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The Evolving Look in Kau Seputih Melati

Relationships in the film industry; most people think of a director and a cinematographer or a director and actors when considering this. For wardrobe/costume designer and celebrity stylist Gratannia Pajaitan, her professional association with actress Nikita Willy has been both highly successful and enduring. Willy first discovered Gratannia’s work and personally brought her aboard as her wardrobe stylist for Yusra & Yumna and many other productions which followed. When Nikita was cast as a high class call girl in the Indonesian TV series Kau Seputih Melati (retitled from “Perempuan di Pinggir Jalan” which literally means “A girl on the Sidewalk”…an obvious negative connotation not beneficial to gaining an audience in Indonesia), the trust developed between these two professionals allowed the actress to deliver the complex and proud performance that was lauded by public and critics alike. Carefully crafted by Pandjaitan (while conferring with Willy and Director Gita Asmara), the actress’s wardrobe on the show was often the setting of her emotional journey in this TV drama.

Nikita is a certified megastar in Indonesia, particularly with the younger demographic. As an award-winning actress (Panasonic Global Awards, Indonesia Kids’ Choice Awards, etc.)/singer/mixed martial artists who is particularly popular with the younger generation, she is highly influential in a number of ways. This fact also makes her very particular about how she is presented both onscreen and off. Her trust and affinity for Gratannia as both a wardrobe stylist and personal celebrity stylist has created an enduring bond between the two professionals. When Willy accepted the role of a young woman in a desperate and sensitive situation, she made sure that Pandjaitan was involved to ensure excellence and her own comfortability. Nikita Willy’s fans vary from children to adults so for her role as Nita in Kau Seputih Melati (which literally means “You Are As White As [the flower] Jasmine”) required Gratannia’s talent and discretion for her wardrobe choices. The show’s title is an expression which tells the audience that even though the main character works as a prostitute, she is actually pure at heart. She has been through a lot of major tragedies that have forced her to become a prostitute.

The main character’s arc in the story provided the opportunity for Gratannia to flex her design muscles. Not so long ago, Nita was an innocent girl who was in love with her handsome and rich boyfriend. When his twin kidnapped Nita and sold her to a pimp in a jealous rage, she found herself working the streets for Mami. Her intelligence and beauty allowed her to quickly become the elite of Mami’s prostitutes. Through this process the audience sees Nita’s determination to not be broken and to retain a sense of who she truly is versus letting this situation define her. Nita’s wardrobe begins with pastel colored dresses and transitions to cheap sexy tops with miniskirts and eventually elegant dresses of emerald green and maroon with chic diamond earrings. The process of arriving at the final wardrobe involves different perspectives as Gratannia describes, “Creating the proper wardrobe for a show like this is about implying facets of the character. Nita is a smart girl who was at the top of her class in school. Even though she finds herself in this awful situation, she is thinking about a way out and staying strong until she gets there. She’s smart enough to know that she has to play the game to survive but that she can’t let Mami know she’s playing the game. The wardrobe has indicators of this. At the same time, I have to make sure that Nikita is comfortable with the designs I’ve created for the character. We’ve been working together for some time now and the communication is very open. There are times when she doesn’t want a certain body part showing; it’s important that she be able to communicate that in a comfortable manner. When that happens it’s my job to discuss this with the director and give them both options.”

Sometimes Pandjaitan does her job so well that it creates a comical situation for everyone involved. She recalls, “Nikita is a very beautiful and classy woman. Everyone on set gave me the nod of approval for the wardrobe’s believability during a location shoot one night. We were filming Nikita and other extras by the side road in a busy city of Jakarta at midnight, with her wearing very sexy clothes. We had on screen cars that would approach her during filming but there were also random cars that approached Nikita, rolling their window down and literally propositioned her and other cast members. We all thought it was funny and had some good laughs. Sometimes Nikita would just answer and play along with the people in the cars but eventually told them that we were filming. I was simultaneously proud, uncomfortable, and laughing. I guess that’s a good way to spend a day at work doing a job you love.”

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