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‘There’s a traditional wisdom in Bali that exists in daily life and it rolls across to music, art and community.’

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Feature by Exceptional ALIEN

Born and raised in England’s north, Daniel Mitchell first made his global mark with his fashion-forward London concept store LN-CC. Then, chasing a gentler approach to creativity and a drive to reconnect to craftsmanship, the enterprising visionary took up creative life in Bali in 2014.

Since then, Daniel has immersed himself in the local Balinese culture, first as the creative director for trailblazing beach club and cultural hub Potato Head, and most recently as the founder for his own sustainable design studio Space Available. It’s through this work that Daniel collaborates with the island’s prolific creators, from traditional weavers and woodworkers to musicians, artists and hoteliers. What’s more, Daniel has worked hard to share this dualism of tradition and innovation with the world at large, and has drawn upon the help of renowned global talent including musical powerhouse Peggy Gou and skate-world icon Alex Olson. Now, from his island paradise in Indonesia, Daniel is aiming to bring the world of design into a more sustainable future, one creative collaboration at a time. We chat to Daniel about the unrivalled creative magic of Bali and his top Travel Gems on the island.


On where you’re from

I grew up in Newcastle, in the northeast of England on a council estate, which is a working class area of the city. But I've got very fond memories of my childhood. Then the big turning point was when I was about 12. There was a skate shop opposite my school. I have this vivid memory of standing against the school fence, looking through the gate, seeing these skaters, around 17 or 18 years old. It made me realise there was something else going on outside of these gates — the way they dressed, the music they were playing. Meeting these guys who were older than me opened the door to everything in terms of music, culture, creativity, having a sense of community and belonging. That group of skaters became my family.

On your creative education

Around 16 I started digging deeper into different subcultures. I had left school and tried sneaking into a nightclub. I recognized some guys from a sneaker store that I used to go into. They were way older than me, but I really looked up to them. Then they snuck me in, past the bouncer, and that was the beginning of a very long relationship — we're still friends today. They were my education in fashion, music, art, entrepreneurialism — they were doing their own club nights and festivals. From there I always had this drive and ambition to create as well as search for something with a sense of meaning.

On your first trip to Asia

When I was 17, I decided to travel Thailand by myself. I had this inner intuition that I should go traveling and have new experiences. I had £2000 and wanted to see how far could that take me. The money lasted about five months. It was the first time I'd ever been to Asia and as soon as I arrived, I knew this was where I was going to end up — not specifically Thailand, but Asia. There was a real sense of chaos, which I feel is being lost in the West because everything is so organized and rigid. I found beauty in the chaos. That's why I'm in Bali, really.

Daniel Mitchell learned the ropes of the fashion industry while working at labels OFFICE Shoes and oki-ni in his early 20s. In 2010, alongside his then-business partner John Skelton, Daniel co-founded London concept store LN-CC which saw him travel the globe, with frequent stops in Japan. Images courtesy Daniel Mitchell.

On building your brand in London

I moved down to London on my 21st birthday. I was really into music and fashion and wanted to immerse myself in London and meet a lot of new people. I was there for 10 years. I worked at OFFICE shoe shop, then after three months I got an opportunity to join the buying team which took me to Paris and Milan. In 2010 we [with John Skelton] decided to go off and start LN-CC. The store is still in London today. Launching LN-CC was when the global exposure and the traveling all started. We were buying Japanese jean brands that nobody really had outside of Japan and back then they took a much more traditional approach. They wouldn't send you images and say buy off the images. It was ‘You must be at the showroom at this time otherwise you can't buy it’. So we'd go all the way to Tokyo for one showroom appointment. I ended up in Japan four or five times a year, which was amazing. Japan was a huge inspiration for me.

'Every year we would stop off in Bali and have a holiday. I had the sense that this is where I was going to end up. It was the culture of simple living, getting back to nature, the sense of chaos, the food and the community.'

On moving to Bali

I met my wife in London, quite early on. She was my introduction to Indonesia, because we would go back to her parents there. We would always stop off in Bali and have a holiday. I had the sense that this is where I was going to end up. It was the culture of simple living, getting back to nature, the sense of chaos, the food and the community. Then in 2014, we sold LN-CC, I’d just had my first kid and I was left with the opportunity to ask what was next. At that period I was getting more into the spiritual aspects of self discovery, wanting to live more sustainably and looking for a greater sense of wellbeing. For some reason, I thought maybe Bali would be a good place to allow myself the space to discover new systems, new ways of doing things and return to the core of craftsmanship.

