In recent years, the sustainability movement in many facets of society, including fashion and footwear, has been a big focus for consumers and businesses alike.
However, while the focus has been on plastic reduction, there is still a large waste problem that not many people are aware of: tyre waste.
Globally, 1.5 billion tyres are thrown away every year, often being buried or burned, harming the environment and releasing toxic gases into the air.
However, in 2009, Kyle Parsons founded a small, sustainable, B-Corp certified (in 2015) company, in Indonesia called Indosole, with the aim of using discarded tyres in footwear.
Tackling tyre waste head-on, Indosole has so far saved 60,000 tyres from ending up in landfill and by 2023 the business will have saved one million tyres.
The brand is now expanding into Australia beginning with thongs and slides, working with 18 stockists nationwide including The Iconic and Deus. The brand is also utilising its own website to break into the Australian market.
The Australian director of the business, Nick Riley, said that now felt like the right time to bring the business to the Aussie consumer.
“I feel like the Australian market is obvious – the thong, is almost an Australian iconic piece of footwear that we all wear and we all take pride in.
“I saw it as an opportunity – [Indosole] hadn't breached in the market here – timing-wise, I think it was a really good time with the combination of this sustainable movement that's happening, especially in the fashion industry all over.
“Seeing this brand, seeing an opportunity, seeing the actual product itself and really realising it is at a point where it can compete with the best that there is here.
“I think the overall message of what we're doing and our colourways and everything that's involved with the business is going to really reflect well with Australians and the Australian market and summer time.
“Even the whole Indonesia-Australia connection, in our winter-time everyone, I don't know the exact number but I think Bali gets three million tourists a year and you can almost guarantee that a third of them are Australians, at least – so there's that whole connection too that I was like, 'this brand could really work down there.'”
Riley said that he wants to focus on making Indosole an affordable product that consumers feel good about buying.
“The one thing I want to tap into in the Australian market is 'affordable sustainability', so our product, I think, reflects that, and I want to be able to bring a platform to the consumer, where they can literally come in and buy something, firstly because they like the look and the feel of the product, but then as they're walking out they're kind of like, 'I'm now actually a part of this sustainable movement...I'm doing good.'"
The process of making the shoes has evolved over the years – going from glueing the rimming of the tyre onto the bottom of the shoes, to crushing the tyres down to powder form and injecting them into a mould.
This process means that in the future, Indosole may be able to expand outside of the footwear industry.
However, Riley said that the focus for the brand currently is open footwear and connecting with the Australian market.
“Short-term goals is to really just tap into the right market in Australia and work really closely with the people we have on board and with our consumers.
“So doing that within the first sort of six months to a year and then phase two; I would love to introduce Indosole to New Zealand. That's a market I don't really know, so it's doing the research on that, learning where, how and who we fit in there with.
“[But for] super long-term I actually have a vision – because we use rubber – I would love to think that at some point we could potentially start making bar mats out of recycled rubber or start making door mats [and things like that].
“There are just so many things rubber is used in and we legitimately have a process that works and we legitimately have a process where we can intercept tyres and basically, you crush it down into a powder form, you can put that into any mould, you can make literally anything."
Riley said that he hopes that eventually the business can source tyres from places outside of Indonesia.
“I would love to be in a position, possibly by next season, or end of next summer, where I can send containers of Australian tyres [to Indonesia], because it's the same thing here. That's the thing I've asked so many people, 'where do you think Australian tyres go?'
“With the installation we're doing for the launch event, I just literally walked down to the end of my road to the mechanic and he had like a storage room full of tyres and he's like, 'mate please, take whatever you need to take, I don't know what to do with them.'
"Everyone is so around this whole plastic [reduction] which is amazing, but the rubber issue throughout the world is just crazy and I think it's good for us, I think it's good for people to become more aware of exactly what that problem is and how much it impacts on the environment as a whole."
Indosole will officially launch in Australia on October 5, with the Essntl's range of thongs and slides in natural colourways to reflect the environment. The Essntls line retails for $39.99 for the Essntls thongs and $54.99 for the slides.