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by Ankita Jain

From working with high end fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada to supporting the local craftsmanship in Indonesia and Nepal, Ilse Bos has explored the world of fashion in many ways. Ilse studied fashion in Amsterdam and after working 14 years in the field, she felt something missing. She longed for a more meaningful existence. “Sure, I was living my dream, working with high end labels, and exploring the industry however I longed for a deeper sense of depth in my life and ventured into the world of yoga,” she recalls. She quit her job and travelled the globe practicing and teaching yoga. “I also got to explore local crafts in various countries,” she smiles.

After exploring many countries, Ilse settled in Bali where she met Sagar Chitrakar, an architect. They fell in love, got married and started their venture, Neba Studio from a mutual passion for architecture, design, and fashion.

Studio Neba is a multi-disciplinary design studio based in Nepal and Bali. “We wanted to blend both crafts from Nepal and Bali together, thus the name Neba, which is an acronym for Nepal and Bali. All the designs infuse natural elements and local crafts. Studio Neba is located in Baber Mahal Revisited.
In an interview with WOW’s Ankita Jain, Ilse talks about the growth of the brand, why consumers should care about crafts, and how to enjoy luxury responsibly.

When did you establish Studio Neba in Kathmandu?

We established Neba around two years ago when we moved to Kathmandu from Bali, Indonesia. We however were already established in Bali and just returned to Sagar’s home country to explore. Partly our collection is made in Bali, but we slowly shifted to a small atelier in Nepal and are envisioning our production in Kathmandu for the future. However our sourcing remains in Bali. I believe this is a constant exploration and there is always more to explore. Further our collection ranges from Rs 5000 to 30,000.

Textile manufacturing is one of the most polluting industries, and there have been increased conversations in recent years on the need to incorporate environmentally safe practices. What are the initiatives that you take to cut down on carbon footprint?

 As the client carries a responsibility, we as designers have a bigger responsibility to create a collection with high quality garments so it is durable and long lasting. We choose fabrics such as linen, silk and cotton which are organic, natural and reduce the amount of water used in the process of creation, and we soak our garments in a bath of nature to create our signature hues: earthy and natural tones. Natural dyeing is a very nurturing ancient process for natural garments. We still dye our garments in Bali where we work with a dye master. It took us awhile to find the right constitution to create the hues we envisioned for our collections. To reduce the carbon footprint ideally we should dye our garments in Nepal as well, we are envisioning exploring this possibility and creating with plants which grow in abundance locally.

Is the label also working towards a zero waste approach?

Yes absolutely! We do not use plastic in our packaging and we avoid using it in our studio and store. For the production process we reduce wastage of water as much as possible. For natural dye it’s very important to have the right amount of plant versus water, we make sure we are prepared well. It happened before that a colour came out differently than expected as it’s a very natural process. We do not waste our fabrics, thankfully it turns out mostly as a pleasant surprise. Also we use all of our scrap fabrics, to make notebook covers, scrunchies and whatever suits the purpose.

How easy or difficult is it to make people understand what you are attempting to do?

The journey has been beautiful including its ups and downs. I seek perfection in my production and that is often a bumpier ride. I do not want to compromise on quality; I rather believe everything is possible, if guided properly. Most often people don’t entirely understand me, only when they see the end result, they do. I feel I have to constantly prove myself and push what I want to create; I do feel we have a team now who is in sync with our brand ethos and minimal style.

Also our process is slow, we are currently also in stores abroad in the Netherlands and USA. We are slowly growing and increasing our production which carries a lot of planning. One kimono takes one day to stitch as it’s partly hand stitched, that does not even include the dying process and the fabric production. I think it’s good to understand what’s behind a garment in its process so we value the people behind it.

Why is it important to create such avenues for craftspeople?

 As craftsmen are diminishing in the world of fast fashion and technology, I really appreciate the handmade philosophy. Craftsmen are passionate about their craft and there is nothing more beautiful than executing your profession with passion.

What is sustainable luxury all about? And how does one enjoy luxury responsibly?

Previously worked in high-end luxury I can confidently say it’s not that environmentally friendly. Therefore I would like to share a collection which is emphasising on luxury garments but creates it in a more sustainable way. That means also being more transparent about the whole process.

Your collaboration with Kama…

Kama shares similar values in their design process and brand ethos. They create jewelry pieces with recycled gold and ethically sourced stones, the pieces are going hand in hand with our collection, as the pieces are timeless every-day pieces. We are excited to collaborate with this ethical jewelry brand and create a union in our store.  

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