Meet the region's leading fashion designers Although born and raised in Indonesia, Ika (aka Mardiana Ika) has made a name for herself as one of Hong Kong's leading designers. In 1973, she started studying at the Far East Dress-Making and Design School, where she trained with the likes of Walter Ma and Benny Yeung Chun-yuen. In 1977, she went to the London College of Fashion, and two years later began working for German fashion house L'Estelle, where she stayed for four years. She established her own label, Butoni, in the early 1980s. Ika participates regularly in Hong Kong's annual fashion week and European fairs such as CPD (Collection Premiere Duesseldorf) in Germany and the ready-to-wear shows in Paris. Her company specialises in women's coordinates, hand-embroidered blouses, suits and casual wear. Butoni has designed and manufactured collections for well-known brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli, Escada and Ferre. When did you launch your label? Butoni was established in 1983. IKA was launched in 1995. Why did you set up Butoni? I left L'Estelle because my mother told me an Asian wife should never leave her husband for a job so far away. I started my own made-to-order service. It lasted for two years, until I learnt that women prefer to wear a male designer's clothes. So I did what I do best: designing for the export market. I joined the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in 1985 and still do fashion shows for them. How is Butoni structured? My partner, John Keilman, joined the company in 1989. We run the business together. We work from three floors with three secretaries and 20 merchandisers, each handling clients from all over the world. Until two months ago, I was handling the design, assisted by my partner, who used to be an architect in the Netherlands. Now we have two assistant designers to help as we're expanding our range and will feature a men's collection soon. How many labels are there? The main label is IKA for evening and casual wear. Butoni is the ready-to-wear collection, Iccha is accessories, Linea Sanremo is for blouses and Ikabene is for shoes. What's your design philosophy? It's important to be consistent and to be true to my personality and identity. My vision has priority. I want to carry out my own ideas, without worrying about my customer's demands. Who are your customers? They come from all over the world. I create fashion for people with a strong personality. I have the modern woman in mind, who leads an active life. What inspires you? People from all walks of life, works of art, scenery, spectacular buildings. I guess everything. I draw inspiration from my travels and my interactions with people. That helps me develop the basics. What can we expect from your current collection? Flowing, light and transparent prints with plenty of handwork and complicated embroideries. There's lots of cotton, linen and rayon combined with synthetic materials to form a soft, unusual material. What's been your greatest influence? My childhood in Indonesia and the bicultural existence have been a big influence because they opened my mind to appreciate other cultures and their way of thinking. Where are your designs available? All over the world. In Hong Kong, I sell IKA at Kinji, B19, The Peninsula, and Shop 54, Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong. What plans do you have? I've watched famous designers expand and sacrifice design quality. They failed miserably. I want to stay small to control the design and quality. I want to support our buyers who are also our marketing tools, and help them expand their clientele by improving the designs. What's your motto? My designs should always reflect elements of passion, wit and humour, creativity and saleability.