TOPIKU: The World's Most Sustainable Hat
Besides being an all round cool guy, Monty has started the world's most sustainable snapback hat that not only makes you look super fly but also give you that feel good factor! As you'll find out, sustainability is more than just recycling, it's also about positively impacting other people's lives! Read on...!
GS - Lets start at the beginning - What’s your name, how old are you and where are you from?
MH - Hey George! Thanks for having me. My name is Monty Hasan, I'm 22 years old and I'm from San Diego, California. I am the Founder and CEO of Topiku.
GS - Tell us what Topiku is and how it started.
MH - Topiku means 'my hat' in Indonesian. We create the world's most sustainable snapback hats sourced entirely from upcycled + recycled materials. Each hat is ethically handcrafted in the village of Desa Rahayu, Cigondewah, Indonesia.
The idea for Topiku was born in the summer of 2014 while working at a non-profit organization called XS project. After seeing the insane amount of trash that was present in Jakarta's slums and the amount of wasted raw materials, I was inspired to collect and transform these neglected materials into a new product. Originally, I pitched these hats to XS Project, but they rejected my idea.
Fast forward to March 2015: I had put the idea on the backburner and didn’t consider developing it further. However, while meeting up with an old friend, I casually showed him some samples of my failed idea; I didn't think that they made much of an impression until he texted me the next day saying...
Anthony became my business partner and a few months of preparation led to our January 2016 Kickstarter where we broke our goal and raised $20,990! So officially, we've been around for a little over a year.
GS - Amazing! Can you give us a breakdown of the various recycled and up-cycled materials that are being used?
MH - We carefully choose which materials to include in our hats to ensure they are all one-of-a-kind pieces; our process of upcycling helps to divert materials from ending up as waste in landfills.
The first thing you might notice is our leather patch and strap — those are both sourced from scraps of shoe and belt artisans in the neighboring community of Cibaduyut.
Next comes the base of the hat and brim. Both consist of cotton fabrics sourced from excess cotton jacket cuts and batik uniform manufacturing.
And last but certainly not least: our brim is made of recycled buckets. These buckets are salvaged from landfills, crushed into small bits, washed and dried, and then molded to form a bill—everything is sourced from waste.
GS - We both know Batik is dope but for those who don’t know tell us what Batik is and what different types are you using.
MH - Batik is a traditional Indonesian method of wax-dyeing cloth. The finished designs showcase unique snapshots of each Batik artisan’s style. Some pieces can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on their colour, intricacy, size, and purpose. Each piece exhibits its own significance, with traditional themes, motifs, and patterns that can be unique to a particular region, kabupaten , or even desa (village).
The traditional art of wax-dyeing batik has been dying (no pun intended), replaced with modern technology that can print patterns much more efficiently. Regardless, these printed fabrics still represent the same values and ideas.
Our hats feature printed batik that is upcycled from garment waste - typically leftover cuts of large orders for purposes such as uniform manufacturing. As the waste is usually sourced from West Java, many of the patterns are from an area called Cirebon.
GS - What is the process of putting the hat together? Collection to completion.
MH - Because we believe in the necessity of using alternative waste materials and confidently know where they are sourced, we start with a thorough collection process.
Old buckets are an abundance in the landfills. Villagers in Desa Rahayu, first collect the buckets from the surrounding areas. Afterwards, they are washed, and dried in the sun in order to prepare them for the recycling process. Next, they are melted and formed into brims. We recycle buckets by transforming them into a completely new item -
The rest of the materials — leather scraps, excess garment fabric — are upcycled from various manufacturers’ waste in the area. Upon collection, the leather materials are then cut into patches and straps. Next, Kang Ahmed, our leather design specialist artisan, embosses both the leather pieces as well as our buckles with our logo.
After the leather is completed, they are given to the skilled sewers who cut the fabric to the right measurements and assemble the pieces together into a hat. Finally, a couple sews our manufacturing label on the inside.
As you can probably tell, it literally takes a whole village.
We always try to minimize our leftover waste, so the leftover batik cuts are saved to be used as pockets on shirts.
The final product is then shipped to the US (typically through an extra checked-in bag of mine at the airport haha).
GS - How are these hats supporting the local economy and ensuring the well-being of the people involved?
MH - What’s so amazing about the area around Bandung is that it is filled with dozens of villages who specialize in diverse industries - typically related to textiles or manufacturing. Cigondewah is one such region that is laser-focused on hat-making. Within Cigondewah, we collaborate with a particular neighborhood called Desa Rahayu.
Our main point of contact and leader of the group - Kang Asep - has been able to grow his family’s hat-making business to a successful artisan enterprise through a combination of ingenuity, community-building, and a keen focus on the supply chain. He utilizes a community-oriented profit-sharing scheme, consistently reinvesting it into his communities. Furthermore, he is the only employer of women in the area, allowing them to work near or in the comfort of their own home, enabling them to develop a relationship with their children while working.
After several trips with these hat specialists throughout the area, we can, without a doubt, proclaim that they are definitely the most community-oriented artisan group and have cultivated a clear sense of economic development within their local ecosystem - creating hundreds of jobs and re-investing all earned profits back to community development.
We pay a premium for each hat made - almost double of what they usually cost. By providing an incentive for them to use waste, we demonstrate that environmentally sustainable business is not only socially sound, but also economically sound too. As we continue to grow, we seek to expand this dimension of ecological stewardship in partnership with Bang Sano, who runs Waste4Change, a social enterprise with a mission to cultivate a culture of responsible waste management practices across Indonesia.
Despite it taking an entire village to make these products a reality, we are proud to say that it is all done with an ethos of economically- and environmentally- sustainable practices.
GS - What’s in development for Topiku? Where would you like the company to be in a years time?
MH - Currently, we are developing “dad hats” or golf/baseball hats. However, we’re not just limited to that style. We’re working towards developing a diverse product lineup that features all sorts of caps, bigger sun hats, and everything in between, all crafted from trash or other less impactful, alternative sources.
Beyond a clothing brand, we aspire to be an ambassador and voice for these villages; we believe that awareness of business models that are both environmentally and economically sound can serve as inspiring blueprints for other like-minded entrepreneurs. Currently, we’ve already received multiple requests from several other companies - typically other sustainable or eco-minded brands - to manufacture their hats. In the near future, we hope to be the sort of 'sustainable middle man’ between international companies and these village manufacturers for sustainable production.
GS - And lastly, tell us where to buy these beautiful hats and your social media handles!
MH - You can find our newest batch on our website, topiku.co, or by visiting us at any pop up shop. You can find out these locations by following us on Instagram + Twitter @topikuhats, or by visiting our Facebook Page.
GS - Thanks Monty and Good luck!