Neli Gunawan is the Designer & Owner of Mademoiselle Yang & NeliYo available in To~ko Concept Store . With a keen interest in sustainability, Neli focuses on using sustainable techniques & has partnered with Indonesian textile artists, used natural dye & digital printing techniques to reduce waste. We sat down with Neli to talk about her visit to Australia for the Australia Awards, sustainable design practices & where to next for her label.
When did you first start designing?
When I was a little kid, I already started to design because my sister really encouraged me to be a fashion designer. I also liked craft from start from my early age & to draw so I started from there.
As a designer, what inspires you?
Everything could inspire me, recently I developed an adult version of children’s wear & am making digital prints. The recent collection are actually based on my son’s life because he loves toys & I made robot prints & collaborated with someone for the graphics.
What types of sustainable & environmentally friendly design practices are you interested in?
I like the sustainable design because the environment nowadays is very bad & I like to use the waste the fabrics to make another new fabrics or for accessories.
Usually I work with sustainable design practices like natural dyes but I learnt that digital prints are also good for the environment because they only use two or three litres of water for 100 metres of fabric so the waste is minimised.
Now I’m trying to learn the digital printing more than the natural one because the natural ones are good but they still use a lot of water & the colour cannot be as vibrant as the digital print.
What are some of your career highlights?
I worked with a local Bali label for 11 years & when I was working there I also entered one of the big competition is for the leather competition by Department Komparasi & small business. Then they sent me to Hong Kong for Hong Kong Fashion Week, that’s the first time I started my business, first is from accessories then fashion.
What are some collaborations you have done with artists or creatives?
Before I was working with a Japanese collaboration for batik & natural dye. Also with an artist from Jakarta, he’s actually a watercolour artists but he tries to paint in my fabrics with acrylic making Jalak Bali & frangipani designs for the print.
What was the highlight of your recent visit to Australia for the Australia Awards?
Meeting a lot of people, Jenny Kee, Cynthia Rowley & then Rachel Muscat from Adidas. She’s the collaboration creative for Adidas, I really loved hearing her experience working with Pharrell Williams, with Kanye West. She’s very humble & we asked her a lot of things, she’s really open about everything so we really learnt a lot from her.
For the Australia Awards did you have to pick a specific project?
Yes, it’s personal, it’s for my own business, what do I want to do with my business.
For me, I want to make an eCommerce site. I already have a website neliyo.com but I only use it for my portfolio, so everything I do, everything that I did before even with my other company, not my own company. Then a few months ago, I asked a web developer to change all the subject & make it eCommerce which we recently launched. The Australia Awards helped me, push myself over the line & limit to help develop.
Why do you think spaces like Rumah Sanur & To~ko are important for creatives?
It’s important for young emerging designers, we always need a space so it’s like a gallery.
We have to showcase our designs to people but if we go to department stores or we are just going online by ourselves it is very difficult because first maybe we don’t know who will be the market.
Then the department store, they always want us to give a lot of things but they never make a promise of how much will be sold so we have to produce like 1000 but they only can sell 100 & then the season is over then we have too much the production & it’s a big loss.
With the To~ko we can try & get to know which market is good for us because we start small.
The one thing I remember from Cynthia Rowley, from Rachel Musket is that they always remind us, please start small, please don’t start too big, because when you start big you loss big, when you start small, if you lose you can start all over again & again.
To~ko can give that experience to people. So they know what they really want with their designs & what the market wants in their designs so that’s a good feedback.
What are some of your favourite Rumah Sanur events & why do you like Rumah Sanur events?
Actually everything is good, especially the music, some movie screening. I can meet people, that’s the most important thing actually.
Visit To~ko Concept Store to see Neli’s designs in person.