Spotlight Series: Natalie Hellyar, Arraei Collective

When you think of hemp clothes do you think of high fashion? I used to struggle with this a little bit as I always associated hemp fabrics with earthier, multi-layered, natural styles that were usually worn by my mother and her friends, accompanied by Birkenstocks and homemade messenger bags. Then I met Natalie Hellyar of Arraei Collective and my entire perspective changed. Hellyar's first capsule collection for Arraei Collective has just launched and the breezy, dreamy aesthetic and neutral palette will have you daydreaming about frolicking through fields of wildflowers and windswept beaches all the while serving up fierce, eco-friendly looks. 

The Arraei kimono wrap dress  Photographer:  @davidjackbarry  

The Arraei kimono wrap dress
Photographer: @davidjackbarry 

Why did you decide to work with Hemp?

Hemp is a miracle plant. 

Hemp is a magical and versatile plant that has incredible healing properties, thousands of uses, and has journeyed through time alongside humanity - the weaving of hemp fibre dates back to over 10 000 years ago. Hemp is the most viable plant fibre when it comes to environmental impact and economic benefits. It is an extremely high yielding crop that uses minimal water and is resilient to insects and diseases, which removes the need for pesticides and harmful chemicals. Every part of the plant can be used, the seeds are a nutritious whole food, its stem as fibre, the biomass waste as bio-fuel, hempcrete and so much more. As far as sustainability goes, Hemp is a wonder plant. I have been enchanted by Hemp and all of its wonders long before Arraei began - Therefore there was never the question of working with hemp, but rather waiting for the right time so that I could source the highest quality textiles. Arraei is rooted in Hemp. 

What is your professional background?

I left South Africa in 2014 after graduating with an accounting degree to travel the world, and for the past 5 years I have been constantly moving, chasing the sun and enriching my life with invaluable experiences.  Whilst travelling I lived in Vietnam and worked as a Kindergarten Teacher for 2 years, before moving on to work on a certified organic medicinal cannabis farm in the US. All the while I have been working as a freelance Artist and Designer. In 2017 I moved to Vancouver BC, where I founded Arraei Collective. 

The Dawn Dress   Photograoher:  @davidjackbarry

The Dawn Dress

 Photograoher: @davidjackbarry

What will your price points be like?

Prices range from $90 - $300. 

Our Vision is to make sustainability sustainable, which means selling our earth-friendly items at a sustainable price. However, we encourage thoughtful and conscious decisions from our customers when it comes to purchasing. Our price points have been carefully constructed to support a minimal and conscious mindset when it comes to consumer behaviour, as well as allowing for Arraei to function economically as a social enterprise.

Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?

Inspiration takes many forms and is experienced through all the senses. As an artist and designer, I am constantly translating moments and experiences into creative energy. For Arraei, I would say most of my inspiration has come from nature and the elements. The human experience of our natural world creates strong emotion and feeling, I try and translate these into pieces that highlight these traits of nature. For example, the Dawn Dress has been created with the element of air in mind, the feeling of wind and how that can be translated. Powerful and fierce, yet gentle and lustrous. I want the woman wearing the Dawn dress to feel these feelings, to be in harmony with herself. To feel the balance between powerful pride and graceful surrender. 

Tell me about the choice to work with a neutral colour palette?

I chose to work with neutrals for 2 reasons - for sustainability and timelessness

A close up look at the hemp textiles used to make the TWA TRENCH and KOA KIMONO via  Instagram

A close up look at the hemp textiles used to make the TWA TRENCH and KOA KIMONO via Instagram

Fibres undergo a lot of stress throughout the dying process that can compromise their quality and durability. A lot of harmful chemicals and environmentally unfriendly processes are used to create a colour rich fabric. For these reasons, we have chosen to embrace hemp's pure colour, which is a delicious beige-neutral, a colour of the earth. Our first collection is, therefore, a celebration of neutrals and naturals. However, we are currently experimenting with eco-friendly and plant-based dyes for our next collection.

To create timeless pieces we have embraced neutrals, allowing for versatility, where our garments can be worn as individual iconic pieces, but also compliment other vibrant fashion pieces. Minimal and neutral basics to last a life time.

Do you have a favourite piece and why?

If I had to choose one it would be our signature piece: The TWA TRENCH. This was our very first piece, and it carries with it all the sentiment & passion of Arraei’s journey. This trench embodies all the iconic design elements of the ‘Arraei’ look from the fabric to the fit. When I finally sourced the fabric I had dreams about it, falling through the sky and landing in a pile of this divine velvet oatmeal hemp. It is this very hemp fabric that was used for the Twa Trench, and so this piece inspired and shaped the rest of the capsule collection. 

TWA TRENCH on  sale now   Photographer  @davidjackbarry

TWA TRENCH on sale now

Photographer @davidjackbarry

The fabric you use is certified organic, why is that important to you?

Both “Organic” and “Certified” are important to us. Organic by definition is- ‘related to or derived from living matter and produced without the use of harmful chemicals’. This is the essence of Arraei - our garments are made from the earth and will return to the earth gracefully without harm, 100% natural. By choosing organic we support responsible farming and production, as well as ethical and conscious corporate behaviour in all stages of production. This is so important for the green revolution. The certification is important as it provides an honest and transparent environment for our customers, allowing them to know with confidence what they are wearing & supporting. 

When can people purchase items?

Our online store will be open for business on the 20th of July 2018 with our first Capsule Collection.