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A creation studio specialising in bespoke leather goods, NIYONA designs and develops exclusive items. The artisan designers Nina Bodenhorst and Jonathan Wieme work with leather in all its forms: interior design, sheathing, creating useful decorative accessories or tableware for luxury hotels and culinary restaurants. This week, they are in Dubai to run a workshop on leather goods to initiate the public and raise their awareness of working with this noble material, leather. Focus on an innovative brand and a trendy sector in the Emirates.


A Belgian luxury leather goods brand

At Niyona, we have a contemporary conception of craftsmanship that is always pushing the boundaries of creativity and manufacturing techniques further, explains Nina Bodenhorst Co-Founder & Creative Director at Niyona. We are constantly starting innovative and stimulating projects that reflect our values and know-how”.

Circular economy, respect for materials, craftsmanship, sustainable development: the Niyona brand has adopted these values since it was founded in 2011. Originally specialising in handbags, it continues to specialise, drawing from the cultures and trends it encounters on its travels from France to Japan. Its unique feature? Offering each customer a personalised, bespoke product and specific solutions combining quality, originality and functionality.


A 70,000-year old trade

Leather goods are a know-how that has existed for 70,000 years. Certain techniques remain similar since their beginnings, but being a craftsperson today means mastering other skills such as marketing and communication.  “To remain resolutely modern, we must continue to innovate and adapt our communications to the evolution of our target consumers,” specifies Jonathan Wieme, Nina’s partner. “We also uphold the values of sustainability with our products that are entirely designed with materials that respect the environment and animals; our creations are also repairable and recyclable…


Digital technology, the export 2.0 asset according to Niyona

60% of Niyona’s clientèle is foreign, and this figure is constantly increasing, mainly in France, the Middle East, Australia and the USA... Due to Covid and digital technology, this development essentially comes from Social Networks. “We’ve seen it since Covid – people are no longer afraid today of ordering our creations directly through Instagram, WhatsApp or Zoom,” both Nina and Jonathan have observed. “Even if our customers are at the other side of the world, we have more direct contact with them and they are more responsive; They may sometimes be involved remotely during the creative process in which we ask them for their opinion and to make choices…”. A small revolution and strong signal that many craftspeople across all trades, for whom the digital transition is not always straightforward, should take into account.


Niyona workshops

Since 2014, Niyona has organised participative workshops during which the team shares its know-how and passion for the leather goods trade and raises the public’s awareness of the value of craft work. “Craftsmanship has a cost, but this cost relates to the time spent on a piece and the quality of the material used… specifies Nina Bodenhorst. A piece has to be pared, cut, sewn and its edges finishedin a nutshell, we want to show the different stages in leather working so that people can see the entire process.At the workshops, the public is initiated in the manufacture of simple pieces such as a purse or card wallet. Participants realise that it takes 4 hours to make a piece that seems quite basic. There’s a guaranteed effect. “Ultimately, facing the complexity of craftsmanship, the participant is aware of the cost of a piece hand-crafted with respect for people and animals,” adds Jonathan Wieme. They leave with their unique creation and we hope they’ll have greater respect for the object they have made themselves.” 

As part of the workshops organised by the Walloon Export and Foreign Investment Agency (AWEX) and Wallonia-Brussels International (WBI), in the Belgian pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020, Niyona will offer the local public the opportunity to make key rings and leather purses, from cutting to bonding, dying and sewing.


Fashion and design in the UAE

Fashion and design are prized sectors in the United Arab Emirates and are also among the assets that the Wallonia-Brussels Federation wants to honour during this week of visibility. It’s happening at the same time as Dubai Design Week which will take place from 8 to 12 November 2021. It’s an opportunity for Walloon participants to find out about the opportunities in the country.

In both fashion and design, Belgian expertise enjoys a reputation that extends far beyond our borders. Belgium has a strong tradition of textile and tailoring but today, the quality of its education, especially in the fashion sector, the integration of talent within and at the head of international luxury firms and the emergence of independent fashion labels (mid-high-end and high-end) are what it is famous for. In terms of design, Belgium is especially well-known for furniture design – in particular outdoor furniture – and lighting, textile design, communication design and service design.

The Wallonia-Brussels week programme included two sessions focusing on the creativity and excellence of Belgian design with the presence of MLS Studio and Nyona.


About Wallonie - Bruxelles Design Mode

Since 2007, Wallonie-Bruxelles Design Mode (WBDM) has supported companies and designers (Wallonia and Brussels) from the fashion and design sectors in their international development. This includes fashion, product design, furniture design, textile design, space design, communication design, social design and food design.
WBDM is above all aimed at an audience of companies and creative entrepreneurs, whose ambition is to extend their business abroad and support them with its specialist fashion and design team. How? By providing training and export advice supporting them with different subsidies, financial support and other opportunities and by prospecting new markets via trade fairs, international events and the specialist press.


Photos : Jérôme Van Belle (Wallonia Export/WBI)

Author : Jonathan Avau (Wallonia Export)