Liberating Wear: Through Kaftan One, Former Senator Nikki Coseteng Creates Pieces that Give a 'Sense of Freedom' - LA Lives

In the middle of the pandemic, the lawmaker found a new passion while unearthing textiles she collected through her many travels.

Former Senator and House of Representatives member Anna Dominique “Nikki” Coseteng was moving from a 2,000 square meter home to a condominium unit last August. The move forced her to downsize, but it became tricky as someone who’s a collector at heart. 

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Coseteng accumulated things she could identify with through her travels—and that was everything from magnets to antique beads and furniture to textiles. 

Nikki Coseteng in her Kaftan One piece made of fabric by Sri Lankan textile designer Darshi Keerthisena.

“I said, ‘what am I going to do with all the fabrics that I have?’ So I took out 15 suitcases of textiles maybe, or more,” she shares. With love for kaftans, she thought others might have the same appreciation for the long, loose, and unbinding garment. 

Kaftan One pieces modeled by Coseteng’s daughter in law, Quezon City Councilor Kate Coseteng.

Then, Kaftan One was born, which gave the former lawmaker a creative outlet during the pandemic and provided work for her seamstress. Initially, however, she received some discouraging comments from people around her, asking, “who’s going to take care of all that?’ and “who will buy expensive kaftans when there are cheaper options?” 

Coseteng would respond that she didn’t know—but that didn’t stop her. After all, she believes that people who wear kaftans are looking for freedom. In fact, especially in the middle of a pandemic, she describes her pieces as a “sense of freedom in enclosed spaces “

L-R: Kaftan piece made of Indian handwoven raw silk, Kaftan piece made from Indonesian silk batik.

She initially selected handmade textiles from her travels to India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam and ordered twenty pieces, then the volume needed grew to forty. “And then I just didn’t stop anymore because it was consistent with my DNA just to do things,” she shares. 

Finding purpose more in kaftans

Kaftan One’s collections include pieces made from Indonesian silk batik, cotton with Indian embroidery, and fabric by Sri Lankan textile designer Darshi Keerthisena.

To get the word out, the president of Diliman Preparatory School called friends, asking if she could send them photos of the kaftan pieces. However, she was apprehensive, given this wasn’t the line of work she’s known for. 

However, she was surprised to get dozens of orders from individual friends, for themselves and as to their loved ones. 

The former senator describes her pieces as she describes her pieces as a “sense of freedom in enclosed spaces.”

“So that in itself was the most comforting and the most confidence-building experience for me,” Cosetang shares. “Because I went through the process of fear, anxiety, insecurity, rejection, all of that.” But during the process, she was greeted with “appreciation and patronage,” also from customers she didn’t personally know beforehand. 

Reaching a wider market

Now, the brand is available at Rustan’s Makati and Rustan’s Shangri-La, thanks to its CEO and chairman Nedy Tantoco—another friend of Coseteng.

“I did not muster enough courage to dare even suggest that they take my kaftans in. But eventually, I just barreled through whatever apprehensions I had and gave her a call. And she says, ‘why not? We can try it,'” the mother of two recalls. 

Kaftan One’s set-up at Rustan’s Makat’s Ladies Department.

She describes the process of becoming a one-person show to a department-store-carried- label as “extremely encouraging and extremely motivational.”

“The staff that [Nedy Tantoco] had assigned to me are very supportive, are very creative and knowledgeable about their craft; this is something I’ve never done in my life,” Coseteng muses. “But because they took me in, I learned a lot.”

Kaftan One is also available in Rustan’s Shangri-La in Mandaluyong.

According to the former Quezon City congressman, who tries on and irons, every handmade piece herself to ensure quality—those who wear kaftans are looking for freedom. And with Kaftan One, she caters to these women who also appreciate her “unconventional” style.

Despite the initial discouraging comments she received, Coseteng shares that now the support is “unbelievable.”

Coseteng wearing a kaftan piece made of cotton batik from Indonesia.

“I didn’t know what it was all about, the kind of support that I got. So I [thought], I must be doing something right,” she muses. Though Coseteng described her move from a house to a condo as a significant physical, emotional, and mental adjustment—she’s found a therapeutic avenue by making liberating yet well-crafted kaftans.

You can follow Kaftan One on Instagram or message them at +63 968 349 7132. Kaftan One is also available at Rustan’s Makati and Rustan’s Shangri-La Mall.

All photos courtesy of Nikki Coseteng.

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