In this issue of ASIAN VOICE, we feature SSST, a brand with beaming energy, creativity and freedom. What goes on in the mind of Mielka of SSST? Read on to hear her thoughts and his story on how he incorporated his voice and interests in the process of creating the brand.
Nana : Can you give us an introduction to your brand SSST?
Mielka : Hi, my name is Mielka R. Bardin and I am the owner of the brand Super Sentimental Secret Theory. We are a streetwear brand from Bandung, Indonesia. Our concept revolves around experimentation and idea testing, to try something wild and just go all out. Because we are bored. With my prior experience from building and running my first brand “Wellborn” from scratch, I wanted to see what other possibilities I can unlock.
Nana : Were did you get the idea for the brand?
Mielka : I started this brand as a space to channel my creative energy (filter cap off!). It’s something I couldn’t do very often with my first brand. I had itches that needed scratching.
Now about the name, Super Sentimental Secret Theory. The word “Sentiment”, in my opinion, is the starting point of every art in whatever form. The “Secret Theory” part is an exaggeration that serves as a reminder, especially to me, that our sentimental parts is often being pushed down for reasons so silly, such as “growing up” or “education” or “business” and whatever. It’s not really a “secret”, but more like a forgotten side that we have had since we were kids. I then add “Super” to double up the exaggeration. Finally, I shortened it to SSST which in Indonesian means similar to the English word, “shhh”.
Nana : What are some of the things that have influenced the brand?
Mielka : I don’t know. There’s too many! I do draw inspiration from Japanese streetwear, tech wear and beyond. It’s vague but one thing stuck in my mind is that while every street brand went for skinny and tight back when I started, I always wanted to try and just go straight against it and see what I could come up with. I also like to include and complement the street/concrete roughness elements in my design. And these are all subjects to change, we have no fixed formula to what we do. We just absorb as much as we can and see what comes out when we squeeze it all back out. Sorry if it’s not explaining much. Haha.
Nana : What does your brand value most as a streetwear brand?
Mielka : Since we are a small company with only seven staff including myself, we just had to place a high value on sharing and collaboration with people outside the company. There is that saying that resonates with me (I forgot who said it, sorry) but it says that if you want to go fast, you can go by yourself, but if you want to go far, go together. I learned that the hard way and I guess this is my chance to apply that lesson. That and of course quality control, I have a bit of notoriety on that around here (haha), but that is because I think that a good product is the best advertisement a company can get.
Nana : Can you tell us about some of the most challenging experiences you have had during the process of building your brand?
Mielka : It’s definitely building a small yet strong team. Bigger teams can go faster, but are less cost efficient, less controlled and less expressive. We try to do most of the creative work while trusting external teams to help us with less creative, but no less important, works. Each of us in SSST have to be able to do as much as possible but not before our responsibility to our own post. There are times when we face problems and I feel like it’s too overwhelming for a small team like us, but we managed to push through in the end. I feel very thankful to them.
Nana : Is it possible to let readers know a little about your next collection? If so, what has inspired the theme and the pieces in them?
Mielka : Sure! We will be having collaborations with other brands, not just streetwear and clothing brands, but also with other art forms like graffiti artists, musicians, chefs and their restaurants. We want to connect with other art forms and lifestyles so we can draw inspiration from them and probably (hopefully) inspire them back in the process. It’s about the mutual experience.
Nana : What aspect do you enjoy most about running a brand?
Mielka : I don’t know about any other kind of brands, but a clothing brand is, to me, a catalyst to every other art form I enjoy. I can incorporate many things like graphics, music, video, stage, etc. and I love producing and being involved in the production. A clothing brand is not just about designing graphics on t-shirts, right? It never is.
Nana : Do you have any advice for our readers who are seeking to find a way to build a brand like “Super Sentimental Secret Theory”?
Mielka : No. Hahaha. I can share though that from my experience, especially if you are an artist/designer, first when you’re building a brand, you have to train yourself to think like a producer. Involve people in your work if you can, generate hype from within and never half ass it. Seriously, go all out!
A clothing brand is not just about designing graphics on t-shirts, right?MIelka from ssst