Creating a girlswear label may not have been the obvious business choice for a mum of three boys, but for Kaylea Wijaya and her husband, designing tropical clothing for girls has become their passion. Inspired by the tropical islands and lushness of their surrounds, Melatiku's clothing is made in Bali by self-employed artisans who set a fair price for each piece - no sweat shops, no child labour.
We caught up with Kaylea Wijaya, Melatiku's designer, to talk about the inspiration behind the brand, the steps Melatiku takes to be more sustainable and their passion for supporting the local community through ethical clothing production.
Tell us a little bit about you and your family
I am a full-time mum of three boys and I design for Melatiku with my husband. He is from Java in Indonesia so our boys enjoy living in two cultures.
Talk to us about Melatiku – how did the brand come about?
Bali is one of those places you cannot come to without being inspired by colour and the tropics. After a few visits, my mind was buzzing with ideas for starting something that involved working with the gorgeous fabrics on offer here. After dabbling in cushions, ladieswear and bags, we decided our calling was to make clothes for girls who love adventures under the sun.
When we started our brand there were not any brands that focussed completely on tropical girls wear using bold and beautiful prints. Even today, I feel what we are doing is unique to anyone else out there. I think our fuss-free designs and the fact that we do not necessarily follow the trends of that summer mean that we are still a firm favourite for mammas.
Your clothing is ethically made in Bali – how important was this for you?
My husband and I believe in karma and so it is important for us to do right by those around us in all aspects of our lives. We also want to show our boys that you can be successful, whilst also caring for those who are helping you make it happen. We work with many artisans in Bali and Java and we know that ultimately without them, there would be no Melatiku.
What was your process when it came to choosing how and where your clothing would be manufactured?
For us it was a simple choice to produce in Bali as my husband is Indonesian and we needed to be able to speak the local language to really build the relationships with our artisans.
You use predominantly cotton and rayon – how does your fabric choices influence your designs?
Our clothing is for hot weather and we find that rayon and cotton are the best choices for this. Also rayon is perfect for our kaftans and dresses as the fabric hangs so well making them look gorgeous.
Do you think consumers are fully aware about the negative impacts of fast fashion? And if not, what do we need to do to correct it?
Melatiku is certainly in the slow fashion category. I think most people are aware of the negative effects of fast fashion. I think deep down everyone wants to buy clothes that are ethically produced, however I think until the price gap between ethically produced and fast fashion pieces reduces, it would be impossible to see a major shift in buying habits.
But we cannot and should not accept slave-like conditions, nor children being forced to work rather than receive an education.
How important is sustainability in the running of your business?
Sustainability is very important to us and we want to be a good role model for the next generation. We are currently cutting down on plastic by sending out items in a reusable natural cotton bag. We make our clothing with adjustable straps and elasticated sections so they can be worn for more than one Summer, and our high quality craftsmanship means our Melatikus can pass their beloved pieces to younger siblings or friends.
What was the inspiration for launching your unisex range?
When my third son was born he inspired me to create some baby unisex pieces. I fell in love with monochrome and simple abstract prints. However, we have since thought about the direction of our brand and we will still be focusing on tropical-inspired girlswear.
If you could change one thing in the world for the next generation, what would it be?
It sounds like a cliché but I would love for everyone to accept others for who they are and what they believe in. Bringing my boys up in a multicultural family has been a blessing and they have been immersed in different ways of life since they were little. There is too much going on in the world today that is rooted in strong personal beliefs and reluctance to show tolerance towards others.