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Ilio Nema was founded in 2021 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 collaboratively in New York as Design Director and Production Director respectively.

Dedicated to creating heirloom fashion pieces through slow, sustainable processes, the brand aims to revive traditional craftsmanship and promote a more mindful approach to design.

On a recent buying trip to Sydney one of Maman's wholesale agencies introduced our founders Em and Kate to Ilio Nema.  Immediately they were struck by each garment in the collections enduring elegance and flawless style; gravitating towards their slow craft processes that require exacting techniques.

The response from our Maman Women has been incredible with many of you asking to learn more about Ilio Nema and it's designers.  Working alongside our agency in Sydney we were able to sit down with Ariane and Katia and learn about their processes, inspirations and what goes on behind the brand.

Maman: The name Ilio Nema draws inspiration from your Greek heritage, what does the name mean?

Ariane: "ILIO" means sun and “NEMA" means thread in Greek. So ILIO NEMA means “sun thread”. We are weaving summer cloth after all! The sun and thread are recurring motifs in our pieces. You can recognise an ILIO NEMA garment through the unique fabric, bold colours, soft hand-feel and an effortless and easy to wear silhouette. Our pieces feature signature details such as hand crochet, delicate gold seed beading along the seams and our symbol embroidered on each piece. Gold to represent the sun is always somewhere in our design.

Maman: What makes or defines the Ilio Nema woman?

Katia: She’s a stylish conscious consumer, who appreciates handmade pieces and garments that feel unique. Our pieces are for women who like to travel and bask in rays of sunshine. The collection has a resort vibe with a focus on billowing silhouettes to take you from sea to soirée, hand-loomed stripe fabrics and everyday pieces that can be dressed up or down.  

Maman: Can you explain the process of ‘remnant fabrics’ and the collaborative process behind this?

Ariane: ‘Remnant fabrics’ are left over from other designers’ collections and destined to landfill. These fabrics are of perfect quality but are surplus to others’ requirements. We reuse the excess material by patchworking, dying or embellishing it to create something new. We don’t do this with prints, only solid cottons. I enjoy the design boundaries this creates, knowing it’s not endless choice but tailored by what materials are readily available.

Maman: What excites you the most about the creative process of a new collection?

Ariane: The textile research and developments. I start painting stripes and colours that we then send to our weavers in India. Based on our paintings they develop bit-looms which are small mock ups of the stripes. It’s such a fun process! I love seeing our designs turn into a fabric. Then follows the lace and trim developments, deciding what the best silhouettes for the fabrics will be and the fittings are also one of my favourite part. I love working on the garment. Anything that involves working with my hands is my favourite; painting, sketching, pinning, cutting, sewing… 

Maman: On the flipside what can be the most challenging?

Katia: Juggling work deadlines with our artisan partners and the time it takes to produce our pieces can be challenging. We need to ensure our partners have enough time to create our garments perfectly and that they are up to the beautiful quality we pride our brand on. 

Maman: Are there any standout pieces that you would recommend to a first time Ilio Nema shopper?

Katia: The Athena Tunic is one of our signature pieces, it’s both feminine and easy-to-wear with it’s simple straight fit. The Olympe Shirt, is another great piece and perfect for a first time ILIO NEMA shopper. The Thea Blouse is a beautiful classic blouse that’s crafted from remnant cotton voile and a staple in our collection.  

Maman: What are your desires for Ilio Nema as a luxury sustainable fashion brand in the future?

Ariane: We would love to continue to expand the range and offer more categories within our range of clothing and accessories. For example, this season we have introduced hand-dyed cottons and silks from India and crochet from our artisans in Peru. There is so much we want to do. Finding the right artisanal partners is key. Katia and I started the brand with the mission to produce our garments with care for the planet and its people so development can take more time. We would love to offer a care and repair service, where we fix, tailor or alter your loved ILIO NEMA pieces to keep and extend their life. Our pieces are heirlooms that should be kept forever.

Maman: Where do you draw inspiration from?

Katia: Our Greek heritage and Greek mythology are endless sources of stories, magic, and philosophy. We are also greatly inspired by our travels to many faraway and exotic places such as Mexico, Morocco, Greece, Italy, Portugal and India. Art is also something we always find extremely inspiring for colours and patterns. 

Maman: What does true style mean to you?

Ariane: I think true style is the ability to translate your personality through your look. True style often feels personal and authentic, it’s timeless. You should always dress up to please yourself. It should not be forced or fussy, it’s often about comfort and feeling good in your own skin.

Maman: Can you share with us a typical working day?

Katia: I always start with a morning walk and coffee. During summer I mix it up with laps in the outdoor pool and coffee in the sun. Then my day can progress in any number of ways, from working in the studio, being on set for a photoshoot to shipping orders - we do it all and we love it!

Maman: What fashion blogs, websites, social media do you read regularly?

Ariane and Katia: @loicprigent, @_whereisthecool_magazine_, @olympiamarie, @loveindia_travel

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