Wylde speaks to designers Kally and Rae about their inspiration behind resort wear brand KALITA
Words by Sarah Roberts
KALITA, the luxury resort wear label created in 2015 by Kalita Al Swaidi and Raechel Temily, welcomes its new collection MUSE. Inspired by the women you can't help but want to be, MUSE reflects the wider ethos of the brand, which is rooted in using sustainable resources, while making clothes that adapt to the life of a well-traveled, fashion-conscious consumer. Wylde speaks to Kally and Rae about how the label began, where they source their materials, and what it means to be a KALITA muse.
How did the brand start?
Kally: Rae and I crossed paths through friends about two years ago. Rae was living in Bali at the time, but was taking a creative sabbatical in London after a really busy time doing back-to-back projects, so it was a case of timing is everything. I’d made lingerie quite a few years ago and it had really taken on a life of its own, but I wasn’t quite ready to turn it into a fully fledged label. I had put it on the back burner while I pursued other things, knowing that one day I’d come back to it when I was ready to do it in a bigger way.
Rae: When I met Kalita she poured out all of her ideas to me and we clicked immediately. I had wanted to start a resort wear brand for a long time but had also put it off. My professional background is in media strategy and brand development, and I had a fashion PR agency in Sydney for a brief heartbeat when I was 25, but as my interests evolved, so did my creative path. When I met Kally I had spent the last few years working in Southeast Asia, travelling across the region writing about the food culture, consulting on culinary content for chefs, doing interior and food styling for editorial projects. My life was all about travel and I was getting to experience some of the most amazing destinations, so in some ways that drumbeat for creating pieces I wanted to be wearing in those places was starting to get a lot louder for me. And then I met Kally, and well, the rest is history.
K: Hilariously, when we first had breakfast together, Rae said to me, “If you really want to do this, you’re going to have to come to Bali.” A few weeks later, there I was, literally on her doorstep. I don’t think she had any idea that I would actually come.
R: Now I know Kally can be an absolute force to be reckoned with when she sets her mind to something!
How do you think your Australian and British heritages influence the brand?
K: I am a Londoner through and through, but my family background is Texan-Iraqi, so I wouldn’t say that my British heritage is something that really comes into play that much.We both have quite interesting family backgrounds, and we each have roots in more than one place, which makes travel a natural part of the fabric of our lives. That European sensibility means I want to create pieces that work equally well for dinner in London on a Friday night and a quick mid-week work trip to Paris, through to a weekend away in Ibiza during the summer, or a destination wedding in Italy.
R: I’ve been based in Bali for almost six years, so even though I’m Australian, I think that is a bigger influence when it comes to what we’re doing. My life there is the quintessential island experience: open-air living, thatched palapa ceilings, baskets of young coconuts in the kitchen ready to crack, a bamboo pole to shower under. It’s cocktails at sunset, and beaches tucked away at the bottom of dramatic cliffs. It lends itself to a certain aesthetic – one that is all about barefoot luxury, but still feels very wild and free.
I just got back from a month at home in Byron Bay, which is a tiny surf town on the East coast of Australia. It’s really the embodiment of that bohemian utopian dream: dancing under the stars with drums and tambourines, dolphins jumping through the waves in the bay, long gypsy dresses and saltwater hair. I definitely bring the spirit of both Bali and Byron Bay to my work. I know that if you can come out of the ocean, throw on one of our dresses and just feel beautiful, without the need for anything else to pull it all together, then we’ve got it right.
What, or who, inspires your designs?
K: It’s always travel. We’re constantly packing and unpacking. So our ethos is very much grounded in not just the resort aesthetic, but also in practicality and versatility – it’s meant to be that definitive travel wardrobe. Pieces that take you from beach to bar, but beyond that too. We want to invest in pieces for special trips, where we really want to look and feel our best, but we need them to work across the rest of our lives when we get home too. So that’s definitely something we give a lot of thought to.
What materials do you use? Where do you source them?
R: How we produce the label is so important to us. Whilst it’s easy to only focus on the end result of beautiful dresses hanging on racks, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s an industry that casts quite the shadow; ecologically, environmentally and socially. Being aware of the human impact and social responsibility that goes hand in hand with what we do, we’re committed to ethical practices with every part of our supply chain, from sourcing fabrics to dying methods and how we manufacture.
We have production workshops in Bali and India. The workmanship is really just extraordinary. We spend time in both places to meet the people who make our clothes. Whilst we’re in India, we sit and eat lunch with the team there. We’ve actually had some of our best meals with them on the work table in the middle of the office, home-made and hand-delivered! In Bali, we like to call our hand-dyer ‘the magician’, because of the way he’s able to conjure up exactly what we want when we show him three different tiny scraps of paper as a colour reference, and ask him to turn it into a brand new, multi-faceted hue.
K: Our colour palette is something that is a real signature for KALITA now, and so hand-dying is a big focus. We use AZO-free dyes. These are low-impact dyes that have higher absorption rates, resulting in the minimization of grey water run-off and avoiding the pollution of natural waterways or local eco-systems. It’s more than just transparency, or basic fair trade practices. It’s about being considered and conscious with every aspect of how we make our clothes. Something that is a lot easier said than done, but a way of working that we’re deeply committed to.
Can you tell us a little about your High Summer 2017 collection?
K: Our new collection is called MUSE, and it’s about women who are truly unforgettable. It’s that girl who you can’t stop looking at across the room because she’s in this amazing dress and you just wish you were the one wearing it. You can’t take your eyes off her, because she’s having so much fun in it, and her whole look just feels effortless and easy. Like she just threw it on, but knew exactly what to wear. She’s the first one to take her shoes off, or to jump off the side of a boat, or to roll down a grassy hill at a summer garden party because it looks like fun. She’s all light, and you just can’t look away.