IN TALK WITH MELIE ON CREATING A SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND SUPPORT FOR LOCAL FARMER
With sustainability goals to support the local farmers and the environment, they also offered the best quality for each piece that they created.
When we talk about sustainable fashion, it's very complicated. It's not only talking about the environment but also the people behind the industry. By supporting the local artisanal product, we are actually creating less carbon footprint. Because there is a high demand for our local people and we would have less demand for the imported clothes or fabric.
Why? Most of them are fast fashion. Fast fashion accounts for 10% of all carbon emissions globally and is the second largest industry when it comes to pollution behind the oil industry. Not only that, fast fashion is not a good environment for the factory workers. Fast fashion is bad for workers, especially young and underage women. These women work long hours with minimal pay, and they work in unsafe working conditions.
KaIND is a sustainable fashion brand based in Purwosari, Pasuruan, East Java, with sustainability goals to support the local farmers and the environment. Not only that, but KaIND also offered the best quality for each piece that they created.
Hi Melie, could you please tell us about KaIND for a little bit? Just in case not all people are familiar with KaIND.
KaIND is an Indonesian sustainable fashion brand from Purwosari, Pasuruan. Started as a company in 2017, with 5 core values which are circular fashion, eco-conscious products, empowering community by developing local community skill on hand-weaving, hand-drawn batik, natural dye and hand-spun silk techniques in fair trade, and ethical leadership.
What’s your inspiration behind the brand itself? What made you decide to go into this fashion world?
It all started in 2015 when I found out that in my hometown, Purwosari, Pasuruan, we had some unexplored potential and certain issues in hand-weaving and hand-drawn batik products.
When I met one of the senior hand-weavers, he said that he is facing bankruptcy and can’t find a job. No young people were willing to learn hand-weaving techniques because they think there’s no future in it. Previously he was making hand-woven sarongs and headscarves to middle east markets, but then it all stopped because he couldn't compete with fast fashion industries.
The same stories were also told when I met senior batik artisans within my living hood area.
So with my background in fashion design and my experiences working at the Fashion TV Channel in Jakarta, we try to set up a small community consisting of seniors handweavers and batik artisans, working hand-in-hand to create some new textures in handweaving and new modern design of batik Pasuruan.
We explore new designs with inspiration from the iconic places in Pasuruan, such as the Bromo mountains and its famous desert called Pasir Berbisik. We also explore new motifs based on the iconic flowers and leaves from Pasuruan, such as tuberose, chrysanthemum, and orchid flowers. And I tried to sell it online through our website and offline to my friends and families under the brand named KaIND, which stands for Kain Indonesia or Indonesia’s fabrics.
What is your role model or brand you love the most?
I love Eileen Fisher and find her clothes project simplicity and agility. She makes no effort to follow fashion. The design ethos is timeless and trendless.
What are the challenges you are facing?
To translate batik culture, which is full of meaning and philosophy, into an engaging and interesting culture. Don't let it just be a 'history' for the current generation.
There are other sustainability brands in Indonesia, but in your own words, what makes KaIND different from any other brands that are available in Indonesia?
KaIND differentiation is not only by elevating the typical Pasuruan motifs with modern styles and colors but also by introducing the ATBM (Non-Machine Weaving Tool) woven fabric used for everyday wear.
So this differentiating factor is flexible, we are also exploring natural fibers as the basic material for making cloth weaving, processing the fiber of eri silkworm, cultivated by local farmers to the artisanal level; so this fiber can be a premium quality silk thread that is ready to be woven and go through batik process. This is an original and unique differentiator, which not every brand has.
What’s KaIND vision?
Embracing local wisdom consistently to be a benchmark for how culture and traditions can be relevant to current and future lifestyles through sustainability.
Recently, in an interview, you worked with Tencel to empower the Javanese eri silk farmers. Could you please tell us more about the project?
Our project with Tencel is another success story on how we were able to develop the eri silk fibers into the fabricated silk yarn. Together with PT Lakumas as a spinning mill in Tegal, they were willing to walk the passion with us, to do the trial and exploration for these silk fibers to become silk yarns, where we managed to combine the silk fibers with Tencel.
What’s the real problem with the fashion industry in Indonesia?
We do not have independence and a good ecosystem in manufacturing and processing fibers, any fibers. Therefore, the circular fashion process is very difficult to occur in Indonesia. Even though the resources are abundantly available in Indonesia, our fashion industry is very dependent on commodities imported from other countries.
Why we must support local farmers, but how do we support them and create a more sustainable fashion cycle?
Because the presence of this local and eco-friendly silk yarn and fabrics will revive and develop the quality of our handwoven and batik products. By buying our silk products, that means you're also directly supporting local eri silkworm farmers. We are also able to reduce the dependency on non-domestic silk yarns significantly.
Why is sustainability essential to KaIND’s DNA?
So that this brand has a purpose, to create economic development with a positive impact on society and the environment.
What do you do so that the sustainability label is more than just a gimmick to KaIND?
When I started this from the very beginning, I wanted to set up a healthy environment both physically and mentally for all the people who were working with us. So we all agree to appreciate nature through the products that we’ve made.
We make sure that we do not harm the animals. And our dyeing process also makes a friendly approach to nature, from natural dyeing to the simple water filter that we’ve built in our workshop. What we do here is to preserve one of Indonesia's cultural heritage, which is hand-weaving and batik techniques.
It's all slow fashion and needs community to make it impactful. That’s why sustainability and empowerment is also the key value in our brand. That’s why we’re not just giving them secure occupations with a proper salary, but we give them knowledge and local wisdom from all of the techniques that they learned freely. We also make sure that they work safely and comfortably in our working space.
We specifically contribute to several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include: no poverty (goal 1), gender equality (goal 5), decent work and economic growth (goal 8), sustainable cities and communities (goal 11), and responsible consumption and production (goal 12).
Where do you want to see yourself 10 years from now?
I don't think about my future much. I just truly hope my work and brand will have a bigger impact on the nation.
What’s your hope for the future fashion world?
I really hope people can pay more attention to how their clothes are produced, and hopefully, more people can appreciate what we do and realize what fast fashion really does to people and our planet.
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