ILIO NEMA was founded by Ariane Leondaridis and Katia Kelso. Both of Greek heritage, Ariane was born in Paris and Katia in Sydney. Their shared passion for artisanal craft was forged when they worked together in New York. Slow craft processes that require exacting techniques became the foundation for their own niche in an industry widely regarded as 'fast' or 'disposable' and ILIO NEMA was born.
Scroll to meet this dynamic duo...
THE QUICK CHAT:
Meet: Ariane Leondaridis
Often Found: At home in Bronte
Listening to: Al Green
Whilst sipping: Coffee (black always)
Passionately discussing: Politics on the environmental bills!
And working on: Textiles and colours for our new collection
Meet: Katia Kelso
Often Found: In the pottery studio
Listening to: 'Deck Vibes' a playlist my friend created
Whilst sipping: Oat latte
Passionately discussing: The fashion industry and sustainability
And working on: Expanding the business to overseas markets while still honouring our slow fashion ethos.
THE DEEP DIVE - MEET ILIO NEMA
Can you please tell us a little bit about the brand and what it is you do?
ARIANE: Katia and I started the brand during the COVID lockdown after returning to Sydney from 10 years in New York. The brand is a very personal project for Katia and I which we have thrown ourselves into. Having worked passionately for top brands in New York gathering so much experience we felt it was time to do it our way. The sustainable approach to the business and the ethical emphasis on respect for nature are the core of our brand.
The brand’s focus is on craftmanship and working with artisanal communities. We are designing timeless pieces that are unique and handmade that don't follow trends and will remain heirlooms for generations.
What was the spark that led you to launch Ilio Nema?
KATIA: Ariane and I discovered our shared passion for artisanal craft when we worked together in New York. After returning to Sydney, we spotted a gap in the market for sophisticated but easy clothing with exquisite craftsmanship. This spark led to the launch of ILIO NEMA.
What have been the biggest challenges for you and your brand?
ARIANE: We initially created the brand around traveling and thought we would be visiting our factories and traveling the world to discover new crafts and artisanal makers to drive our collections forward. COVID has been a real challenge for us. It stopped us from travelling and forced us to do everything from our computers instead of face to face. We have missed the interaction with our weavers and makers as well as missing visiting markets and vintage dealers for sourcing.
Creatively it is not as fun! We cannot wait to go back to India and Morocco.
What does sustainability mean to ILIO NEMA, and how has it played a part in your brand?
KATIA: Sustainability is part of our core values. We believe in going back to the basics and slowing the process down to appreciate the art of handcraft. Traditional artisanal techniques require fewer machines which means a lesser impact on the environment.
We still have a strong love for design and textiles even though we know the fashion and textiles industry is a major polluter at all stages of the production chain and is responsible for 10% of annual carbon emissions. So, we decided to try and do it a little differently by not conforming to seasons, by delivering products when they are ready, by respecting the people making the clothes and watching where everything comes from and goes. We have no plastic packaging and minimise waste reducing the environmental impact. The wellbeing of our Supply Partners is also crucial. Our partners are family-owned businesses in rural locations in countries that are too often exploited for cheap labour.
At ILIO NEMA, ethical manufacturing and a commitment to local artisan communities are at the heart of your philosophy. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
ARIANE: Our collection focuses on hand-woven textiles using natural fibres which we source ethically and locally. Our stripes are woven with two people working simultaneously on the loom. It can take up to three days to weave the fabric for one of our garments. The result is beautiful, unique and completely personal. Not using machines means using less energy and it also supports the artisans who live in rural communities in India and Morocco.
What do you think needs to change within the fashion industry?
ARIANE: I think we need to change the way we produce the clothes by going back to natural fibres, using less harmful chemicals in the printing and dying process as well as needing to create fewer garments all together. Sustainability is a result of mindful thinking for the future. Companies often prioritise rapid growth instead of being happy with a successful company. It is what forces companies to start overproducing, making unnecessary deliveries and jumping on every commercial opportunity possible. Wanting to be everything to everyone is completely unsustainable. Often less is more.
The consumer needs to take the same approach. I think we need to relearn to buy only what we need and only what we love and to buy better quality that will last longer.
Where do you look to for inspiration?
KATIA: Our Greek heritage and Greek mythology are endless sources of stories, magic, and philosophy. We are also greatly inspired by our travels to faraway places - Mexico, Morocco, Greece, Italy, Portugal, India and more.
Can you recommend any resources for those trying to become more educated about sustainable and ethical fashion?
Ariane: Resources about sustainable and ethical fashion are available on the internet and have become mainstream. A few resources I would recommend are:
* Good On You
* Fashion Revolution
* Net-A-Porter which has launch Net Sustain for brands that are following their sustainability agenda.
* Buying vintage and second-hand are always a sure way to be sustainable.
THE GIRLS' FAVOURITE THREE PRODUCTS
Ariana and Katia share their fave three available on the Nash + Banks website - click through for more information and to buy online
Our Pollux Maxi Dress - it’s our signature piece!
The ILIO NEMA Pollux Dress is an effortless oversized shirt dress crafted in our dynamic multi-coloured broken stripe. This intricate broken stripe design takes three days to weave on a handloom by local weavers in India making this piece simultaneously unique and striking.
Sophia Maria Sienna Band
With an intimate focus on craftsmanship, every item in Sofia Maria's collection is slowly handmade by Sofia herself in her Manly Studio. Sienna is a fine irregular band with eleven responsibly sourced grey ‘salt and pepper’ diamonds. Subtly squared with soft, organic edges. A timeless band, with a smooth finish and high polish. Slowly carved by hand.
Váhy Desert Nōmad Candle
Fill your home with the scent of Váhy's award-winning, cult favourite perfume, Desert Nōmad. Transport your mind to the tropical desert oasis of Fortynine Palms in Joshua Tree. Evoking the sweet temptation of oasis immersion, warm air and palm leaf shade, Desert Nōmad is a harmonious symphony of notes that uplift with fruit, vanilla and a whisper of the tropics. Váhy's scented candles are created using the highest quality ingredients and cruelty-free soy wax.