Indosole founder and president Kyle Parsons knows a good souvenir when he sees one. During a family vacation in Bali in 2004, Parsons bought a pair of sandals with grass woven uppers and soles made from tires. The shoes had the natural and organic feel he wanted in a keepsake from Indonesia and were something he’d never seen before.
“Meanwhile, there were thousands of motorcycles whizzing by the store,” Parsons recalled. Not to mention stacks of tires behind the store.
The shoes were a great design—a bit stiff and clunky compared to shoes in the U.S.—but Parsons admired how the store employees were being resourceful and respectful of nature by re-purposing the rubber. “The tires were otherwise heading to the landfill,” he said.
The sandals and the story behind them also resonated with Parsons’ friends back home in California. He returned to Bali two years later to start a wholesale business, first loading up suitcases with sandals to give friends and family and eventually getting to factory level where he could refine and scale up what is now called Indosole.
The first shipment of 500 sandals was delivered in 2009, and today Parsons says the brand is shipping container loads from Indonesia. About 80 percent of business is done through wholesale supported with POP materials and display racks with images that help tell the brand’s unique story. “We are still trying to figure out direct-to-consumer,” Parsons said, but noted that some of the newer styles will likely appeal to a younger, more digital generation.
Unisex styles span the Innertubed, a waterproof flip-flop made from actual innertube rubber to the Double 6 thong made with 66 percent re-purposed materials and a vegan leather footbed. More intricate designs include the women’s Ikhanna Trails braided sandal featuring hand-dyed batik, ikat and blank canvas materials, the men’s Prahu “boat” shoe with an organic cotton canvas upper and newly launched high-top sneakers with side zippers.
“Our mission is to save one million tires,” Parsons said, adding that very few companies can tell a true eco-friendly story. As a company that uses re-purposed tires for all of its outsoles, he said Indosoles is offering consumers footwear made with the most organic, toxic-free and environmentally sustainable production process. The rubber is not melted down or altered in any way that may cause harm to the environment.
It’s a green crusade close to Parsons’ heart, who has a unique background in both garbage and footwear. In college, he worked the night shift at a recycling facility separating plastics. After college Parsons went on to intern for New Balance, eventually working at a surf shop and as a shoe sales rep in California.
True to his roots, feedback from industry veterans is important to Parsons, especially those with like-minded ambition about sustainable footwear. “I sent a pair of Indosole to the founder of Patagonia,” he shared. “He wrote back with a nice letter and said that they were great.”