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In the Studio With Selly Djap: On "Sex", Faith, & Fashion

Last week, we paid a visit to up-and-coming designer, Selly Djap, in her beautiful, sunlit Greenwich Village studio. A sophomore in college, Djap is a rising star in the New York City design scene, pushing the frontiers of what it means to be a Christian clothier at just 20 years old. Less than two years ago, Djap launched her own namesake label at the age of 19 as an NYU freshman. For Djap, her clothing line has served as an outlet that allows her to express her faith through creative means.

“My brand is a Christian contemporary evening wear for women, and it’s a brand that’s founded on the value of grace,” Djap says. “My goal is to marry faith and my relationship with people.”

Despite the fact that she’s making a name for herself in the world of fashion, Djap actually began her foray into the creative world as a visual artist for years before trying her hand at design.

“When I first began dabbling in art, I did painting, drawing, ceramics, digital art, 3-D installations, everything,” Djap says. “But what truly brought me to fashion is how it really breaks the barrier between the audience and the art, because you’re literally wearing it. Instead of a painting where you frame and hang on a wall and look at it from a distance, with fashion, you wear it. With my clothes, I want to share the message of grace with people, and I’ve realized that to share a message that’s so close to people’s identity, it really is more important to choose a medium that can speak to people on that level.To make a difference or contribute to someone else’s faith or journey to faith—that’s cool.”

Now as a 20-year-old, Djap has two successful NYFW showings tucked under her belt. The first show marked her freshman year in college, and also her first year living in the United States.

“Showing at fashion week has been mind-blowing,” Djap says. “I’m always excited and nervous leading up to it, but afterwards, it feels like I accomplished something. It’s so exciting to me because every time I’m about to show a new collection, I feel so much support from my community here. ”

Much of Djap’s creative inspiration stems from her experiences in the past. Specializing on detail work like intricate beadings and glamorous silhouettes, Djap’s collections most often consist of 10 or so unique looks.

“My collections always start with a storyline narrative. Coming from the visual artist background, I think of design in terms of symbolisms and the implicit abstract around it. The designs that I do—the collections that I do—each one represents a specific moment in my life.

Her debut collection, titled “Sex”, is an exploration of how Djap views around sexuality changed after her move to NYC. Utilizing a warm and rich color palette full of reds and pinks, Djap’s passion is manifested in the aesthetics of the collection.

“‘Sex’ represents the journey of coming from a place of repression to a place of finally blossoming in freedom of expression,” said Djap. “Back home in my community—and overall honestly—people are really silent when it comes to the topic of sex. They don’t talk about it, they don’t think about it. And for a woman, if you have certain desires, you’re forced to feel ashamed of yourself. Indonesia, being predominantly a Muslim country—it’s very conservative and silent about those topics. Coming here, it’s incredible because people are so open about it.”

For her second collection, “Drama”, Djap tapped into her memories of experiencing abuse as a child. With a darker, primarily black color story, the collection is somber yet dignified.

“I don’t want to make it a sad story but, growing up, I was physically abused by my dad. The journey of the collection starts from a place where I was abused, and I was in a place where I was full of hatred, and now coming to a place where I can forgive my dad and stand in forgiveness.”

Despite—and perhaps partially because of—her hardships, great beauty has clearly blossomed. Djap hopes that her brand will serve as a beacon of hope.

“Above all, the goal of my brand is to share the message and goodness of grace to people. I hope that through sharing my stories, other women and other girls out there can be inspired through that too.”

Stay tuned to Milk for more studio visits with creatives we’re loving. 

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