By: Joy Harjanto
At just 20, Emily Jaury channeled her love for online shopping by starting an online fashion store with her best friend, Dewi Purwati. That was five years ago. Today, Love and Flair is a retail and lifestyle brand carrying around 100 Indonesian brands.
Though Emily studied business in college and did internships in finance, her heart was elsewhere. She loved online shopping from brands like Nasty Gal, because of its affordable range and variety of style. As graduation loomed close, Emily decided to start her own fashion business in Indonesia.
Drawing inspiration from brands abroad, Emily and Dewi started by doing everything themselves— modeling clothes, stocking inventory, and promoting online. While Emily’s accomplishments cement her status as a self-made girl boss, she maintains a down-to-earth persona that emanates through her soft and gentle voice. She advises recent graduates to have a strong sense of self and create their own paths.
Regardless of the path you choose to pursue, we hope you learn something from Emily’s assurance, wisdom and go-getter attitude!
Interview has been edited for length and clarity
What does a typical day look like in your life?
I would be in the office by 9 am. If it’s a Monday, we’ll have a meeting to decide on the agenda for the rest of the week. We’ll decide if we want to do promotions, discounts or have new arrivals and releases. We also decide on restocks we need to order. Everything is done on the Monday. Thursdays to Fridays are a combination of meetings with vendor; we have 100 brands made in Indonesia that we curate and share on our platform. Sometimes we collaborate with them or decide if we want to bring a new brand on board.
Are you more passionate about business or fashion?
I think it is a mix of both: because you can’t have one without the other in the business we are doing. It’s about product offering, making sure we have the most on-trend business. And in the business side, we need to make sure we have enough cash to grow sustainably.
Did you know you wanted to start a fashion business when you were in college?
No, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until 2 months before I was supposed to graduate. Before then, I followed what my mom told me to do. I did two internships and they were at Citibank and Ernst & Young. I realized I was a pretty bad intern; I didn’t understand what I was doing or what I was particularly good at. I had nothing to lose by postponing to work for someone else right after graduation.
How did you get the idea to start a fashion business?
It really started because I liked online shopping in LA. It was during the Nasty Gal boom, Revolve clothing, and the idea of online fashion retail was just easy. You know how in the beginning Nasty Gal had an affordable range. When I went to Zara it was a bit expensive. When you’re online you can find things within the student budget instead of offline stores. I realized when I moved to Jakarta I didn’t know where to shop. I decided that maybe I should do something similar from the US and bring it back.
Before going back to Indonesia for good, did you look for a job in the US?
No, I never had the intention to work abroad. I have always been comfortable with the idea of moving back. It was also because my grandfather passed away one month before I graduated, so I wanted to move back home as fast as I can. Because of his passing, I didn’t consider working abroad.
In Indonesia, I was already planning with my best friend to have one-month worth of work on Love and Flair before launching it. My parents gave me 2 years to work on this on my own. If it didn’t work out, I’ll work for someone.
How did you start building Love and Flair?
In the beginning when Dewi and I first started, we were fortunate because our parents were able to support us with starting funds. We only planned to have 3-month worth of funds. We made the websites ourselves and just used the money to buy stocks (of clothes). We didn’t pay ourselves. We earned the money back in 3 months and were just using the cash we got to recirculate it for growth.
Tell me more about the challenges you faced in the early days of building Love and Flair?
The most difficult thing was getting the product right because we were just fresh graduates. We didn’t know where to get inventory and where to source them even though we wanted to make them. We didn’t even know you would need a pattern-maker, so I think that was the biggest challenge. We also had to source things from other countries, buy them wholesale, and resell them on our website. After some time we met people who knew seamstresses. That’s how we started our own inhouse brand.
Did you face stereotypes in the beginning?
For sure- because when I started 5 years ago it was completely different. People weren’t online shopping for the most part and it wasn’t cool to sell clothes online. Even my parents were saying, Why would you sell clothes? You don’t need to go to USC to do that. It was not something cool or safe to be doing then.
How did you keep going?
You need to have a strong sense of who you are, block out the noise, and listen to yourself. In my case, I was being practical. I thought about what I could do other than starting my own business. My parents wanted me to work in either a bank or financial institution. I knew that was not something I could be great at, so I wouldn’t be missing out. So I gave myself 2 years to prove them wrong. If it didn’t work out, I’ll follow what they told me to do.
Did you have a fear of failing then?
Of course. In the beginning, you’re scared you’re going to lose the money and can’t pay your parents back.
How do you measure your brand’s success?
Well one of the most obvious ways is through sales. We measure our monthly increase in sales by how many items and customers we receive around the transaction, both online and offline. There’s a lot of metrics you can do to track your growth. We can also see more people tagging you (on Instagram).
Social media is a huge part of your marketing strategy. How do you take advantage of Instagram?
In the beginning, endorsement was just starting to be a thing on Instagram. We started with influencers and bloggers from the first day we started. Now social media is becoming very saturated: it’s harder to get views and attention so we have to resort to using paid ads for awareness and conversion on top of endorsement and organic postings.
Do you consider yourself as an influencer?
In the beginning, yes— because I was getting a lot of opportunities to work with other big companies like Prada, Moët & Chandon, and Miu Miu. Over time if it’s a full time thing: it takes my focus away from building Love and Flair. I’ve been posting less and less on my personal Instagram so I can work more behind the scenes. I guess you can say that I am a semi-retired influencer.
What kind of impact do you want to have in the fashion/business realm?
It is actually Love and Flair’s mission to make more women feel confident about themselves and look their best by figuring out what their style is and what makes them feel good. So even for myself, my goal is to dress more women, support more local brands, and show everyone that “made in Indonesia” commodities can be seen as something that is cool and of comparable quality as international brands. A lot of international brands are made here. Just because it has the “made in Indonesia” tag doesn’t mean it’s of lesser quality and value compared to international brands.
Any more advice for college students and graduates trying to find their path?
Yes— when you see a lot of media and hear a lot of people saying “Find your passion.” It’s really hard to find your passion. How do you find what you like to do? One way is to try as many things as you can by taking as many diverse experiences. How do you find what you like is through the process of elimination. You do different things and decide what you don’t like and what fits you best.
The second thing would be just because my story doesn’t involve working for other people after I graduate doesn’t mean that it’s not the best way for you. If you are into fashion, maybe you can start by applying for jobs in Zara, Uniqlo, or other big companies with a big structure and organization for one or two years. Then, you can apply that to a business you’re starting.
This story is part of our Coming Home series, where we interview Indonesians who studied abroad and started their careers in Indonesia.