Having discussed the opportunity to shadow the designers behind Bali resort wear brand Kalita six months ago, suddenly everything seemed to happen all at once. There I was at 9am, about to catch my flight to Denpasar to meet Kalita Al Swaidi and her business partner, Raechel Temily.
These girls are the brand’s DNA through and through, and this became more evident as I watched their every move: from pattern-cutting to visiting the hand-dyer, to being on the back of a dirt bike shooting a behind-the-scenes video.
This was not going to be a suntanning, lounging-by-the-pool-discussing-designs situation: this was an access-all-areas opportunity like no other, with a crash-course education in all things sartorial and cultural.
For the duration of my stay, I lived just like Raechel—better known as Rae—one-half of the design duo, who is based in Bali for six months of the year. I joined her in everything from sunrise coffees at Revolver to the evening glass of wine that signalled the end of the working day. I watched their collections come to life, from materials and ideas to finished product.
After getting dropped off in the evening by a temple with my suitcase, I walked cautiously behind the guide, who showed me through a narrow path in the pitch black towards Villa Coconut, Rae’s home. Before I knew it I was on the back of her bike, dodging through tiny lanes with constant horns sounding. We made it unscathed to Metis, a corner of calm in the midst of rice paddies under the starlit sky. Breathe… the adventure was about to begin.
I was rudely awoken from a deep sleep. Not by my preset alarm, but by what would be my new wake-up call—the rooster. It was only 5am, but along with backpackers and surfers we piled into cars to make our way to the ferry, each of us with suitcases bursting at the seams with Kalita samples for the shoots we had planned over the next few days.
We were greeted by the crystal, turquoise waters of Lombok and the hilltop hideaway that would be our home for the next two days, Villa Sorgas. Kalita couldn’t fit more perfectly into the Bali landscape if it tried: the brand’s lifestyle approach means its designs are not only for the beach, but also for life above and beyond the waves.
Kalita’s rich, beautiful cotton pieces and hand-dyed silks can be worn as cover-ups on the beach, but wouldn’t look amiss at The Bulgari, Bali for cocktails or dinner. Proving the point, we were lucky enough to shoot there, mixing Kalita’s luxe resort wear with Bulgari’s fine jewellery.
Our shoot continued off-shore, where the Fonteyn, Zephyr and Brigitte dresses were equally at home on the local fishing boats. The versatility of the pieces was evident as we drove through palm-filled groves, rode over deserted beaches on dirt bikes, and sat under the stars with a beach barbeque. Talk about multi-tasking.
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It's no wonder that Kalita has been picked up by industry heavyweights Matches Fashion and Moda Operandi, or that the first cover it landed was for Vogue India. With Grecian-inspired looks and gentle nods to the flowing silhouettes of the 1970s, it’s truly identified itself as a brand to watch. The designs are comfortable and flattering for all body shapes and sizes, and the very distinctive colour palette suits every skin tone.
Street style stars are also embracing the designs, teaming Kalita’s dresses—particularly the Brigitte—with bodysuits, jeans and trainers. Kalita may be a relatively new brand on the scene, but its roots are firmly planted: now we just sit back and watch them grow.
Scroll through the gallery to see more behind-the-scenes shots:
Shop Kalita's new range now at matchesfashion.com and look out for our upcoming interview with Kalita’s founders.
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