By Kylie Francis on July 19th, 2021
When Life Gives You Lemons
Ever since she was a baby, Amelia loved lemons. “I’d eat them like oranges, sprinkled with a little salt to make them extra sour,” she says with a giggle. So when it came to naming her brand, Lemon by ACK was a natural choice (“ACK” refers to Amelia’s initials), and especially apt given the fun yet eco-conscious ethos that underpins it.
Amelia’s family moved from Australia to the small island of Labuan, off the coast of Malaysian Borneo, when she was seven, and then to Kuala Lumpur when she was eight. Her Lebanese mother worked with refugee communities and co-founded the El Shaddai Centre, a Christian-based humanitarian NGO affiliated with the UNHCR. “It really introduced me to where help was needed,” Amelia says. Today, Amelia employs refugees from the centre to make her clothes at the Life2Life sewing center.
After working in retail in Australia for four years, Amelia returned to Malaysia and launched Lemon on October 10, 2020, amidst the global pandemic. Although Lemon has developed a loyal following in both Malaysia and Australia, Amelia admits that the past eight months have been challenging. Repeated lockdowns by the Malaysian government have interrupted her production since the sewing center that she uses to make her garments has had to close. Rather than dampen her spirits, however, this has forced Amelia to plan ahead and prepare a back-up collection that she is selling exclusively on Dia.
Made for Every Body
Perhaps one of Lemon’s best design features is that all products are fully adjustable. This means that the flattering, figure-hugging silhouettes can be worn by many body types. Amelia grew up altering her own clothes when she was younger, having gotten her own sewing machine when she was 13. While working in retail, she noticed a common problem — few customers fit the industry’s standard sizing perfectly.
And so, Amelia developed hacks for customers so that products would fit them better. As such, when designing her own clothes for Lemon, she attempted to make everything adjustable. This also prolongs the longevity of the garment as customers can keep wearing their Lemon pieces even as their figures change.
From Fast to Slow Fashion
Sustainability is one of Lemon’s core values. It was Amelia’s experiences in retail that opened her eyes to the harmful practices in the fashion industry, where fast fashion has led to environmental degradation and wastage. “I realized how horrendous fast fashion was and asked myself how I could make things better,” she reflects. Upon surveying the landscape of sustainable brands, she found a dearth of brands that were both on-trend and environmentally friendly. She sought to create the best of both worlds in Lemon.
All of the materials used by Lemon, from product to packaging, are thoughtfully sourced to ensure that they are both sustainable and ethical. For example, the Milly Corsets use spiral steel boning instead of plastic so that it lasts longer, can be recycled, and creates better curvature for the customer. The majority of fabric used by Lemon is upcycled and the remainder is GOTS-certified 100% organic cotton. Amelia also uses vegetable and fruit dyes as much as possible. The green tie-dye Harper Top and flax Bekki Top are just two examples of products that are hand-dyed using avocado seeds and non-toxic dyes.
“I would like to challenge the customer to think a little more in depth about what they wear,” says Amelia, who mindfully selects her own outfits so that she’s always wearing something that’s either borrowed from a friend, bought second hand, or made by a brand whose values she believes in. “Even the smallest choices can make a big difference.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kylie is Dia’s co-founder based in New York City. Hailing from a family of journalists and writers, Kylie grew up with a passion for stories and a curiosity about the world. This has led her to travel extensively across the globe and she has lived in Malaysia, Zimbabwe and the United States. Kylie graduated with a Bachelor’s in Government from Harvard University and an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.