Meet Kholil & Wiwik
Kholil and his wife Wiwik are the first makers I employed to begin sewing garments for Theo! Back in 2014 I connected with them through word of mouth and the timing could not have been better. Kholil was working full-time for another clothing brand and wanted to begin sewing for himself on the side. He had heard of the benefits of running his own business for greater freedom, flexibility and opportunity and was exploring the possibilities, especially since recently becoming father to Dafar! Wiwik was a stay at home mum. At the same time I was in the planning stages of launching the first collection (read 3 t-shirts, a pair of shorts and a dress) and I was determined to do it ethically and small-scale. Voila, our partnership was formed and we have worked together ever since!
Together, Kholil and Wiwik work from the back of their family home. They manually lay the fabric out with the pieces required to sew each garment (picture a tetris-like scenario to achieve the most economical lay out) before cutting and bundling them together. Kholil does the sewing while Wiwik assists with finishing (things like sewing on buttons), trimming (getting rid of loose threads) and packaging. There are many seemingly small processes that happen in between the actual sewing of garments and having help with these makes a big difference!
Theo has grown year on year slowly increasing the quantities produced and the number of styles designed. This has provided more work for Kholil and Wiwik to the point where their plan is to run their own business full-time! This is such an exciting example of being able to empower our makers to change their circumstances for themselves and their families which ultimately changes their future! Each Theo garment is sowing into a maker's life much more than just a fair wage (ha, see what I did there?) - it's giving a maker permission to dream! Wow, that sounds incredibly corny but it's the truth. Having your own business is no walk in the park (I will personally testify to that!) but there is an incredible feeling of control and purpose when you have the space and the means to think 'what could be' rather than accepting what is. Unfortunately 'what is' for majority of garment workers around the world is being overworked, underpaid and undervalued in the workplace and having no quality of life outside the workplace.
As you can imagine, going full-time in your own business is a huge step and so Kholil continues to work for another brand while planning and preparing to take the leap. There are times when the workload proves to be too much for Kholil so during these periods Theo garments are sent to his younger brother Riyadi to be sewn by him. These photos were taken in 2016 (?) and Riyadi has since made the leap to work for himself and was able to move back to his hometown in Java (another island of Indonesia)! Note that many Indonesians flock to Bali in search of work and are away from their families for years at a time, so being able to work for yourself has the added benefit of working where you please! The cost of living in Bali is also extremely high compared to neighboring islands, similar to living in a big city in Australia compared to a rural area.
In 2018 Wiwik's younger sister Ghandi joined their family business too! Ghandi left a sewing job in Denpasar city (that she described as 'boring', haha!) to move back home with Kholil and Wiwik and help with the most recent Theo orders. She is improving her sewing skills under the watchful eye of Kholil and also helps with finishing, trimming and packing. The family business is indeed growing and I can't wait for the day when Kholil tells me he has left his other job to run it full-time! It's Theo's mission to continue employing more makers, empowering them and encouraging them that their work is valued, their livelihood is important and that they matter. By supporting Theo, you are an active part of this story - thank you!