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Designed in NZ

6 September 2019

Vanessa Ortynsky follows up on a trend that is seeing Kiwis connecting with Balinese artisans to produce the latest fashions.

During a trip to Bali with some friends in 2012, Rosie Shelton couldn’t help but admire the beautiful culture and way of life of the Balinese. She was also impressed by their craftsmanship, especially their silverwork and soon realised there was no better place to start her label.

Prior to launching Luna & Rose, Shelton was working for a large global surfwear brand and was always disappointed when the actual makers behind each piece weren’t properly showcased. With Luna & Rose, she says “it’s so important that our artisans’ stories are told and their crafts are maintained and upheld.” By choosing to work hands on with local artisans, Shelton is able to maintain and showcase that connection in an authentic way.

Unlike Chinese factories where clothing and jewellery is produced in high-volume, sometimes thousands of each item, Bali attracts boutique labels and designers who are looking for smaller orders. The island’s manufacturing boom has attracted a handful of Australian and more recently, New Zealand designers; many who have now set up their manufacturing base on the island.

Not only are Balinese artisans incredibly skilled, their craftsmanship comes from generations of passed-down knowledge. “As you travel around Bali, each village specialises in a different craft form whether it’s painting, silversmithing, wood carving, stone carving... you name it and there is guaranteed to be a specialist here in Bali,” says Shelton.

For New Zealand company Rhye Intimates, it was actually by cross-elimination that owner, Chantal Myers discovered the right manufacturer for her business. “I did a lot of research to source a local manufacturer in New Zealand. However, with low MOQs [Minimum Order Quantity] and materials required to produce underwear garments, I couldn’t find anyone locally who was able to accommodate my needs, particularly as a start-up on a budget.”

For Myers, it’s important that their manufacturer values their employees and provides good working conditions. Operating ethically, through fair wages and safe working conditions is at the company’s core values. Fortunately, they managed to find the right manufacturer in Bali, who specialises in lingerie and works primarily with start-ups and small businesses.

Let’s talk about money

Is it more affordable to manufacture clothing and jewellery in Bali? Shelton has direct contact with her artisans on a weekly basis. They work together to design and develop ranges and it’s very much a partnership.

In terms of work-life balance, Shelton mentions her artisans work with their friends, some work from home and others have their pets at work with them. They choose to work hours that best suit them and live a more balanced and relaxed lifestyle than many of us in New Zealand.

Shelton finds that doing business in Bali is different than in New Zealand and the artisans Luna & Rose works with are creatives rather than business people. Balinese people work in their home industries and factories are few and far between unlike in other parts of Asia and the rest of the world. “My silversmiths don't own computers, nor are they driven by huge business development.”

While Myers would eventually like to bring production back to New Zealand, she appreciates that Bali is only a short flight away. Production costs are also lower, making it an affordable way to meet ethical working standards. She also finds that Bali business culture and etiquette is similar to New Zealand with so much Australasian influence in Bali already. For start-ups, she notes that it’s certainly worth exploring for business opportunities.

Is it more practical?

With a direct flight from Auckland, more and more Kiwis are both visiting and moving to Bali. It’s definitely becoming more common to manufacture from here and open businesses. And while the New Zealand fashion industry might be less than impressed with the increase in offshore manufacturing, many Bali-based Kiwi designers are making valuable contributions to Balinese communities and operating under ethical working conditions at a lower cost.

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