The Yak goes one on one with…
…the blonde, bubbly Nina from Bali-based fashion brand Cute Mistake!
Nina, good to meet you, finally. So let’s get to down to basics – where and when were you born?
England, 1991! Of course, a 90s Kid!
How did “Bali” get on ‘A girl from Surrey’s’ wish list?
After graduating with my B.A. Hon. Fashion degree from university in 2012, I landed my first job in China, in Ningbo, working as a designer for Chinese brands. Straight away I fell in love with living in a new place and getting to know people from all over the world. As my contract ended after a year, I was looking for new places to explore/live in Asia so I applied for any, and every, internship program I could. I sent out a lot of applications to companies in China, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand. I honestly didn’t mind where I went; I just wanted something new. The one that came through was an internship with an English fashion brand based here in Bali!! I grabbed the opportunity and was on the next flight, and here we still are!
So you came as an intern and stayed here ever since?
Yes, it was a great time. I was thrown in at the deep end, overseeing the production process in factories, visiting the printers, helping design the ranges, just a year out of University! I think it was unusual at the time to be in a role that showed you so much first hand. It was so exciting as a young designer to be involved in every part of the process. I think that is why I now love running a brand here. You can remain closely involved with every process, and really create relationships with everyone involved with that brand.
What was it about Bali that clicked with you?
I think it is hard to pinpoint any single thing. For me it was the overall life/work experience and lifestyle. Here I was in this tropical paradise, driving around on my scooter to ‘commute’ to work, surfing for the first time at sunrise, watching magical sunsets, even small things like having nasi goreng for lunch in the middle of a paddy field, with new work colleagues, who were from all over the world…It was always something new and I loved it!
So you started your own fashion brand?
I was finding it hard to buy clothes in Bali that I wanted to wear! At the time most of the brands here where very boho inspired, and I’ve always been a 90s kid that loved street wear and the Y2K aesthetic. I started upcycling products I found in the Pasar Kodok, (Bali’s most famous thrift market). I was always painting jeans and denim jackets. Cutting up & tie-dying T-shirts & dresses. Slowly I began to do it more and more and got a sewing machine at home. I would visit the weekly markets to make sure I didn’t miss anything great! From there it was just a natural progression! Cute Mistake was born.
So Cute Mistake is the label? The reason/s for this particular name are?
The name had to be something fun and represent the girls who were going to wear it. A few words we can all relate to, something catchy & quirky. We all make mistakes in life so why not look Cute while you do it too?
How would you describe your label?
90s, Authentic, Vibrant and a little Mischievous!
Inspirations for each of your looks come from…?
The inspiration for our ranges comes from a few different aspects!
1/Travel! I still love to travel, whether it is exploring new islands in Indonesia, countries in Africa or spending summers in Europe catching up with friends and family. Traveling always inspires design details, colours and accessories.
2/ Trends! We are defiantly trend-conscious as we want Cute Mistake to stay relevant and new, however we always make sure to add our own Cute Mistake twist to keep it original & fun. We want people to notice how individual our style is, and not feel like they have seen it before somewhere else.
3/ Development! A lot of inspiration for our fabrics/print comes from the artisans we work with and the new techniques we develop together. At Cute Mistake we are so proud to always incorporate new dye techniques in all our collections. Over the years this has become a Cute Mistake staple. We work with some amazingly talented creatives, so we are happy we can share their work! Creating new tie-dye styles & keeping colours consistent in such a hands-on process is a lot harder than some may think!
Taking in all these aspects into account, of course we keep that 90s streetwear edge.
You describe your brand as a “Fun” line but not “Fast fashion”. Why do you think that fun and fast are usually lumped together in people’s minds?
