From The Straits Times    |

Photo: Darren Chang


The French word marquage describes the art of literally making a mark. In this series, three marquage artists here who specialise in painting on luxury goods tell us how they fell into this growing art, the styles they each do best, and how they can make your leather goods truly your own. Part one features Vania Isfandari, 32.

Read part two here and part three here.


Before going independent four months ago, Isfandari was a Singapore-based marquage artist at Louis Vuitton where, for six years, she sharpened her skills on the leather trunks of clients from all over the world.

“For the first year and a half there, I was only allowed to paint initials and stripes, because the material was completely different from anything I had worked on before – I had to master how to paint perfectly straight lines without using any tape,” says the Indonesian, who is a Singapore PR.


Photo: Darren Chang


But once deemed up to par, she was granted creative freedom to paint her own bespoke designs, and the opportunity to “produce pieces for well-known celebrities and people all over the globe”. Among them was David Beckham, who commissioned her to paint on a Vuitton suitcase as a 17th-birthday gift to his son Brooklyn (the painting was of Brooklyn on a skateboard, holding a Leica camera).

Her stint at Louis Vuitton didn’t come about by chance: Isfandari had studied art and design extensively since she was 10, starting with fine oil painting in Indonesia. She was a graduate in visual communication design in Jakarta, and subsequently relocated to Japan for four years to study fashion at Tokyo Mode Gakuen.


Photo: Instagram / @vania.thebrushlady


“I specialise in semi-realism, whimsical and charming designs. I think it is important to ensure that each is full of character. Animals, vintage characters, pin-ups and portraits are my favourite things to paint. I also prefer to design and paint my own characters. If you show me a photo of a person, I can paint him or her in a semi-realistic style, or transform them into, say, a Lego character.

“My palette is mostly colourful and playful. I hope that the more you look, the more details and emotions will come through the piece. I also really like to dig into the archives of the particular brand I have been commissioned to paint on, to incorporate a connection between the bag owner and the brand itself. 

“My pieces are always unique if they are for a single client. But I have also done collaborations in the past where I would paint a series of pieces that were the same or similar to part of a collection. I’ve worked with Klove (a leather-goods brand in Indonesia) to collaborate on a range of lambskin bag straps that were sold in a multi-brand shop, Masari, in Jakarta.”


Photo: Instagram / @vania.thebrushlady


“I listen to my clients’ stories and brainstorm with them before I do a digital mock-up for the piece. I try to cater to request as long as there are no copyright issues, and the piece is visually appealing. It has to look good, so I always advise what will work.

“The painting may not take long, but the waiting time really depends on the complexity of the design and the time needed to communicate with the client to make sure the design is what the client wants. Creating the designs can take anywhere from a couple of days to several months – I have to be sure that the client is happy before we ‘tattoo’ their beloved leather goods. I don’t always prioritise speed. I believe that great quality takes time and craftsmanship, and I always try to involve my clients so they can enjoy the process too.


Photo: Instagram / @vania.thebrushlady


“My waiting list is six to eight weeks long, but things always change, so I would encourage customers to contact me sooner rather than later.”

Contact Isfandari via Instagram (@vania.thebrushlady) or e-mail her at for a quotation or an appointment. Monogramming starts from $200 a character. View her works on Instagram at @vania.thebrushlady.


This story was first published in the November 2018 issue of Her World, as part of a feature titled Up To The Mark.


Photography Darren Chang

Styling Bryan Goh

Makeup Marie Soh, using Laura Mercier

Hair Den Ng/Prep Luxe

Location Bar Rouge