As you would have known by now, bold statement pieces always get me on a high note. In fact, it has always been ‘the bolder, the better‘ for me!

That is why, I was completely bowled over when I first saw the rather eccentric necklaces by Indonesian fashion accessory label, fréj whose designers Franky Wongkar and Jeffrey Jeff were recently here in Singapore for their showcase at the ongoing Isetan Designers’ Week 2012.

Franky is a Jewellery design graduate from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Fashion (UK) and has first started out in the fashion industry with his collection of self-named bespoke fine jewellery. On the other hand, Jeffrey who is trained in women’s wear design in ESMOD, Jakarta, has worked and designed for many pret-a-porter fashion houses and fashion shows, delving with all sorts of materials and fabrications including beads, crystals and even, paillettes.

And together, their joint interest and extensive knowledge in the fashion world, coupled with a French-Nordic inspired direction pioneers frej as a hand-crafted and customised fashion accessories label that is known for a quirky, yet contemporary and avant garde style since their debut in 2007. fréj is clearly not an off-the-mill label with their meticulous approach in materials and designs.

Their fusion of mixed media and individualistic choice of materials in fashion accessory makes fréj a highly talked-about label both in their home country, as well as in parts of Asia. And one range in particular that has charmed me most was the pencil necklace, which were made entirely out of pencils – an uncommon choice of mateiral in the world of fashion accessories.

These humble materials were given a refined touch as fine jewellery making techniques namely, refined gold and silver platting, were added to the chains that encircled and connect the precisely-cut pencils, one to another, making this one of the most spectacular and exquisite range that the label has designed.

The result is undoubtedly a work of art and is easy-wearing for most outfits. It can also double-up as an absolute piece of ‘conversation starter‘.

As with their other collections, the designs of frej never fails to feature an eclectic choice of motifs from paint brushes to surrealistic doll hands and even to repeating edgy skulls in various hues to name a few. Their cross-over of mediums is simply so unique to the brand and that is why frej one of my favourite accessory label at the moment.

How can anyone get enough of the dope and innovative design of theirs? Definitely not me, as I speak to the guys, Franky and Jeffrey about themselves, fréj and even their hobbies in this interview of ours!

Interview with the fréj duo, Franky and Jeffrey
Hi Franky and Jeff, nice to meet you guys here in Singapore. Your brand fréj has been around for 5 years, so how did you guys decide that you want to be a fashion accessory designer in the first place?

Franky:  My background is actually Jewellery Design of which I obtained a Bachelors degree from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2002 and then when I returned to Indonesia, I actually focused on fine jewellery. Then Jeff and I met and somehow realised we shared the same interest in fashion and design and decided to start something small, initially as a hobby, selling and sometimes giving pieces to friends and relatives so that’s how we got into fashion accessories.

Jeffrey:  After obtaining a diploma in menswear design from ESMOD Jakarta, I was working for a fashion designer here as an assistant designer and during my time working as an assistant, was already actively making accessories to go hand-in-hand with the collection of the clothes that the company created.  It was in 2007 when we both met and we thought about establishing a brand and therefore came up with fréj.  Truthfully, it is a hobby and a passion; in thinking of a design, and materializing it into an object that one is able to wear, that satisfies me.
Some of your statement-making pieces are actually made up of pencils – familiar objects that we use in our daily lives but yet, they are very unconventional in the world of fashion accessories. What are some of your experiences like when working with these materials?
 Franky:  The way we work, most if not sometimes, requires both our efforts in creating the piece.  Because of my background in jewelry making, my efforts require me to prepare the components before the pieces are being assembled  and the components are sometimes not easy to find, and it is times like this that we have to start thinking of other ways in constructing the pieces. Other than that, because sometimes the objects that we’re using are not easily available, which makes it hard and stalls the process in making the piece. 
Jeffrey:  Sometimes the items used are vintage items and this can be the difficult part as it’ll require time to collect the pieces before being assembled into a piece of accessories.  Most of the time, the collection of these everyday item will end up with only just one piece being made, and therefore we can only make a unique piece.  And also since these pieces are handmade, sometime no one piece is exactly the same.  The forms and shapes maybe similar, but if you zoom into the details, they vary in their own ways which is the beauty of working with unconventional objects and hand-making them into accessories.


What are some reactions of people when they saw your designs and original creations?

 Franky:  I think people have been fascinated by the pieces that we’ve managed to come up with.  There’s an element of surprise, sometimes together with a childish chuckle. I guess it’s probably because of the use of vintage items that reminds people of childhood

Jeffrey:  Definitely surprise, and I hope a sense of intrigue and nostalgia.  There’s always laughter and curiosity when they see a fréj creation. I think for the fashion connoisseur, they’re impressed with the finishing of the pieces, as we take it as an utmost priority to ensure the pieces are finished as finely as possible.  There are many accessories oxtcut there that looks really good, but when we look into the details, the finishing isn’t that great.

fréj in Tatler Indonesia editorial spread (styled by Jeffrey Jeff)
When you create something, what goes through your mind?
Franky:  Geez, there are many things I suppose. Sometimes we have so many things we want to make we can’t even get round to doing it.  But I guess we try and imagine the person wearing it.  Who she’d be, and where on what occasion she’d wear a fréj piece to…

Jeffrey:  Sometimes for me, it’ll be the way the piece falls on the person’s body, how it looks when it’s being worn. I’d also imagine the total look and envision the piece as an ensemble to the dress the wearer would be wearing it with.  Because sometimes a fréj piece would garner so much attention that one has to be very careful in how they’d accessories with it.

