In this issue, we welcome Balkan from Hoi Polloy. He navigates us through his experience in trying to decide on a name for his brand. Balkan also talks about the future of fashion and how local businesses can become a part of a sustainable act.
Nana : Hi Balkan! Can you tell us a little about the brand and how it was founded?
Balkan : Hoi Polloy is a clothing brand based in Jakarta and was founded on 2015. It was inspired by people who lived here in capital cities or busy cities, who want to take a vacation to the beach or mountain and do some fun activity. I’m concerned about how people who live in these cities are always saying that they want to go to the beach or other luxurious places. People think our brand is based in Bali or somewhere near the beach but no. Our brand is based in Jakarta and we run our business for the urban people living here. People living here are always living under pressure and so we’re just here to demonstrate that sometimes, you need to pause, take it easy, break your routine and get some fun! That’s all.
Nana : So, why did you decide to name the brand “Hoi Polloy”?
Balkan : Back when I was in college in the middle of a boring class, I did a sketch of a truck on my notebook with a pencil, and when the truck was finished and completed, I wanted to fill a slogan between this truck. I wrote “roadtrippin’” with a dad on top of the truck. But there was still an empty space. Then I thought there should be a word that is not similar to put below the truck. Because I like when nobody knows the meaning behind the word except me. Then I googled a name that wasn’t familiar which is “hoipolloi”, with “i” in the last letter. but I changed the last letter to “y”. because I was afraid “hoipolloi” with “i” would be more familiar in other countries. The meaning of “Hoi Polloy is “people” according to google. But I don’t want to connect this meaning into a bigger picture or main idea of this brand. I just named it because I like it. Because I just drew a truck and a slogan and the name matched it very well. And fast forward to when I was still in college, I had some random thoughts of starting this brand. I saw potential in my country as a market considering how many people live there and so I was like “let’s do it”. Again I had some other thoughts that just because I drew a truck doesn’t mean I could build a brand easily so… I had to go on with another sketch. The first batch of designs of mine was like 7 designs including the truck and from those designs, I was able to repeat them and restocked until I was able to make money. Using that money I paid graphic designers to continue the designs, and I became more focused on the development of the brand land maintaining it. I don’t know what was the starting point for me because I just like to do it and I wasn’t really aware of the business side of it or was concerned about it.
Nana : Were there any influences in creating and developing your brand?
Balkan : Yeah it had to be what I felt. What I like. Traveling and seeing the different lifestyles of people are also some of the things I have been influenced by. The way people dress in my traveling destinations has not really been an influence but rather a supporting aspect in my designs.
Nana : What ind of impressions do you have on the current Indonesian fashion market?
Balkan : Well I guess it’s on the right track for now. There are so many innovative products in Indonesian fashion right now. Some brands might prioritize using good materials and some prioritize graphic design. And I really this to change how people think about fast fashion and how it is just not good. Selling a hundred tees in one day or even within an hour won’t change the damage it is doing to the world. It’s not good for the ecosystem. I think it would be great if the “local brand” culture in Indonesia that is currently spreading fast, would spread across other countries as well. I mean, these local brands have so many opportunities to show their talents online and make them go viral.
Nana : I agree and I wish that culture become more common everywhere.
We’ve noticed that beach settings often appear in your visuals, is that a big part of your brand?
Balkan : For me, it’s always the beach. I don’t know why but we’ve done many shoots at the beach and it hasn’t disappointed me. We’ve had this campaign to clean up beaches as apart of a sustainability project several times and collaborated with “trash hero”, which is this big community around the world. You can see this on our IGTV. We actually don’t just put beaches as our main idea but also national parks and mountains as well. We’ve included designs of Rinjani mountain and Kelimutu mountain on our graphic tees. We have been including these designs to show how beautiful these sights are.
Nana : That must be a really fulfilling experience! Were there any big challenges in the process of building your brand?
Balkan : I think the most challenging part for me is connection. We started business like 5-6 years ago and had many ups and downs. Now we have seven in-house employees and this works really well since this is a small business and I want to keep things pretty simple. When I first started, it was basically a one-man-show. I was everything from being a designer, digital marketer, copy writer and photographer. I was everything that the brand needed. I learned it through working hard and looking through YouTube and articles. Recently there are many brands owned by influencers, artists and almost anybody but at that time there weren’t many people doing it alone and I didn’t have many connections so it was very difficult.
Nana : Are there any places in Indonesia you would recommend to readers?
Balkan : I think you should first come to Jakarta and feel the vibes of the busy city. After that you should go to the beaches in Bali, Lombok or even go hiking since there are many mountains here. Labuan Bajo in Flores is still my favorite. You should go there it’s great!
Nana : Is there any advice you would give our readers who are seeking to find a way to build a conceptual and stylish fashion brand like “Hoi Polloy”?
Balkan : It depends on the situation. I mean, look around. Are you serious about becoming an entrepreneur which would basically mean that you are willing to lose time with friends or even family? You would need consistency!
local brands have so many opportunities to show their talents online and make it go viral.Balkan FROM hoi polloy
Text: Yuka Yoshimura