CHRIS & KAI OF INDOSOLE

Kai and Christ, two prominent figures of INDOSOLE -sat down with us to talk about life during this uncertainty, how they roll through it, and staying creative – sometimes with the help of mie goreng, soto ayam, and a little exploration throughout the week.

These past few months during this pandemic, we’ve seen so much uncertainty and also new forces we’ve seen in people throughout the world. What’s the strongest force you’ve been feeling lately?

K: the idea of uncertainty where people have no idea what kind of feeling they’re having is overpowering. It is becoming more and more.

Uncertainty leads to helplessness. Something about Covid lately is taking over people’s dreams and we don’t want the idea of dreams to go away. Because if people’s dreams are dying and this uncertainty doesn’t allow dreams to come true, doesn’t allow the ability to achieve what they wanna do in life… oh man, that’s really scary to me.

It’s definitely not something in our head and here, we’re trying to keep our dreams alive. I think it’s important to keep dreaming.

Do you think there are positive things from this situation?

C: Yeah, I think to extend Kai’s point I think it’s sad that people’s dreams are getting crushed. But another perspective of it, is let’s say you have a job that you don’t really like and your life has taken a path where you don’t really like it and now it is the time to allow you to change the course of your path.

So if you keep dreaming, trying to see the bright side – you might come up in a better place than you were before.

That’s kind of how it looks with the brand also. It has given us a time to really do all the things we really need to do because we were so caught up in the growth of the business – but now we are allowed to kind of sit, reevaluate, really curate what we believe as our brand to be.

K: We’re doing some more research and development with the materials to be working with – other than just only tires. We’ll give you update!

C: Super tight and the most exciting! Yeah, this whole thing allows us to be creative, cause when you’re so caught up in the day to day and the pace of things as a global brand. We’re sold in 27 countries around the world – getting the needs and wants for all these people, so you’re being pulled into so many directions. Your creativity level deteriorates based on needs. But now, we’re allowed to say; “Hey, what we wanna be?”.

So you guys are trying to dig for a different perspective?

K: Yeah, Also on the boring side of things, what really helps creativity in the end is a system. Efficiency. So, creating this system of efficiency which will allow one more space of creativity; organized, efficiency.

C: I guess it’s the time. So, the answer to your first question is the ability to have the time in life now. Now, the question “Oh, you have time – so what do you wanna do the most with your time or you want the time to continuously go…? ” So we’re just trying to make the most of our time.

Indosole is made of discarded tires, resourced in Indonesia, with a team of many Indonesians. You guys have been committed to keeping the work where it started first, here, in Indonesia. Tell us why do you think supporting the local community is important and in your case, what are the impacts that you’ve seen in the people you’re working close with?

K: Indosole was born in Indonesia. The idea came from Indonesian people. The intention behind it is preserving Indonesia’s beauty and limiting the toxicity for the people. Our partner, Kyle came over here in mid 2000 and recognized the source of pollution growing, especially during rainy season at the beach.

He realized that tires can be used as soles for footwear, then we progressed the idea of utilizing the waste stream and trying to limit the waste that goes into the land, the ocean, the river. Further along that, with synthetic materials going to the groundwater that eventually becomes more toxic for humans and animals.

So the idea behind Indosole was to preserve the beauty of Indonesia and the health of Indonesian people. The idea still exists today, so for us to produce in another country that would never happen to us. We will always produce in Indonesia and be true to our roots.

Plus we wanna highlight the ingenuity, the technical ability, and the machinery in making great footwear in Indonesia. Indonesia is one of the top countries to produce footwear in the world and the challenge from day one is how we could produce more responsibility with more sustainable materials, with less energy, less water consumption, better packaging. So all these things have been a work in progress and we will never stop. We see a lot of potential for Indonesia in the future.

C: Really developing the people that work with us, you know? Making sure that we’re not gonna teach them one skill, but also the whole concept – the food chain – the impacts of what we’re doing. So there’s this learning element as well from the people that work with us, we’re learning from.

K: Also incorporating more natural materials into the products. Indonesia’s heritage of artisanal craftsmanship is varied; wood work, rattan, weavings, wicker, ikat, batik, natural dye – and they’ve been existing here since forever and now it’s a thing.

C: So we did all natural dye last season, this spring 2021 is all woven from Borneo.

K: So, staying true to the roots, progresing, and being proud of a product made in Indonesia, representing Indonesia, displayed worldwide in 27 countries. Pride of Indonesian made. So, that’s why we pick the name Indosole – to make sure we’re representing Indonesia.

What’s your experience in representing Indonesian products?

C: Some people don’t know where Indonesia is

K: Some people think Bali is not Indonesia.

C: It seems like over the past couple years, even the past 4 years that I;ve been here more and more people are hearing about Bali, Indonesia –

K: and Canggu

(giggle)

C: Yeah, and Canggu is kind of this hub of creativity. If you do it properly, respectfully, and thoughtfully. If you do that, you can have a sustainable career or life. I think we’re fortunate that Kai moved here and we kind of could be a staple in this community and that’s why it is always giving back to the community involved – people that work with us, people that work for us, we’re learning from them, they’re learning from us.

What do you think about the shifting to Secondary Resources in fashion?

C: I guess for years there were only a few brands that did sustainable fashion with recycled stuff. It was kind of a niche market. Indosole was definitely a pioneer. When we worked in fashion business a long time before, it was only about “make something that looks cool”. But, now if you don’t have a sustainable element in your product then people are not into it.

In what we do, we always try to be innovative – finding new things and Kai does an amazing job of working with things. So it’s not just about recycling, but finding different solutions. People see us as a brand that makes flip-flops out of recycled products, but it really is just a solution to a problem that is a bigger problem in the world. Trash is a big problem and one form of that problem is tires.

