Passion for ‘Girl Power’ fashion

Izah Azahari

Modern and classy with a touch of songket as a signature to highlight its designer’s Bruneian heritage, NaForrér is predominantly a fashion-forward young professional targetted brand that screams ‘Girl Power’ in every outfit, designed to power-dress every woman wearing it.

The beautiful brain behind the NaForrér is none other than its Founder and Fashion Designer Farhanna Pura, who has kept her brand true to its designer identity after almost 10 years since its establishment.

Having a passion for fashion since she was a child, Farhanna said that she found inspiration from the Spice Girls and 90s MTV pop culture where she wanted to create a women’s wear label that caters to women who have character, like how members of the Spice Girls each have their own.

“Their tagline ‘Girl Power’ was intriguing to me. I was raised by my mom who I look up to. She’s always been a strong lady, so the ‘girl power’ bit is something that I’ve always put my energy to,” said Farhanna.

Recounting the struggles of starting out almost a decade ago, Farhanna said that it was important for her to get a job after graduating from her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing as a means to support her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. This was because there was initially no avenue back then, compared to now where DARe (Darussalam Enterprise) and other associations that would support an individual to do business.

‘Thalia’, the piece created by Founder and Fashion Designer of NaForrér Farhanna Pura for the Royal Tanjung Selangor Modest Fashion. PHOTOS: NAFORRER
Farhanna Pura working on her designs
An exclusive NaForrer piece

“So back then I thought to myself that I should at least have a degree so that I could work and fund myself to start my own business and my own label,” said Farhanna.

Alhamdulillah, I got a job and working with Dynamik Technologies, I’ve basically flourished NaForrér with my nine to five job.”

Farhanna said looking at the brand from a business aspect, one of the main challenges she has had to face is catering to her clients’ needs, especially when it comes to time management as she still needs to juggle her day job.

“After five is basically going to the studio or going to the atelier for my clients’ appointments. Time management is really important, so it’s either you want to make it, or you don’t. So sacrifices are very important.”

She said this was her mind-set since day one, where she told herself that if she wanted to make NaForrér happen, then this is one of the things she has to do and has gotten used to.

Farhanna said even after she got married her husband understood. They didn’t have children until after four years of marriage, where she took two months off.

“I think most mothers who are entrepreneurs would understand when they take a break for maternity leave, there’s no such thing as having it for three months,” said Farhanna.

Farhanna mused that having minimal competition back then was difficult for fashion designers to go to a higher level. She said this was because there was no need in having a fashion designer in Brunei or Borneo itself as most people didn’t see fashion as important, or that it wasn’t supported, after having been thought of as a dress-maker as opposed to a fashion designer.

Fast forward almost 10 years, Farhanna expressed her delight in the existence of a lot more talented up-and-coming designers.

She said it was not until about four years ago the idea of having Fashion Design as a degree was something that was seen as valuable in the country. “So it actually adds value to somebody now,” said Farhanna.

“Now, even in Brunei, it’s something that’s supported because we need Fashion Design lecturers who can actually help, not just in fashion, but also in terms of designing and creativity.”

With the brand’s first international breakthrough in 2013 at Malaysia Fashion Week, Farhanna said that the experience gave her a much wider perspective of the fashion industry outside the Sultanate. Her first involvement made her realise that, although she knew what her brand stands for, she didn’t understand the idea of how she should portray the brand in an event or how to present it to somebody who is interested because she didn’t have a fashion design background then.

“So when I displayed my dresses, it didn’t actually tell a story,” said Farhanna. “All I knew then was that I wanted to make dresses and this is how I was going to show it, and people will just buy them.”

After returning to Brunei, Farhanna worked on improving her brand with the help of her husband. They did so successfully where, after showcasing their collection in Singapore, they went on to Japan and Qatar where the brand was showcased alongside other big-name designers like Dian Pelangi – an Indonesian modest-wear designer.

She said she is proud to have taken part in the Commonwealth Fashion exchange at Buckingham Palace, as well as London Fashion Week. “Another would be a recent fashion show in Kuala Lumpur where I had to create a royal bespoke piece for the Selangor royal family,” said Farhanna.

The fashion designer explained that her involvement with the Selangor royal family in the Royal Tanjung Selangor Modest Fashion is one of her best achievements because she was in line with the best fashion designers from Malaysia and was the only international fashion designer present.

She thought to herself that, because as the only international fashion designer from Brunei, “I had to make sure that Brunei’s name is as good as the others. That’s basically my mission every single time I go out of the country,” said Farhanna.

“My number one mission has always been to make sure that Brunei is on the map. We have creative potential.”

With all the years of experience gained, Farhanna said that she has grown as a person and she has learnt to love herself, especially as a designer and as a creative person. She understands that a lot of people are facing mental issues, especially with the existence of social media now. Another thing she has also made herself aware of is to never be arrogant in her accomplishments.

“So if you’ve already achieved that certain level, make sure that you just chase the high,” said Farhanna. “This is what I love especially when I come back from a show or a country. I get inspired, I chase the high, but at the same time, maintain a level of humbleness because at the end of the day, even though you’re in line with all these best designers, there will always be a designer who is so much better than you.”

Farhanna added that creativity is very important, along with research, and with the availability of the Internet now, it’s easy to look up whatever questions a person has as there is always an answer, on top of doing your own networking.