On Bali as a creative haven

It’s a magical place and there’s nowhere else like it in the world. There’s a traditional wisdom that still exists in daily life, with a unique form of Hinduism that rolls across to music, art and community. It’s a really beautiful culture that hasn’t really been interrupted for the past 2000 years. It survived colonization by the Dutch and Japanese, influx from the West, and yet the culture is still strong. There’s something deeper about Bali too. There are two ley lines [theoretical lines that connect prominent historical centers and landmarks] that run under the island. There are very few places in the world where the lines meet, and when they do it’s generally under places that attract creative people. I believe that’s why there’s this magnetic force in Bali. Plus many of the world’s active volcanoes are in Indonesia, so there’s a lot of energy here.

After selling LN-CC in 2014, Daniel and his wife decided to move to her native Indonesia and explore creative life in Bali. Crediting the welcoming and innovative local community, Daniel comfortably slipped into the Bali pace of life and began pursuing a more sustainable approach to his creative output. Top image by Niklas Weiss on Unsplash, below images courtesy Daniel Mitchell.

On the modern Balinese culture

There is a group of younger Balinese creatives who are doing traditional culture but in a new way. They’re using different technology and techniques. For example there are musicians called Senyawa who make their own instruments from bamboo. You can hear a lot of traditional sounds but it’s completely contemporary. There’s a young guy called Ican Harem who does a bunch of music and references traditional culture. When I first moved here, the younger generation were looking outwards for inspiration, not inwards. Now, there’s a group of young creatives who are recognizing the amazing culture that exists here and they’re reimagining and modernizing it. It's still very much in its early stages, but for me, that’s really where the value is.

On how the island has shaped your thinking and your work

Not long after I moved here, I started working at Potato Head. It’s a beach club that’s now more like a creative village with different hotels, galleries and music bars. Ronald Akili, who's the founder and who's such a great guy, took me up to Green School [a primary and secondary school], where everything is made out of bamboo and there’s a sustainable ecosystem. John Hardy, who founded it, was living in a fantasy world, doing all these crazy things. Seeing their philosophy to build a more sustainable future was a turning point for me. While working at Potato Head I was also meeting incredible creatives. I was listening to a lot of indigenous, Gamelan, Gong and bamboo music. I immersed myself in the traditional culture, which became a huge inspiration in my work. Plus about 80% of the population in Bali is Hindi, so they're making things with their hands everyday for offerings, from weaving to basketry. It made craftsmanship a part of daily life. I began collaborating with traditional artists and we’d create a modern sensibility. Over the years it’s turned into rattan weaving recycled plastic, seaweed and all different types of materials. This collaboration through craftsmanship is a real source of inspiration.

'I’m on the journey of discovering a bigger meaning with what I want to do. We're only on this Earth once. So you have to try to do something positive and good.'

On founding Space Available

I was working as a DJ when I was younger, so I knew a lot of people in that world. And when I came to Bali, it was a different world, with more tradition. Now I'm facilitating this cross-cultural pollination of the two. I’m on the journey of discovering a bigger meaning with what I want to do. We're only on this Earth once. So you have to try to do something positive and good. Rather than just designing stuff because it looks good, and making money, how can we change things about the bigger problems of pollution and the plastic crisis? Waste is a valuable material that's just discarded. So how do you change that perception? For me, it's looking at people who are influential, that might be Peggy Gou, Alex Olson, or whoever people aspire to be.

It was during the peak of the Pandemic in 2020, when industry came to a grinding halt in Bali, that Daniel launched his sustainable design studio Space Available. Working in collaboration with Balinese factories, rubbish collectors and world-beating creators, including DJ Peggy Gou (pictured top left), Daniel is reframing how we view waste and repurposing it into fun and functional pieces. Images courtesy Daniel Mitchell.

