Ilio Nema: bringing Bohemian sophistication to our wardrobes
Meet the duo behind Ilio Nema, a fashion label founded on the ethos of quality, always
By Jenny Ringland
Bohemian, hand made, sophisticated clothing, designed to transcend seasons. This is Ariane Leondaridis and Katia Kelso’s vision in Ilio Nema, a label that launched in 2021 as the antidote to the six drops a year, trends led fashion world they had come from.
The Sydney-based co-founders desire is for their customers to preserve their Ilio Nema pieces, to be loved forever and passed on to friends or children.
Produced in collaboration with artisanal communities in India and Morocco, each Ilio Nema piece is unique, designed to reflect both an appreciation of traditional skills and modern styles.
Ariane and Katia, both with Greek heritage, who met working together in fashion in New York, share a passion for living consciously, investing in quality, always, in all areas of their lives. It’s the holistic life philosophy that cemented their friendship and which has laid the foundation for a business that works collaboratively with its suppliers, always seeking out lighter, more conscious ways of creating their one-of-a kind pieces.
“For me, my grandmother had a profound influence on me, she would throw away nothing,’’ Paris-born Ariane says.
“She grew up in Egypt with no running water, or electricity, 1920s in Egypt. I learned so much from her.’’
Katia, who grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches recalls a similar ethos instilled during her childhood.
“My dad used to wrap our sandwiches for school in the plastic wrap from the newspaper. I’m like, “This is not hygienic.” We didn’t realise for a while, and then we got to an age where we were like, “Dad, the Glad wrap, it doesn’t stick anymore,’’ Katia says.
“But even things like wrapping paper, we’ve always, as children, taught to not tear our presents. We’d always reuse it, and we’d never buy Christmas paper or wrapping paper.”
It’s this shared value of quality over quantity, a love of beautiful garments, and a vision of more breaking the fast fashion cycle that has culminated in Ilio Nema, a beautiful brand for women who share the same ethos.
Who is the Ilio Nema woman?
The range is quite resort inspired and easy. So, I’d say it’s for the woman who loves to travel. She lives by the beach, she looks very Bohemian, and it’s perfect for weekends. She’s definitely free-spirited, but she likes what she buys and where she puts her money.
She cares that things are handmade, and things are unique, and she really does know the difference between quality. She’s happy to wear her pieces year after year, season after season, and really treasure the pieces that she buys.
What are your non-negotiables?
For me, first and foremost it’s using natural fibres. Even upcycling polyester you use so much energy, and to break it down, is it really sustainable? I don’t know. All our pieces are hand made and we only use natural dyes, our mailers are compostable and we wrap the garments in offcut fabric. If you order multiple items they won’t be individually wrapped.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced since launching last year?
We’ve accepted a few things that haven’t come in exactly as planned, but we’ve kind of worked around it. So, maybe the styles we originally designed, now the fabric looks slightly different, they don’t work anymore, so we’ve kind of redesigned to make sure the fabric is still usable. We just kind of shift – it’s good for a robe, not for a pant anymore.
What does living a sustainable life mean for you?
I think it’s about being conscious about your daily choices. From choosing a reusable take away cup, to where you buy your vegetables and are you getting your meat in plastic bags? All these small things add up. It also spills over into the bigger choices you make, the furniture you buy and the clothing you invest in. Being conscious at the time of every purchasing decision has become my ethos. Quality over quantity across the board, always.
I really believe in natural, fresh products. I try to go to the farmer’s market, and support people that grow their own food. Ideally, I would love to grow my own food, but I have a cubby house taking the spot for it! My dream is to be self-sufficient. If you can actually feed yourself, dress yourself, you can emancipate yourself from society, right?
What is your vision for Elio Nema?
We don’t want it to be huge, after all we aren’t about volume of sales, we are about investment pieces that you treasure forever. We we would love to have a store, and a small team and to have created a community of like minded women who love to dress in beautiful clothing, but who value the same things we do, living sustainably and investing in quality in all areas of our lives.