From the fruit market in Bali to the sacred stories of the Wayang puppets, Solana shoes are designed to highlight Indonesian culture. Yasmine Idriss, Founder and Creative Director, says the designs of this collection aren’t just expressions of art – they serve as a spotlight on Indonesia and a reflection of the experience she had there.
For Yasmine, creating this collection started with traveling to the source of inspiration. For three weeks she moved throughout Indonesia discovering its secrets and beauty. While she considered other countries, ultimately Yasmine picked Indonesia because she found it was largely underrepresented and had a beautiful story to tell.
The country, located in Southeast Asia, is situated between the Indian and Pacific oceans. There are more than 17,000 islands, overall making it one of the largest archipelagos. Yasmine spent three weeks there trying to experience as much as she could, but it wasn’t easy because of how much there was to see but she was determined to do her best. “I try to spend as much time as I can in the featured culture,” she said.
While the country is extremely diverse in religion, Yasmine says most assume its people are only of the Islam faith, as of 2010 around 87.2% are Muslim, when in actuality the country accounted for 1.7 million of the Buddhist faith, according to the 2010 national census. Around 1.9% are Hindu and 9.9% consider themselves Christian.
But for Yasmine, it was that melting pot of differences that appealed to her. Instead of hiding it, she wanted to highlight it through the Solana designs.
“It is an extremely diverse country and there is so much to see. The natural environment is just insane. I have never seen such lush jungle greenery in my life,” she said. “You can visit the Buddhist Borobudur Temple and the Hindu the Prambanan Temple on the same day, and they’re both in a predominantly Muslim region. That was beautiful for me to see.”
To create the designs, Yasmine started with her experiences. “I started with the general feeling the country gave me, then made my way to the experiences, the smells, sounds, colors, textures,” she said. “I wanted this collection to be a reflection of my experience of Indonesia and to shed light on the culture and its diversity.
“It was just different and alive,” she said. “The fruit market was just a simple experience. Many of the collection’s colors were inspired by it.”
Translating the emotions she had during these events was the first step in the designs, according to Yasmine. “It’s about your senses,” she said. “It’s about what stays with you, what comes home with you. It’s not about how much time you spend in each place.”
Two of the shoes’ designs have delicate embroidery patterns going up and down to signify the colors of the fruit market. While certain shapes are inspired by the Wayang Puppets.
Wayang Puppets, or Javanese meaning “Shadow,” is a time-honored tradition. According to Britannica, the show is centered around puppets that move around behind a screen - thanks to rods. The artists create a narrative using these shadows. Origins of the puppets developed in the 10th century with its form in the Tholu Bommalata – the leather puppets of southern India. It’s believed this form of storytelling traveled to Indonesia with the spread of Hinduism. During the shows, there are scenes from the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata book and behind the puppets is a 30-person orchestra.
For Yasmine, it was the attention to detail that struck her the most. Because even though the puppets are behind a screen, hidden most of the time, the intricate work put into them is significant. During her time in Indonesia, Yasmine went to a performance and found its casual environment quite interesting.
“I get up and sit on the side,” she said. “You’re very close to the musicians and it’s such a casual affair. At one point one of the musicians looks at me like ‘Why is the girl so interested? We do this every night.’” As the musician started to engage with her, the two created a version of their language to learn more about the other despite not speaking the same words. For her designs, Yasmine was inspired by this moment to create a sort of unspoken language.
“Someone could see your shoes and say, ‘Oh, what is this?’ and you would have a whole story to tell,” she said. “It carries some spirit.” That spirit is exactly what makes Solana’s shoes stand out from the rest.
For three months she worked on the designs and even though her team created several – there were seven finalists. “The final result is a mix of different emotions, sensations, experiences, and local symbols,” she said. “They carry meaning. The designs tell a story of an experience that was lived in Indonesia. And it is real.”
For the future, Yasmine is planning to continue to highlight cultures around the world and use her designs as a gateway into their world for everyone to see and wear.
“There’s the meaning and the aesthetic,” she said. “You want to balance both. Every shoe has a non-negotiable meaning. So, you find a balance between the two.”