Meet Nina Lalina (@ninalalina), the 25-year-old founder of Caffé Olives and Lalina.Co
If you haven’t been to Caffé Olives, you’re missing out! Here, we chat with Nina Lalina about the behind-the-scenes of her Instafamous caffé, her passion for sustainability and textiles design studio which has collaborated with the likes of Patom, Wonderfruit and Bo.lan. We already feel greener, just by writing this.
👚 || How It All Began || 👚
• What did you study?
I studied Apparel and Textiles at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
• Did you ever work in textiles?
Yes, at Pollack an interior textile company during college and upon graduation as production and development assistant at Saturdays NYC, a menswear brand in New York. After a year or so, I moved back to Bangkok to take on the role of textile designer at Atelier Pichita.
• What’s your current job?
I work in the F&B industry and also as a designer.
Currently Creative Director for L’OLIVA and founder of its sister bakery, Caffé Olives. I’m more hands-on with the caffé because it’s like my first baby; overseeing everything from ingredients sourcing and menu creation to interior design. I work part-time on my personal design project, Lalina.Co
• Tell us how you made Caffé Olives go viral! It’s all over Instagram!
That wasn’t planned! [laughs] The ‘“iconic bench” was just supposed to be somewhere for people to take a quick snap before they go home … I never expected it to become an “Instaworthy” spot. It just happened! [smiles]
💚 || Green is the New Black||💚
• How did sustainability become so important to you?
In my junior year, I interned at a large fashion company where I saw first hand how ‘fast fashion’ worked. Trends moved super quickly, samples were destroyed for confidentiality, much going to landfill. It was quite heartbreaking to witness the lack of environmental consideration.
Nevertheless, this experience made me more appreciative of the things around me and see room for change. It also made me realise that nature is what inspires me the most.
• How do you source your organic ingredients?
My textile studio, Lalina.Co’s long-term collaboration with Patom, a cafe that promotes organic living has helped open doors for me, to networks of Thai organic farmers. I contact farmers directly, to be in dialogue with growers who care and contribute to promoting a more inclusive, regenerative food system is one of the most exciting parts of my job. [smiles]
• Tell us about Lalina Co.
It’s a sustainability-driven textile design studio. We mainly collaborate with pre-existing eco-conscious brands. I want to make it easier for people to choose eco-conscious products, starting from the fiber.
• Why do you focus on local ingredients?
I think going more local for Caffé Olives is important because L’OLIVA as an Italian Restaurant, already supports a lot of irreplaceably imported goods. Many of which are at the core of its identity, unbeatable Italian Wine for example.
Cafe side, there’s a bit more room to experiment and our suppliers come from various provinces across Thailand. With local farmers, we are able to communicate on a more human scale and in turn work together using trust based systems.
• Has the idea of sustainability influenced Caffé Olives architecture/design?
Yes! The building was originally a house. I tried to recycle as many materials as possible to minimise waste. For example, we kept most of the main structures and re-used the original house’s windows to create Caffé Olives’ windowfront.
You know, the whole caffé part used to be a small garage for a single car! [smiles]
• Tips for running a sustainability-driven business?
It’s hard to become 100% sustainable, the term itself is kind of flashy these days, but you’ve got to start somewhere.
For example, once you start using organic lemons in your restaurant, you could slowly branch out to incorporate other ingredients the same farm grows throughout other seasons. On the other hand, if you’re making a piece of clothing, think about the entire lifespan of your creation and your values will help guide a more sustainable production process.
Just go for it! Don’t aim to be perfect and keep learning.
✨|| Up Close & Personal || ✨
• What’s your favourite thing on the menu?
1. Whipped ricotta toast and homemade strawberry jam, for sure. Our bakers and pizzaiolo treat our sourdough starter like a precious baby.
2. Organic Hom Nin Rice and Cacao Banana bread. A part of our ‘Farmer Loaves’ project, highlighting local ingredients.
3. Kale and Anchovy Salad. The kale comes from my cousin’s farm in Khao Yai, so it’s pretty cool to know exactly where it comes from. [laughs]
• Any exciting projects coming up?
For Caffé Olives, we’ll be introducing pantry staples soon. We’ve already started displaying local brands like Shabar Chocolate and Sea’s Kombucha, both made locally by passionate Thai’s. Also, I’m helping Patom start a lifestyle line.
• What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I love surfing! I surfed a lot in New York at Rockaway Beach. In Thailand, my favourite surf spot is Khao Lak - it’s the best, I haven’t had a chance to go in a while being busy with the new venture, but plan to be back in the water soon!
• In your own words, what’s love to you?
Family, food and nature. Oh, and the ocean. I love the ocean! [laughs]