Jet-setting jewellery slash fashion designer and Bali aficionado Erika Peña talks high style, down-to-earth living on the island, and giving back to those that are in need. Meet one of fashion’s hottest darlings.
Hi Erika! We heard it all started with a dismantled shell lamp. Tell us more!
I had been working on a large government project, and I wasn’t happy. So, one night, I was in my living room praying for guidance. I kept looking up towards God and my Balinese Shell Nacar lamp as I prayed, and after a while I thought to myself that I could make cool earrings from that lamp. That’s how I got started. I began making Shell Nacar earrings with dangling chains and Swarovski crystals. When my best friend came to visit me, I gifted her a couple. She returned to NYC, and called a week later to tell me that the Editor of InStyle Magazine had stopped her at a party, asked about her earrings and spoke about a feature in the magazine. One month later, the earrings appeared on a two-page spread in InStyle Magazine as a must-have accessory of the season, which started the ball rolling.
What brought you to Bali?
A friend of mine spoke wonders of Bali. She manufactured here. At that time, I had just closed down my factory in Puerto Rico, and was looking to produce elsewhere. I had tried China to no great end. When I stepped foot in Bali, I knew this was the place for me.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
I’m inspired by Nomad Tribes from around the world. I’m blown away how these primitive groups create such beautiful pieces of art from minimal resources. I’ve always been drawn to African Tribes and their beading work.
Do you have a favourite travel destination?
Portugal. There is an energy and sense of peace in the South of Portugal, Algarve. I often feel very inspired when I’m there. I had gone there quite a bit the past 5 years when I was living In Sevilla, Spain. The surf is amazing, seafood is fresh and the festivals are fun.
Many celebrities are wearing your designs!
I’m really honoured to count A-listers Beyonce, Rihanna, Kate Moss, Kim Kardashian, Miley Cyrus, Paris Hilton and Jessica Alba as fans.
What are your downtime pursuits in Bali?
Massages, heading to Nusa Dua beaches, watching sunsets – basically lots of pampering! It’s a big deal because you’re charged for every minute you relax.
Tell us about your foundation in Bali
I launched the Cinta Kasih range where all proceeds currently go directly to disabled children on the island. The foundation is called Yayasan Membina Api Cinta Kasih, or YAMACK in short. We ensure that all proceeds are given straight to the foundation, and that they are used to build, maintain and run the school, in which students attend class free of charge. Giving back to a place that has given me so much seemed like a very natural thing to do.
Name your favourite Bali restaurant.
I would have to say Sea Circus. Love the fun, staff and energy.
What are you reading at the moment?
Living in the Heart by Drunvalo Melchizedek.
What are the most important things in your world?
My health, having fun, dancing, my family and friends and being a good person. My dream is to become a mother and have a loving family. I also want my work to make people feel loved.
Your favourite city?
New York is where I feel like I’m truly from, although I’m an island girl. NYC tests you, inspires you, and brings you down, but you feel alive there. I was lucky enough to live there for over seven years and I found myself there.
What does your favorite outfit consist of?
My personal style is resort, ethnic, and bohemian chic, so a typical outfit for me would be a flowing dress with a bold print, possibly backless and in a halter style. I think the sexiest part of a woman is her shoulders and back.
Tell us your inspiration behind the Santika Collection
Santika is a capsule resort collection created in collaboration with style powerhouse Danny Santiago. It blends a mix of fashion and sexy chic pieces that effortlessly transition from pool daytime fun to elegant soirée glamour.
What type of woman wears Santika?
She is a gypsy woman who travels the world and collects timeless words of wisdom, art pieces, clothing and accessories. She’s sexy, elegant, and a hippy at heart with exquisite taste in the finer things in life and has that “Je ne sais quoi” vibe.
Describe your design process.
I usually sketch my ideas and source for materials first. Then, I meet up with my manufacturers, give them the sketches and start with molds and patterns, which I usually modify or change it in the process.
Share with us your dream collaboration.
I was lucky enough to collaborate with one of my icons Diane Von Furstenberg. My dream collaborations would be Jean-Paul Gaultier, Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy, Olivier Rousteing of Balmain.
What’s in the pipeline for 2015?
I’m looking forward to the opening of the Erika Peña pop-up in Sevilla, Spain in November this year, and the opening of a second Erika Peña pop-up in Palma de Mallorca Island, Spain. I’m also looking to move to Bali full-time, launch the second collection of Santika, and work with Nikki Beach Resorts.