K: We’re like students of fashion game. Chris has been in the business for a long time and I think we saw that in the beginning we didn’t try to follow a trend, we just wanted to make a solution. Then as sustainability started to gain its steem, but not long after that streetwear was going up and it hit the plateau with the collaboration of Supreme and Louis Vuitton. We saw that we couldn’t get any bigger than that.

Now, we’re a bit concerned that maybe sustainability is just a trend. It just seems that the word sustainability is almost a cuss-word, cause it’s been exploited. But what we’re seeing is that the trend has been ingrained in the following trends; so you’re gonna need a sustainable material, responsible manufacturer – that’s kind of will be the baseline of the next trend.

So, maybe the trend is plateau-ing, we feel that it will be the baseline for the next trend. There’s still an element of Secondary Resources, the main issue though that it’s gonna need continual investment. So waste should be collected and processed. We’re here to listen to and be involved in that conversation. But it will take continuous investment to make change happen. That’s real sustainability. That’s a real secondary resource. So, what we’ve been doing the past two years is investing more and more in materials.

C: The problem is that it’s not cheap to do this. It takes time. To Kai’s point is that everybody has to believe in it and has to be a system for that; new machinery and system or else, we’re just gonna do over and over.

K: Cause there are many factories involved. So it has to be the factory owners and they have to believe that they’re going to sell lots of their good products if they wanna invest in that machinery.

C: It means that they always have to be better than the old products and that takes time to develop new materials, and new resources.

Where’s Indosole in this “map”?

C: We kind of look at fashion in a funny way. To us, it’s just a category. What we believe is we make a universal product. We made something that anybody can wear; we do not discriminate. We don’t care if you’re black, white, Balinese, Japanese – whatever you are, we like you, so we make something for you, for anybody to wear.

In that regard, having that humanity that we can sell to, we care about that it’s comfortable, durable, and non-confrontational. We take close attention to the colors that we pick, everything is super thoughtful. So, by saying that it is totally universal and it means we can put our products in different categories.

What is next for each of you, personally and also for Indosole?

K: Now, that we’ve got our new materials and we try to incorporate them into our next product; Spring Summer 2021. So every year, we make a new collection to start showing. We just continually develop and progress. I just wanna take advantage of sort-of lockdown in Bali, I mean this is Bali in the 80s. There’s no tourists at least until early 2000. So, surf more, naik gunung, go to volcanoes, go to waterfalls. I mean, I’ve been to many islands around the world, I can’t imagine a more beautiful island in Bali. I’m so lucky to live here. Just taking advantage of the quietness that Bali and Indonesia hold; the waves, the rice field, the mountains, sunset, sunrise, the people, and the food.

C: We’re always trying to think what’s the next evolution for us; what we’re going to do, how we do it. We’re now at an interesting point now where we’re becoming more and more global brand. For us it’s about our messages to the global community. We just wanna keep evolving. We just wanna make people think more; without preaching them to think. That’s what we’re developing from time to time. Personally, I’m really kind of..the same with Kai. We’re very fortunate to live in Bali. Taking Bahasa Indonesia class, finally. Surf more, explore more. Sometimes you feel like a little kid here. Try to keep finding that feeling of a little kid!

Essential sustainable piece you’d put daily into your outfit?

K and C: INDOSOLE!

C: I think that’s interesting, if we’re gonna buy something new – we don’t buy something that could only last for 6 months. I go for jeans or jacket that I know I’m gonna have for 10 years. Anytime you wear it, it gets better. It’s your personality. If you look at it in a sustainable way, I think it’s way.

Tell us how you’re connected with Bali?

C: I first came here in 2008, I was supposed to go with Kyle who is another founder of the company. He got stucked in the US, I came by myself. I fell in love with it. It stuck with me and now I’m here. I guess it changes my life for the better. I was in NYC for 16 years and Europe for a long time, back and forth. You know that pace of life. But to be in a place where you feel like you;re living everyday is a special feeling.

K: For me, being born in Jakarta, Indonesia, and then coming here when I was less than 1 year old – spending time in Bali my whole life. Starting in Kuta Beach, now moving up the coast to Canggu. It’s part of my life for the last 40 years I guess. So many good memories here, just feels like home to me. I went back and I lived in the US, but it did not work for me. I connect with the ocean, with the mountains, the way of life, the spirituality, and just the humbleness – the connection to nature. It keeps you inspired everyday.

I heard that you just moved here 4 years ago. How did you find it?

C: In my business, I worked for big companies. It’s just totally a different pace. I think what we’re doing here with our brand, we want to be able to take the lesson that we learn from here and make people from outside places adapt to our way of thinking. I think that’s a really beautiful thing that I got to live in both types of environments.

What many people don’t know about Bali until they live here? Based on your experience

K: Subak (the water cycle of Bali). It’s very unique! How many places in the world have subak? The rain, then it goes down to the beach – the people, the mountains it goes through. It’s very harmonious and that everybody gets food, everybody has a healthy consciousness.

C: The harmony, you know. It’s beautiful. It doesn’t really happen in other parts of the world.

K: People are dependent on each other to live harmoniously.

C: Great answer, Kai!

Your comfort food(s) in Bali?

K: Nasi!

C: Mie goreng…I’m still on the hunt for the best mie goreng. I love it so much!

K: Maybe to me it’s Soto Ayam?

You should go to my house!

K: Deal!

Last one; where do you find yourself at most in Bali?

C: In our stores.. maybe the beach. Try to be close by the beach.

K: Same, and…Indosole!

Indosole

written by Prinka Saraswati
Polaroids by Daisuke Amaike