Interview with Indosole
But our waste problem is not the fault only of producers. It is the fault of an economy that is wasteful from top to bottom—a symbiosis of an unlimited greed at the top and a lazy, passive, and self-indulgent consumptiveness at the bottom—and all of us are involved in it.
-- Wendell Berry
I first heard the term 'Conscious Consumer' from Kyle Parsons, founder of IndoSole, in his Ted Talk about redesigning consumer habits. If you haven't seen this wonderful and enlightening talk yet - check it out here.
So, what exactly does it mean to be a conscious consumer and why is it so important?
A conscious consumer is someone who takes into account the social, environmental, ecological, and political impact of his or her private consumption or who attempts to use his or her purchasing power to bring about social change. A conscious consumer takes a stand against the waste problem in our world by being aware of who made the products that he or she buys and understanding the material and process that stand behind them. As Kyle states, "Being aware of who made your products and their supply chain is key to being a conscious consumer."
Here at Let's Imagine, we couldn't agree more with Kyle's words and we feel incredibly inspired by the team at IndoSole who are actively working to fight a particular problem prevalent in Indonesia and around the world, which is massive tire waste - by repurposing tires into durable footwear.
I recently had the pleasure to speak with Killian Page, CX & Operations Manager of IndoSole, about the history the company, the problem of tire waste, and the creative solution that IndoSole has come up with. Read on for our interview!
1. What is your role at IndoSole and how did it start for you?
I began with IndoSole 4 years ago, almost straight out of university. At first I worked as an intern and eventually found myself integrating back end systems, running operations, and gooding event sales. There are few employees at Indosole, still a startup, and everyone wears many hats.
2. Let's begin with the problem - Can you tell us more about tire waste and the reality of the damage it does?
Tires are a huge part of the pollution problem globally. In Indonesia our founder Kyle saw this first hand when traveling there. Tires can take thousands of years to break down naturally and according to the EPA, benzene, mercury, and styrene-butadiene among several other chemicals and heavy metals, have been found in tires. Tires are also sourced my many companies and use them as a fuel source, burning them and releasing these compounds into the air. Outside of pollution, discarded tires build up in landfills and the streets and can become breeding grounds for diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
3. How did IndoSole get started - Can you describe the inception of IndoSole and how did it came to exist?
The idea for IndoSole was sparked from a surf trip to Bali, Indonesia. Kyle Parsons, the founder, was wandering the streets in search of a unique pair of sandals and found exactly what he was looking for in a mom-and-pop operation, selling tire-soled sandals out of a house. He bought a few pairs, brought them back to the States and the sold them to friends and family. Over the years In-house and outside designers have improved the product to what we you see on our website today.
4. Can you tell us more about your process? What steps do you take to transform old tires into functional and fashionable shoes?
We wanted to minimize the steps and involved in our process, so it is a pretty simple one.
- The tires are locally sourced
- They are cut into soles and sanitized
- The soles are then adhered to the upper part of the shoe or sandals
- They are inspected for quality control
5. Aside from repurposed tires, what other materials do you use to make your shoes eco-friendly?
We only use materials that lack animal products. In this sense we like to call our products vegan footwear. Additionally, we prefer to source organic cotton. This is cotton grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or defoliants that can harm the local ecosystem. With this, we continue to search for new ways to repurpose any kind of materials that we use. This includes, using bits of trash - chip bags - for hang tags and using recycled paper for boxes and signage. Why use new materials when you can make use of what is already available?
6. What are some of the challenges that you face when working with repurposed tires?
Tires can be difficult to work with. Due to the fact that we are not the only one sourcing tires, the price of scrap tires in Indonesia has gone up over the past few years. Additionally, they need to be collected and stripped of the metals that line the insides. This takes time and effort. We are currently looking to invest in a system that will speed up this process and make it more efficient too.
7. Where are you located? What is unique or special about your location of choice?
We manufacture in Java and Bali, Indonesia and are headquartered in San Francisco, CA, USA. Waste tires are available everywhere, but for now, as we grow, we prefer to stick with the people and the culture that created Indosole and have been with us since its inception.
8. What are the plans for the future of IndoSole?
We are opening a retail shop and cafe in Indo this summer. Keep an eye out for Indo & Coco if you ever find yourself in Canggu, Bali. For the USA side of the business, we are excited to announce our first major retailer: Zumiez, Inc. We are also moving into a new office, this May, here in San Francisco amongst several other burgeoning fashion brands in the Mission District.
9. How can we help?
IndoSole has a story to tell and it is not necessarily about saving tires from the landfills. We want to instill a new mindset in our customers and in those people that come across our brand. Slow, not Fast-Fashion is the way of the future, there is no need to purchase new products when we can make them from old ones. This is a habit that needs to change if we are to keep our planet inhabitable. We would appreciate it if you could help share this message.
10. Last but certainly not least, what is your favorite pair of IndoSoles so far and where can we buy them?
A huge thank you to Killian for taking the time to shed some light on IndoSole's creative solution to the problem of tire waste in our world and perhaps more importantly, the story that IndoSole has to tell. As Killian says, whether you are transforming old tires into shoes or repurposing another material, the idea is that in order to keep our planet clean & inhabitable, we MUST take action and make a change in our habits.
At Let's Imagine we truly hope to inspire you to take action in your life by joining us in being a part of that change. Next time you are shopping for something new, we challenge you to use your own unique creativity to transform something old into something new instead. Possibilities are endless, just believe in them.
Thank you for reading, we hope you enjoyed learning about IndoSole as much as we did!
Be sure to keep track of IndoSole's progress and projects on Instagram and Facebook: @Indosole