Shh, don't tell anyone
Which is why you’ll understand my excitement at discovering the not-so-new but still fairly niche Bali-based designer Innika Choo. I instantly fell in love with her playful and timeless dress, smocks and blouses, just in time for my next holiday. I’m not even joking when I never got so many likes.
I got chatting to the designer via DM, and learned that she started dreaming of her own label from a very young age. ‘Mostly my mum would find me doing a custom hack at a hem line with scissors, sometimes in the mirror while wearing it. I was rather impatient and didn’t mind snipping off the length, tying it all together with a belt, and dancing out the door – which horrified her. She was always figuring out ways to stitch them up, without compromising on the structure of the garment. Perhaps that’s when it all began. I was 12. Add a few years, a husband, 3 kids and Instagram; Voila.’
But as with many cult mid-range designer brands these days, Innika Choo’s journey really kicked off on this little ol’ thing called Instagram.
Innika says, ‘The first piece I ever made was inspired by an antique Romanian boys’ costume I’d accidentally bought on eBay (obviously, I did not read the description). I found off-cuts of gingham fabric, re-worked smocking details with embroiderers and ended up pulling together a few pieces with a tailor. I wore it a few times on Instagram, and that sort of wet the palette so to speak. Since then each collection has become an evolution of the next.’
22,000 followers later, and you could say it’s hit that sweet spot between cult brand, but niche enough to not spot a hundred other people wearing it on holiday. Innika stays pretty modest about it though, jokingly putting it down to being able to do cartwheels (‘also, my baklava eating abilities’) she adds.
Jokes aside, it’s easy to see why the embroidered designs have hit such a sweet spot. The ‘one size fits all’ approach means you can tailor the dresses to your own shape, creating a flattering curve thanks to strategically placed belts, or going for a looser, more bohemian feel.
And then there are the extremely wearable gingham prints which scream summer (the green gingham dress is one of the designs snapped up by Net-A-Porter and has to be re-stocked regularly), and traditional embroidery that make the dresses stand out from the ones you see on the high-street.
Plus, the prices are relatively affordable, starting at around £160 for a top, not too bad for a timeless piece you’ll be wearing every summer.
And that’s exactly the ethos behind the brand. Rather than sticking to trends, Innika designs what feels right for her at that moment.
She says, ‘All I know is that these are the clothes that I want to wear today and tonight, and tomorrow and the next day, and I thought it only fair to make them for you too. This collection is all about favourite embroideries re-imagined (bigger and bolder!), flirty hemlines and as always volume, but now with a bit more skin.’
And if you’re finding it hard deciding which pieces to invest in, keep it simple: ‘ Go with the pieces that people will remember you in, conversational pieces that spark curiosity, and turn a few heads,’ the designer says.
‘I always try to imagine a woman walking into the room wearing the garment I’m about to buy – if I’m slightly jealous of the look, aching to be that girl, then I will definitely buy the piece!’ which is exactly how you feel when you see a brilliant #ootd post, non?
So what’s next for the brand? Hopefully more fab collections, and perhaps a new celebrity fan or two: ‘I’d love see Julie Andrews wear my designs. Let’s make this happen.