This is Lolo, so good to be able to blog again after a long hiatus! You probably didn't realize but Toko-Toko actually took a long break from May to August this year as I figured out the vision and mission of our company.
This past year my husband and I have taken time to go outdoors and connect with nature. We've gone on camping and backpacking trips, and I'm a changed person because of the raw beauty I've witnessed. I started to feel that the right thing to do for us is to be kind to our environment by being sustainable.
Around July I took my daughter for a month trip to Indonesia. We spent the first week in Jakarta with my parents. With my dad's suggestion I started doing daily meditation again, after a few days I was very clear on what I need to do for Toko-Toko. We need to carry only brands that are sustainable and fair trade. We also need to create our own brand, work with local artisans and make sure they get paid their fair wages.
I reached out to Ursula Tumiwa, the designer and owner of 'Indonesia Loh', explained to her what I wanted to do, sent her very rough sketches of items I would like to make. Ula as everybody calls her, is an amazing person with her own community and film projects. She quickly helped me connect with a team of artisans in Kulon Progo village, Jogjakarta. I booked three train tickets for myself, my daughter and Ula and head out to Central Java to my father's home town: Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Train ride was about 8 hours, we left Jakarta around 7am and arrived in Yogyakarta around 3pm. Our family's home is located close to the Sultan's palace and is now turned into a beautiful guest house run by my uncle and his staff, you should check out Ndalem Maharani ('Maharani's House') if you plan to go to Yogya! We rested for a night and the next day a team of us, a camera man and a husband and wife team of photographers I just met head out to Kulon Progo to meet with the artisans and film their work.
When we were there I was really amazed by the warmth and openness of these women. They laughed and shared their stories with me. They told me that the younger generation is not interested in learning this traditional weaving craft because it pays less than working at factories in their village. Women artisans make less than $1 a day. Local factories pay their workers about $2 per day, naturally the younger generation feels that being an artisan is a job for older married women without any skill. It's no longer seen as pride of a culture, but merely a job that pays very little. This information saddened me.
Weaving is a craft that has been passed on for many generations in Jogjakarta and Central Java. If the younger generation is not interested and feel ashamed of doing this beautiful work, then a tradition and a culture of hundreds of years will die.
I also learned that their work are being sent to Bali and Jakarta to be sold every where from street vendors to local shops and hip boutique hotels. From here these beautiful items are purchased by international buyers and being sold to customers for even higher prices. At this rate everybody else makes high profit, except for the actual people who make them. Working directly with artisans allows me to cut down middle men so both makers and customers receive better prices for them.
By the time I got back to Jakarta, some of the samples we made were ready to be shipped to Los Angeles. I sat and thought of a name and decided to use a name lovingly given by my good friend Irma years ago in Los Angeles for me and Caitlin "Martini and Milk". I was a single parent for four years, and til today I pay for my daughter's education on my own. As a mother I would do everything to provide the best for my child, just as these women artisans do in their daily lives. It seems very fitting that together as women we work together for a better future for all of us as a community and for the future of our daughters.
Since we came back to LA we've rolled out amazing collaborations with awesome creatives. We now work from a new space in Chinatown and will continue on to have pop-ups around Los Angeles. I want to personally thank you for the support you've shown me and the artisans so far, I'm so grateful for each one of you. Please continue on to check our Instagram for next events, pop-ups, collaborations etc.
Much love from our Chinatown Los Angeles working space to your homes and work spaces. Til next blog!