On collaboration in your creative process

If we combine everybody from the trash collectors, to the recyclers, to us as facilitators and then Peggy as the amplifier, then that’s a true collaboration. We’re all sitting in the same workshops with the trash pickers, recycling company, craftsmen, myself and Peggy, talking about the design, the process, the release date. And yes we’re flying chairs around the world that are made from trash, but in the short term it’s creating massive exposure to a larger issue. Next, our aim is to create our own labs in different territories to repurpose their own local waste. We’re opening a lab in Newcastle and London that will facilitate the UK. People are ready to do things differently, they just don’t quite know how.

On exploring Bali’s 'desas'

The beautiful thing about Bali is it's built on a collection of micro communities, they call them desas. Desa means village, and there are thousands of registered villages here. Each has their own way of doing things and their own traditions. If you want to learn about some of the best wood carving in the world, there’s a place called Mas Village with ancient carvings. Even today, some of the big carvings take 10 years to finish — they’re so intricate and beautiful. Your mind will be blown. If you’re into art, there’s a place called Batuan. It’s almost psychedelic the way they draw and paint, and that style is named after the village. It’s the same with music. It’s what keeps life interesting, especially as the world becomes smaller and we seem to merge into one entity, there’s a real loss of differences. The sense of having individual scenes and the space to nourish one thing rather than everything is what leads to subcultures and artistic movements.

'The beautiful thing about Bali is it's built on a collection of micro communities, they call them desas. Desa means village, and there are thousands of registered villages here. Each has their own way of doing things and their own traditions.'

On reconnecting with nature

The most powerful place is Sebatu waterfall. It’s just a small waterfall coming down a few rocks. It’s a very long walk down into a river but is one of the most sacred places in Bali. When local people get sick, they’ll go there with priests and immerse themselves in the water. I have taken friends there who definitely don’t believe in religion or spirituality and they can’t deny something happens to you when you enter the water. Another place I would recommend on a lighter note is Candidasa, which is on the northeast coast of Bali. It's a very quiet part of the island with a nice vibe, and it’s pretty much untouched. It's a good place to go and see old-world Bali. There's a chocolate factory to take the kids to and swings on the beach. It's a very simple place, but whenever I go I feel at one with nature.

On where to eat

There's a restaurant in Ubud, which is further in the north, called Room 4 Dessert. It's quite well known now because he was featured on Netflix. It's a good friend of mine, Will Goldfarb, who runs it, and he's innovating crazy desserts. Believe it or not, it's a nine course dessert menu. Everything is local and he has his own garden. When you think about having nine desserts it makes you feel sick, right? But it's very clean on the palate and everything feels unlike a dessert. It's so light and fresh, yet is an explosion of flavors.

To experience the contemporary culture of Bali, Daniel recommends heading to the creative village of Potato Head in Seminyak. It's here that some of the best Balinese creatives are given a platform alongside international talent. Top image by Tommaso Riva, second row courtesy of Potato Head, third row by All is Amazing, Paulius Staniunas (@allisamazing) and bottom image by Sitaram.

On seeing contemporary Balinese culture

Potato Head has really changed the island. Unlike other beach clubs, Potato Head supports local culture in a big way. It nurtures young local artists and puts them alongside great international artists so they can learn. What I'm doing with Space Available is an evolution of what I was doing at Potato Head, and we're all still working together. So that would be the place to go for a contemporary cultural experience that showcases the best of local and global.

On a window or an aisle seat

Window. You’ve already got somewhere you can lie against — so practicality is the first thing. But also it’s nice to look out the window and see what’s below you and look at the beautiful sunrise or clouds. The best part of flying really is looking around your environment.

'People in Bali are open and generous and you can sense they’re celebrating life through music, art and craftsmanship.'

On your relationship with Bali

Bali, for me, is a place with a very unique energy, which I think a lot of people connect with quite deeply. If you give a lot of love to the island, it gives you a lot back. And the sense of community that exists here is just so beautiful. People here are open and generous and you can sense they’re celebrating life through music, art and craftsmanship. Every time I leave Bali and then come back, I just get a real sense of belonging, which I've never ever felt anywhere else.

On Bali in one word


Magic still exists here. There’s definitely magic in the air and a different type of energy. There are the ley lines and active volcanoes and whether you believe it or not, scientifically, there’s a different energy. That’s what makes Bali great and magical.


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‘There’s a traditional wisdom in Bali that exists in daily life and it rolls across to music, art and community.’