How do you intend the wearer of fréj to feel when wearing your accessories?

 Franky: Wearing accessories is all about being fun but I suppose if you’re looking for a piece of fréj then, it’s about searching for a piece of accessories that is not mainstream or commercial, but quirky and different in your own sense of style.

Jeffrey:  For me, it’s about someone who has to be confident to be able to carry off a piece of accessories that is different and unconventional. We do our best to make the piece as wearable as possible, but the rest is up to the wearer.

Who is your inspiration?
Franky: It’s rather difficult for me to pin-point one or two people to say they’re my inspiration, because I believe inspiration comes for all sorts of sources around us.  The things we work with, would lead up to a design, the trends we see in the fast moving world of fashion inspires us. The mood we’re in, the theatre we see, the books we read or the music we listen to are all vast sources of inspiration to us. But I’ve also been very much interested in architecture, and therefore sometimes the pieces we create might be inspired by architecture as well.  

Jeff:  For me, they are artistes, entertainers, fashion designers and people who’re generally related to the arts. They really inspire me to get creative and make pieces of accessories.


Apart from designing, what are your hobbies?

Franky:  Guess I can tell you I’m pretty much a Facebook addict. I’m on it everyday… but I wouldn’t call it a hobby. I used to go to the gym considerably but then got tired of it. I like to play tennis very much and would spend few hours a week playing tennis but have stopped recently, I think I’ll get back to it soon again.

Jeffrey:  I’ve been very much involved in sports since my days in junior high school.  Even when I was working as an assistant fashion designer, I’d frequently visit the gym. Recently I’m also teaching body-balance at an internationally acclaimed gym in Jakarta and have also purused yoga-training courses to go hand-in-hand with the body-balance program that I teach at the gym.


fréj at Re-Style Singapore (Isetan Designers’ Week 2012)
From your stay in Singapore, what do you like best about the country?

Franky:  I’ve lived in Singapore before for 14 years before I went overseas to pursue high-school and University education so Singapore is not exactly foreign to me.  But I’m very much impressed with how fast the city is moving forward.  Great infrastructure of the city and it seems that there is something new every time I visit the country. And I like the fact that I can communicate with the locals in the casual Singlish or Mandarin here, feels like second home.

Jeffrey: The efficiency of the country like Singapore is amazing! The accessibility and getting around to different places is so clear and you can never get worried of getting lost in Singapore.  The public transport here is also very good which allows visitors to go to places easily and without being worried of getting lost.  Other than that, I do enjoy local delights from Singapore, that we do not get in Indonesia.


In your opinion, how does the Jakarta fashion scene differ from the fashion scene in Singapore?

 Franky:  I think people in Jakarta are very dressy, you won’t catch someone dressing sloppily to the malls. Perhaps over in Singapore, people tend to go for comfort-wear and thus go for a more casual look. There are different scenes in relation to fashion in Indonesia, there’ll be those who dress extremely up-market where high-end labels are essentials to how they put themselves together, and then on the other end, there’ll be people who’d put themselves together with indie-local brands, but appropriately put-together.

Jeffrey: In Jakarta, people are more conscious about what they wear especially when they’re attending a special occasion like a wedding function, or opening of a particular establishment.  They are very particular with the total look of their outfit, and that’s probably due to the reasons that they need to look presentable when they’re outside in the event of bumping into friends or relatives.  But in Singapore, people here seems more relax and they do not seem too bothered with the comments or criticism they get from people about their outfit.  It’s very spontaneous and natural to put it simply with regards to the fashion scene over here.


Tell us a bit more about the upcoming Jakarta Fashion Week 2013.

Franky: Basically it’s just like any other fashion weeks that takes place around the world and it’s being coordinated and hosted by one of the big local publication company, Femina.  And over the period of these few days there’ll be fashion shows by up and coming designers, or seasoned designers showing their new collection for the upcoming seasons.  Normally it ends with a big bang with a show called Dewi Fashion Knights and there’ll be around 5-6 fashion shows by local fashion designers and the works would be more couture based.  It’s an exciting week and fréj is tied in to participate in Cleo Fashion Awards which will based on the current schedule will take place on 7th November 2012.

Jeffrey: The Cleo Fashion Awards is hosted by another published magazine, Cleo, which is under the Femina Group as well and we’re participating together with 5 other designers (3 from apparels and 2 more from accessories) to showcases our pieces.  We’ve done our presentation to Cleo about the concept and ideas which we’ll be putting forward with regards to this event and now it’s about getting down to making the pieces in time for photo shoots, fittings and the big event which will take place on the evening of 7 November.  It’ll be exciting.  We’ve been told that they’ve invited buyers, bloggers, big names in the industry to come to Jakarta Fashion Week so definitely it’ll be a week to show what fréj is all about.


Describe the style of fréj in one word

Franky & Jeffrey: Eclectic!


And there you have it, a big thank you to Franky and Jeff for this interview!


Explore fréj  and shop fréj at: 


Re-Style by Isetan (till 4 October 2012)
Isetan Scotts Level 2
1 Scott Road
Singapore 228208

Jakarta, Indonesia 

The Goods Department
Pacific Place, Jl. Jend.
Sudirman Kav.52 – 53 Lt.
G, No.99, 12190, Indonesia

Selected designs are also available at

Posted by:Jessica Ye

Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Couture Troopers, former editor of Designaré Magazine, and a first class honours graduate of Goldsmiths University of London's BA(Hons) Fashion Media & Industries Degree. She is a true-blooded leo who thinks that over-commercialism kills art.

3 replies on “Designer of the Month: Bold and statement-making accessories by Indonesian label fréj

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