interview

Founder Rénette Sastrowidjojo

House of Afangaro is more than a fashion brand and label, “I want to connect Rotterdam based entrepreneurs with each other.”

Rénette Sastrowidjojo, an entrepreneur herself, owns and runs a secondment business in legal services for 13 years. From 2020 on she expanded the business to IT and Marketing & Communication. She decided to change her course at the end of 2018 as she was missing a certain level of creativity. Or to be more precise, to add an extra new course in her business which is setting up House of Afangaro, a high-end fashion label to cater to women who like to wear whatever they feel like.

“(The majority of) Women tend to act and behave too much of what is expected from them.” To step into the fashion branch from a business service core would seem like a big transition to most people but not for Rénette Sastrowidjojo. “I am an entrepreneur in heart and soul and it's all about entrepreneurship ", she says. “And a good entrepreneur should be able to run any kind of business, right?”.

To think like an entrepreneur

Despite House of Afangaro being a young upcoming brand, it is key for Sastrowidjojo to do it right from the start. “At the moment about 10 people are working for House of Afangaro. They are designers and marketing professionals. We have an office, an atelier and a showroom which we also use for private fashion shows, sample sales and viewings. Nothing ready-made is purchased but developed and manufactured in the atelier. Having worked for the municipality of Rotterdam for years to battle unemployment is basically the same starting point with which I want to accomplish with my secondment company. To offer and give people chances with finding a job”, she continues her story. 

To answer the question if she didn’t feel daunted and excited to start the fashion label in a big way, her answer is a firm ‘No’. “Other people might set up their business with great caution but I have a different approach and way of working. I see opportunities for the whole enterprise and I want to catch them all.” Her companies are connected with each other as they work and proactively make use of each other's mutual activities. Rénette has been working quite intensively to create a so-called type of ecosystem with the different divisions of her companies.

More than ever it is clear that businesses don’t operate solely in their own vacuum as there lies a surplus value in mutual cooperation and exchange without losing your own identity. She does this with all of her own companies as well as with others. Her own companies also have in common that it's about being innovative. Innovation is a must for fashion. It is a constant search and research in looking for an added value for all three companies she is running. Take for example Virtual Reality, a technique of which the added value is obvious to her. The same VR techniques which are being used in her secondment business are also being applied in her fashion house Afangaro.

House of Afangaro high-end collections 

It goes without saying, as a result House of Afangaro is a high-end brand with outspoken items like for example, a pink fuzzy jumpsuit, wide satin trousers and sequined dresses. At first sight women might associate the garments with parties to wear to but Sastrowidjojo doesn’t like stereotypical thinking, “Why wouldn’t you wear it to the office? I’d like to challenge them to do whatever they’d like and prefer to do. To try to be yourself and to try out new things”. 

Connecting Rotterdam

Setting up House of Afangaro wasn’t solely for personal reasons. Yes, there was a certain lack of creativity for Rénette but she also wanted to do something to put Rotterdam on the map as a fashion city. As a high-end fashion city, to be precise. “Rotterdam still has a lot of potential. I hope entrepreneurs of this city will connect much more with each other, like how fashion can connect people.”

With House of Afangaro she hopes to add her contribution in business relations and for the creatives to not only make beautiful items but to also learn to think like a business(wo)man. “I can keep shouting from the rooftops that Rotterdam can become 'the' fashion city of the Netherlands when people will collaborate more but it also meant I had to bring in something too. This was another reason to start with House of Afangaro’’. 

What kind of collaborations she is thinking of? She sums up an example between a high-end restaurant and the fashion label. “A place where you can have a nice cosy family Sunday brunch. Combine this with a private fashion show and you have a nice concept to attract more people.” 

International dreams and ambitions

Yet Rénette’s plans are ultimately bigger than just the city of Rotterdam. “Our ambition is to establish an international brand. We start online in Europe, we do analyze where the people visiting the website are from, and perhaps it will be possible in the near future for customers to visit us physically. But one step at a time.”

 

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