have a client facing you and she or he is trying to tell you what the problem is, just smile and nod and it’s basically a psychological thing so when you stay positive, your day and how you confront your client will be flawless, insha Allah.
18. What is your pet peeve?
I’m not a messy person, so when I come into a room, I make sure that everything is laid properly, everything is organized nicely, and I know where I want to go and pick up the stuff that I want.
19. What is next for Na Forrér?
We are in the midst of designing a bridal collection. We have done a few bridal pieces back in the day, but we want to go with weddings right after this. After Hari Raya, hopefully we’ll launch a bridal collection, and if that goes well, we would like to start off with the wedding industry next year.
20. What is your comfort food?
That would be Indomee!
21. What would be the theme song of your life?
Independent Women by Destiny’s Child.
22. What do you want to be remembered as?
I’d like to be remembered as a person who motivates people when I say people it doesn’t really need to mean fashion designers. I’d like to motivate a range of audience – be it students, business owners, even life itself.
23. What would be your superhero power?
I would like to be invisible.
24. What is your message for aspiring fashion designers out there?
Just learn. Learn a lot and be humble, because I think in life, people just put pressure on you. Not just people, yourself. When you are so hard on yourself, you don’t really learn. You just put yourself down. I believe when you start learning, understanding what you want in life, it just comes out naturally. And then when you’re already up there, or maybe not even up there, maybe you when you have already achieved a certain level where you want to be, don’t start showing off. Don’t start telling people what you have done. Instead, inspire them and you know, just be humble.