The rapid evolution of Indonesia’s iconic holiday island from small town-feel to big time tourist spot has certainly happened at an accelerated rate. And when things grow a little too fast, there’s a little less care and little more ‘right now’. But there’s still plenty of magic taking place amid the madness. Whether you go to Bali to shop up a storm or have a year’s worth of office work massaged out of you, you can find more than a few ways to make sure your holiday dosh goes to a good cause.
Threads of Life
Indonesia’s ikat and batik textiles are eye candy to the wanderlust collector, but they still risk being lost at the hands of trends and modern techniques. Luckily enough, there is a business that builds relationships with local communities and encourages age-old techniques to continue. The Threads of Life Gallery in Ubud presents a banquet of home-wares sourced and made within the parameters of a dynamic Fair Trade policies and conservation efforts, with female artisans encouraged to continue re-imagining the work of their mothers and grandmothers. Traveler looking for a more hands on experience can get their hands dirty in the batik natural dye class or take an introduction to the culture of Indonesian textiles.
Bumi Sehat Foundation
When you spend your holiday eating in swanky Seminyak restaurants and swimming in infinity pools, it’s easy to ignore the undercurrent of problems that exist in Bali. The staggeringly high maternal and infant mortality rates of Indonesia – amongst the highest in Asia – have not been forgotten by Ubud-based charity Bumi Sehat. Not only do they offer quality healthcare and culturally-appropriate pre and post-natal care to Balinese women, but they’re also involved in responding to natural disasters. Even from overseas you can find numerous, creative ways to support their incredible work.
If you’re into organic skincare (hello everyone), chances are you’ve heard of the certified organic skincare brand, SALT. You may have ogled over their sultry summer Instagram feed and admired how they collect earthly goods from Bali (think kaffir lime, organic Bali coffee, sea salt and coconut oil) and turn them into blissful body products. What you may not know is that they are about to launch a collection of bags, hand-woven in Bali using sustainably harvested raw rattan from the island of Borneo. They look like a jungle dream and profits from each bag are donated to the deforestation disaster in Indonesia.
Australian designer Celeste Tesoriero’s interest in sustainable fashion was almost accidental – visiting a fabric print and dyeing area in Bali for the first time, she was struck by the pollution and knew she didn’t want to be a part of the pollution. Instead, her collection of loose-fitting, Japanese-inspired loungewear is now made using organic, plant-based dyes produced in Indonesia. The sustainable dyes and ethical production require a longer period of turnover, so Celeste’s designs are investment pieces, but you’re paying more for a clean conscience.
Many vegan leather products are crafted out of scary synthetics that wreak havoc on the environment. Not the soft and chic bags being crafted in Bali by Ono Creations. By taking wood pulp of eucalyptus trees and blending it with the bark of the cork oak tree, which doesn’t destroy the tree during harvest, this sustainable bag brand is making a cow hide Gucci look a little passé. You can pick up one of Ono’s pretty pieces at various stores on the island including Kiosk on Jalan Kayu Cendana in Seminyak and Namaste – The Spiritual Shop on Jalan Hanoman in Ubud.
The availability of surf and street wear in Bali borders on insanity, with much of it produced in offshore factories with questionable conditions. Smile Clothing, owned by a couple of entrepreneurial young Australians, offers an ethical alternative that rivals the big companies in both style and production. Happily handmade in Indonesia, each item of Smile Clothing sold – whether it’s a pair of batik boardshorts or a slouch women’s T – sees a school uniform or t-shirt being donated to a child in need.
The Jari Menari signage declares boldly, ‘Bali’s Best Massage’. Unlike many spa signs in Asia, it’s a fairly accurate statement, thanks to a unique technique coined ‘dancing fingers’ and a tranquil Japanese-inspired setting. But what really makes Jari Menari’s offering the best happens behind the scenes. For the past 15 years, the salon has employed men whose lack of skills, English language and limited resources has prevented them from undertaking any professional training. In an industry dominated by women, Jari Menari offers an incredible opportunity for disadvantage men to not only be trained and employed, but to join this flat- line company in which they are empowered to think and act like the managers of the business.