Behind IMAJI Studio’s “Inner Sanctum”

Last December, in celebration of their eighth anniversary, natural dye fabric studio and fashion brand IMAJI released "Inner Sanctum”. This collaborative, multimedia video is no ordinary video campaign. “Inner Sanctum” brought together the creative minds of videographer Luthfi Kautsar, dancer and choreographer Bathara Savera Dewandoro and musician Prabumi, and the community around IMAJI Studio. Spanning two months in production, the video involved over 1000 hand-doodled frames by the IMAJI Studio team and the communities around them.

Founded in 2015 by Shari Semesta, Lyris Alvina, and Shari’s husband Leo Pradana, IMAJI Studio began as a natural dye apparel brand, presenting natural dye fabrics in the form of contemporary, everyday fashion. In 2017, IMAJI experienced a shift into a natural fabric dye studio, and therefore a creative studio, wherein the output of their fabric no longer lies solely in apparel but met any fabric needs. Shari explained that as a creative studio, IMAJI subscribes to the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi; the transient acceptance of naturally occurring imperfections often prevalent in many forms of Japanese art. “Imperfections in man-made objects,” Shari began to elaborate. “That’s what we want to highlight in our products. That it is handmade, it is handcrafted, it is a labor of love. Thus every piece of fabric that is created by us is unique, there are no two pieces alike.”

The “Inner Sanctum” video was born out of a desire to celebrate the anniversary of the studio beyond a commemorative collection. “It was interesting because the ‘Inner Sanctum’ project itself was super personal for me and Leo. So, it was our eight year anniversary last year, and this eighth anniversary was also a turning point for us,” Shari divulged. “[We] just moved to a new studio and we just managed to survive a pandemic, wherein many other small brands did not. But we made it through and thus we had a new chapter ahead of us and we wanted to honor that eight year anniversary by creating something other than just another collection as a fabric studio but, instead, create a work of art.”

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Shari further explained that they wanted to initiate a project that not only invites collaboration with just one other party but with many collaborators at once. One such collaborator they had in mind was videographer Luthfi Kautsar. “We collaborated [with Luthfi] we wanted to highlight traditional art, as in performing arts, and we wanted to make an art video that’s different and involve various communities from fashion students, to the traditional dance community, to our close friends and the people in our orbit,” Shari elaborated. Although IMAJI Studio has put it out there that the name “Inner Sanctum” refers to this idea of “the holiest part of the self, the rawest part of humanity, which is conscience,” the title also holds different meanings to each person involved in the production of the video. It is also a nod to IMAJI finding a safe place to create, which is their new studio. 

The IMAJI Studio team knew they wanted to make a video off the bat, it was simply a matter of figuring out how to involve the number of people they wanted to take part in the project. After brainstorming for quite some time, they landed on the idea of having their community, the people closest to them, their customers, and even university students that share a commonality with them to contribute through doodling. “Doodle anything! It could be their aspirations, they can vent, or it could be their opinions on the fashion industry, or their creative process. So, what we did is we broke down the video into 1000 pages like a stopmotion video. So we printed out around 1200 pages,” Shari explained. 

On these pages, IMAJI was able to involve these different groups, including the university students, and facilitated the doodling process through events. The campuses involved include BINUS Northumbria School of Design, Sparks Fashion Academy, ESMOD, and the Textiles program at Bandung Institute of Technology. They also involved the traditional dance community, Swargaloka. The IMAJI team held a sense of responsibility to give back to the communities that have supported them thus far with this eight-year anniversary. “One such community was university students. The younger generation, they’re so eager to learn about slow fashion. So eager to learn about new ways to create stuff without harming the environment,” Shari remarked. As such, in this cooperation with the campuses, the events not only facilitated the doodling session but IMAJI Studio also visited the campuses and held workshops and seminars on slow fashion, understanding their market, and understanding their audience. “And at the end of the day we want them to be included in our ‘Inner Sanctum’ campaign so we asked them to draw on some of these pages with us.”

The production of the video itself took around two months. “It didn’t occur to us just how laborious scanning each doodle would be,” Shari chuckled. While the doodling process and putting the frames back together was clearly the most time-intensive portion of the project, this alone took about one and a half months. On the other hand, the actual filming of the video only took about a day. On working with dancer and choreographer Bathara Savera Dewandoro as well as musician Prabumi, Shari recalled, “We want to highlight that raw energy through traditional, dynamic movement. Through traditional dance, with traditional dancers. The song was composed by our friend by bringing together traditional instruments but arranged in a way that is still contemporary.” The music had actually been gifted to them by Prabumi prior to the entire project, while Bathara, who had actually won Indonesia’s Got Talent with his traditional dance team, was entrusted with the choreography guided by minimal briefs from the IMAJI team. “We did brief him, [explaining] that we want moves that are dynamic, strong, how we wanted the expressions to look like. But, at the end of the day, all those movements came from his creation,” Shari noted.

On the significance of this eight year anniversary, Shari mulled, “We’re super grateful of the community that we have gathered to be interested in this slow fashion movement. Because truthfully, people are only now becoming somewhat aware of this slow fashion movement.” She went on to elaborate how when IMAJI first kicked off, not many really understood what they were trying to achieve with fashion. They did not operate like a typical fashion house that would routinely roll out spring/summer and fall/winter collections. Shari continued, “Some people may say it’s super niche. Not everyone was interested and not everyone was interested especially at our price point. So,, I think the moral of this whole eighth year anniversary experiment is also that we were able to see the enthusiasm of our community to contribute and become a part of us. That was super touching. We also observed that this movement, this slow fashion movement, this sustainability movement, is a movement that needs to be collectively done together. Although everyone’s form of expression is different. The doodles [for example,] were all different; there were cute ones, cool ones, random ones, but if it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be able to create that video. Similarly with IMAJI Studio, if it wasn’t for everyone who’s contributed to IMAJI Studio, both those part of the internal team and those external, we wouldn’t have IMAJI Studio without that collective effort.” 

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About the Author

Kireina Masri

Kireina Masri has had her nose stuck in a book since she could remember. Majoring in Illustration, she now writes, in both English and Indonesian, of all things visual—pouring her love of the arts into the written word. She aspires to be her neighborhood's quirky cat lady in her later years.