If you've ever been to Bali, then you know that the most popular form of transportation on the island is the motorbike. They are everywhere, and a bit nerve-wracking to drive in the traffic-clogged streets. Kyle Parsons of IndoSole has creatively figured out how to repurpose one of the major byproducts of al those Balinese motorbikes - the tires. His solution? Use the discarded rubber to create stylish, eco-friendly, and locally crafted sandals. We got the chance to chat with Kyle about the history of IndoSole, the island of Bali, and some of the design challenges of working with motorbike tires - read on for our interview!
Inhabitat: Can you describe IndoSole?
Kyle: IndoSole is a lifestyle brand based around resourceful thinking. We do that through footwear that we call “Indos,” which feature a repurposed motorbike sole, and natural and organic uppers. We primarily make sandals, but will be launching a shoe program in the coming months. We also make t-shirts and bags, but are primarily based around footwear.
Inhabitat: How did you come up with the idea to repurpose motorbike tires to make sandals?
Kyle: When I was in Bali in 2004 on a surf trip, I was looking to buy a unique pair of sandals. I wanted something cool and organic looking, and I found a pair in a hole-in-the-wall type shop. They had motorbike tire tread soles and a natural grass weave on top. They were cool sandals, but really clunky and uncomfortable. I was standing in the shop, holding onto these cool-looking but impractical sandals, and looked out the window and saw all the motorbikes buzzing by. All these bikes, all these tires, and here I was with a pair of sandals in my hands. The idea was born right there: make a sandal inspired by what the Balinese were already doing, but make it more comfortable and stylish, and I’ve been working since then to do just that.
Inhabitat: Were you trained as a designer?
Kyle: (laughs) No, not at all. We pretty much have been faking it till we make it. I was a sales rep in the action sports industry for a while before this. Since 2006, I’ve done a lot of back-and-forth trips from California to Bali with my business partner Faye Middleton, who has actually been responsible for much of the design of our sandals. She runs our production operations in Bali, and I’m based in San Francisco, taking care of sales and distribution But no, we’re not designers by training, but we’ve learned a ton along the way.
Inhabitat: What are some of the challenges of working with repurposed tires?
Kyle: The biggest thing is that the rubber wants to roll up and warp the sandals, so we have spent years trying to figure out how to keep it flat, and not overtake the foam. It’s been almost like working with ice and chiseling away at it. We’ve experimented with a lot of different foam foot beds in order to make it work. We’ve finally found a way to keep the rubber flat, but that’s a little secret of ours that we keep to ourselves.
Inhabitat: Besides the use of motorbike tires, how else do you make your sandals eco-friendly?
Kyle: We currently have four models of sandals, and none of them use any animal products. They all feature tire tread soles; what varies are the “uppers,” or part of the sandal that your foot actually rests on. In addition to our popular tan burlap model, we have a canvas model that repurposes coffee sacks from the farms on Bali, a grass mat model, which uses tightly woven, hand-picked grass from rice fields, and the banana leaf model, which features dried banana leaves that are wrapped in a spool and hand-woven together. All of our sandals are handmade in Bali, using local materials from Bali.
Inhabitat: What’s special about manufacturing in Bali?
Kyle: The Balinese are known for being incredibly resourceful people. The original sandals that I saw, which helped give me my idea, weren’t necessarily designed to be “green;” they were just meant to make use of what was already there. That’s the spirit of the Balinese artisans that we’ve met. They are always looking around to reuse and repurpose items to resell them. What Faye and I have done is take that resourceful idea, and make it fashionable. We create the designs, and Balinese artisans physically make it happen.
Inhabitat: What do you see for the future of IndoSole?
Kyle: Well, as I said, we’re going to be expanding our footwear soon with shoes that implement many of the same ideas behind our sandals. But beyond that, we’re very excited to introduce a giveback program in Bali. Education is a major problem on the island. Most kids don’t get beyond the 6th grade. And so we want to create a non-profit and call it Nation of Education, and create a network of companies who manufacture in Indonesia, and encourage all of them to help in the creation of schools for the local kids. We think it’s important to keep Indonesian kids in schools, and with so many international companies manufacturing on the island, we think we can keep a lot of local kids in school.