In my opinion Fast Fashion was, until recently, the only ‘type of fashion’ available/affordable to the majority of students and young professionals. In the last 5-10 years with the growth of social media young designers, such as myself, have had more opportunities to be able to start their own businesses. Here cometh the ‘Rise of Independent Brands’! At Cute Mistake we have been able to bridge the gap and offer high quality garments at affordable price points. I think they can still be lumped together as we are still selling to a similar demographic, those who ‘may still’ or ‘did’ consume Fast Fashion.
It is great people are becoming more conscious of where and how their clothes are made, we love to show the ‘behind the scenes’ of each aspect of Cute Mistake on our socials. We want to provide for those girls who are still having fun developing their own personal style! Fashion should be fun for everyone, and I hope we can keep encouraging people to be confidant & feel good in what they are wearing.
So in what way is Cute Mistake not “fast”?
Our ranges are designed at least 6 months before we get them to our customers. Nothing about the process is ‘fast’, all products are hand-made here in Bali. As I mentioned before we work a lot with tie-dye, some dying techniques we use have to be done individually, per garment. I also design all our prints, keeping Cute Mistake one of a kind and these are also hand-printed here in Bali.
Each range is made in small batches, and produced with a mind-set that we can always make more if we need to. We don’t want to waste fabric or add to garment land-fill so if something is selling well, we will make another small batch and so on…
Any circular economy items you care to mention?
While designing we always keep in mind the durability of our products. We don’t want them to only last one season. We want you to be able to re-use and re-wear.
We work with as much cotton as possible and only use compositable packaging for our clothes. We are always looking into ways to be a better sustainable brand and that will be an ongoing development as we grow.
Having the shop has also offered us other ways to be sustainable, as we can create “Sale Rails” with old stock or samples, as well as using fabric cut offs to create bags, scrunchies & bucket hats! Staying true to our roots, we have a section in-store dedicated to ‘vintage, upcycled and customized denim’!
But you do sell online?
Yes, we do. For worldwide shipping check us out on www.cutemistake.com
We also offer FREE shipping to the whole of Indonesia! <3
I gather you also tailor-make some of your top-sellers for clients worldwide that may lean towards a plus size?
100%!! Anyone that wants to wear Cute Mistake should have the option to. As a small business it is not yet sustainable for us to have ready stock in all the sizes we would like to, for that reason we choose to offer a ‘made to order’ option. This enables customers to order items that may not currently be available in their size, or are no longer in stock. Our ‘made to order’ service is from 7-14 days and can be organised via email or in-store.
And you create bespoke batches due to the handcrafted nature of the natural dying process of tie-dye? For whom and why?
Producing small batches with hand dying and printing techniques means each batch will have some slight colour difference. This is due to the handmade nature of our products and we love that. We are super proud to wholesale & stock with some other amazing boutique stores around the world, each order made specifically for each store. We currently stock in England, Australia and USA. Our aim is to be able to offer Cute Mistake to anyone who wants to wear it!
Your online business: Bliss or hell?
Bliss! We love receiving orders from customers around the world. It honestly makes our day when a customer tags us in a photo on Instagram or Tiktok!!
Your fabulous studio/boutique/store in Canggu is actually host/hostess to eleven brands. Can you tell us which ones? And who, and where, the designers are from?
Yes, we love our brands, and to be able to support other small independent businesses (whose ethics and sustainable practices align with our own), is amazing!
Our independent brand owners are from Indonesia, Canada, Singapore, France and England! To name a few: Solana The Lable, This Is a Love Song, Bead.est, Batoe, Lost Gem, CherryWave, Binging Diaries, Nu Beauty Cartel & more!
Lastly, wave a wand and get three wishes. What would they be?
1/ To see Rhianna or Doja Cat wearing Cute Mistake!!
2/ No more border closures! We are so happy to have international customers back in store. Not only for us but all businesses on the island.
3/ Cute Mistake continues to grow and continuously support the people that work with us!
Nina, it’s been loads of fun to pop into your vibrant store in Canggu, and yes, we’re loving it all!! Maybe it’s time to make a few Cute Mistakes!!