Elsa C. raps with femme fatale Fahrani Empel about life, shapeshifting and her eyewear brand Cast, while photographer D.Hump caught her on film with the Hasselblad.
“THEY’RE not everyday sunglasses for everyone.”
The tone is set quickly but don’t take it the wrong way – Cast wasn’t launched on sinful pride. With its bold shapes and unique styles – at the crossroads between futurism and vintage inspiration, Cast’s motto is: “Wear it loud and proud”.
The idea was born in Sydney, during an afternoon conversation between model Fahrani Empel and graphic designer Miles Pitt over a beer.
“We’re both sunglass addicts and wanted to offer something never seen before … different designs that are unique,” Fahrani says.
The business model and logistics were organised soon after the original brainstorm, and in August 2011 the first collection arrived on the scene in Bali.
“We only had three styles available in two different colours at the beginning – just a small range to test the market,” Fahrani says.
Two catchily named spec collections later, Cast has built a strong image for its handmade eyewear label. You and I are in Love and Goodnight Flamingo quickly gained favour with Hollywood celebrities and underground fashionistas.
“We created very strong editorial products and I believe that is why people love our stuff. We were very lucky as we quickly received a positive response from the style magazines,” Fahrani says.
“But we are still a young company and I don’t want to talk about success yet.”
For those who already know Fa’, it might be no surprise. At 180cm tall, short blue hair, rebellious eyes, piercings, and a body covered with tattoos, the beautiful 28-year-old Indonesian, former international model, isn’t the shy kind.
Her designs are at one with her image – sexy, elegant, with a dash of punk, provocative and eccentric … somehow wild. She prefers to describe herself as a determined, self-made woman.
“What is wild?” she asks. “I just carried on the free life I had since I was really young. My parents were never there, nobody was telling me ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that’. I have always figured out things by myself. And because this is the way I live, people assume that it I’m wild. But I’ve just had the freedom to choose how to live my life.”
Fahrani’s journey began in Jakarta, when she left her bitter-sweet family home to live on her own at the age of 15 in the dynamic Kemang district of the capital. Modelling as early as 13, she managed her money and quickly grew to be independent.
Her career lead her to Hong Kong, where she worked hard for several years before heading to Japan. Two years and a divorce later, she landed in Bali and made the island her home.
Fa’ became the second model to make it out of Indonesia, seen in fashion shows and ad campaigns from Europe to Australia.
“The model with the tattoos,” she stresses – she got her first ink at 16 and countless ones since. She even bought her own gun and, with a laugh, she shows her “party arm” signed by her friends, forever.
The more tatts she adds, the wilder her hairstyles become.
“You can be as crazy as you are and be successful. You don’t have to follow the rules to make it … some people tell me they miss the old me. I don’t.”
In the world of modelling, Fa’ got bored quickly and felt she wasn’t learning anymore, and was getting “too old for this” (she was turning 25), so she ran away from the runways and stopped modelling full-time. She needed to challenge herself and push her limits further.
“I like to hit rock bottom and then climb up alone. It has become part of my personality. Sometimes I know I’m wrong, but when people try to correct me, I can’t help saying ‘just let me do it’. You have to make mistakes in life.”
Fa’ is the kind of girl who is into everything, a successful meddler. As she started an acting career, she quickly won Best Actress Award at the 2008 Indonesian Film Festival for her role in movie “Radit and Jani” from director Upi Avianto.
“These days I’m becoming very selective. The scripts that are offered to me are always for the same kind of role, I guess because of the way I look now. I wish to embody someone totally different, like a full Muslim girl, for example,” she says.
She likes to play with paradoxes.
Fa’ is a woman of the world, travelling from Berlin to Brooklyn, jumping from one project to another. One day eco-warrior acting against the deforestation in Borneo – and for the record, shaving her hair by herself in the middle of the jungle – another day recording hip-hop music in Los Angeles.
She knows how to let her multiple passions grow, step by step. Music started in her teenage tomboy years, her first steps on stage were during graduation at school, then singing on the track Cewek Rusak (broken girl) with her rap music friends at 16.
She now works with Californian producer Cpen a.k.a. Magnum Larry.
“Music, live concerts, it is the biggest high you can get. It’s instant.”
Using her notoriety in the fashion industry and surrounded by a creative network of friends, Fa’ launched a clothing and accessories label three years ago – her first business experience.
“I was really enjoying it but it was taking so much of my time, of my life!” she says.
“I spent eight months in an office, trying to create a full range. I felt like I had no life anymore!”
After an investor fall-out, she decided to focus on eyewear design.
“At the time, I really thought I was done. I could have had new investors, but I didn’t want to repeat another year, if this was all I could get at the end.”
“But I still wanted to be creative and use my crazy designs – a few sunglasses samples were already there. I got Miles involved.”
Her energy and confidence, she gets from everything and everyone around her.
“Honestly, my confidence comes from training. It isn’t a natural thing. Being in front of a camera is easy for me, as I started really young. But confidence in the sense of being around people, well, it took me a while.
“I listen more than I speak, I like to read the situation before I say anything. I don’t want to be one of those people who is ignorant about their surroundings. It took me almost 29 years to really feel secure with myself.”
So what’s next?
Well, Fahrani’s future is here and now, and another busy year is on the way: she acted in a new movie to be launched in April; the Borneo DeforestAction documentary will also go out this year; she is planning to release her first E.P. record; and, of course, developing Cast over the next years.
“My philosophy in life? Follow your truth, follow your heart. Follow your guts. This is where the truth is, right? It is all inside of you. I live my life with my heart, not with my head. You have to follow your dreams.”