A SESSION WITH
August, 16 2016
Image Courtesy ©
Since the early days, Kufed has had the pleasure to be partners with Wakatobi (Est. 2015), Jakarta-based eyewear brand specializing in both optical frames and sunglasses. Yesterday, we were even more delighted to have sat down with the founding fathers of Wakatobi—Eumir Bethbeder, Mario Pattan, and Edmund Carulli—where they shed light on the value behind the brand Wakatobi, the importance of giving back to society and celebrating Indonesia’s local attribute.
Where did the idea of making Wakatobi come from?
We drew from our own cases where we experienced trouble in finding eyewear that fits our facial structure, considering our low nose bridge. In fact, we believe most Indonesians and many people from other Asian countries have a difficult time finding glasses and sunglasses that don’t slide down their noses or rest on their cheekbones, as most eyewear products from international brands are designed to fit features that are not particularly of Asian. That’s why we founded Wakatobi Eyewear as a means to cater Asian, especially Indonesian, features.
Why did you choose Wakatobi as the brand’s name?
We decided to go by the name Wakatobi because we want to defy the fashion brand stigma that tends to employ westernized names. At the time, we even brainstormed through dozens of Indonesia’s local regions, traditional weapons and mountains, before finally came across the information about how people from Bajo tribe—who resided in the islands of Wakatobi, Sulawesi—make their own goggles using wood, glass, and catgut. From there we were inspired to adopt the name Wakatobi for our eyewear line. Besides, it is catchy and easily pronounced by both Indonesians and foreigners alike.
What makes Wakatobi different from other glasses brand in Indonesia? Why do people have to choose Wakatobi?
Firstly, each of Wakatobi’s glasses is created by Indonesian people. Secondly, it is designed foremost with Indonesian facial features in mind. We employ vertical integrated e-commerce, where we design our own glasses; we send the technical drawing to the factory, then we do our own marketing and distribution. Long story short, we cut many channels used by most brands showcased in general optics such as distributor, wholesaler and agent. Instead, we created our eyewear using acetate materials whose quality are as good as those of high-end brands, and typically sold above Rp 2.5 million in general optics. The ones made from titanium are even sold above Rp 4 million. Yet, we sell ours for only Rp 895k—lens included.
What is the idea behind every product’s name? Is there any special story about that?
We want to promote the names of many wonderful destinations in Indonesia. We did some brainstorming and at the same time we also considered everything well, so that those names selected may sound catchy enough for sell. For example, our Malenka is inspired from Majalengka (one of regencies in West Java).
Is there any unique experience that you encounter while running the business?
Many people thought that Wakatobi is a brand originated from Japan. To prevent that kind of fallacy any more, we promote the islands of Wakatobi on our official website and packaging by displaying the map of South East Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Why did you choose to apply “one-price” pricing system?
Yes, we sell our items at just one price, which is Rp 895k — frame and lens included. Again, this system is inspired by our own experiences when we were just little children; we used to encounter troubles in finding that one pair of glasses we loved within the budget given by our parents. That’s why all of Wakatobi’s glasses come in one price. So, there’s no need to worry about which one fits your pocket—you only need to worry about which one fits your face.
Could you tell us how Matamata works and how you decide to whom the donation will be given?
We are grateful for our lean business process, which results in a relatively high margin of profit. Yet, we believe that business is not only about getting profit per se, but also about giving back to society. There has to be a humanity element in our business.
Matamata is a sub-program of Wakatobi project which focuses on our commitment in supporting the eye care industry. Everytime you buy a pair from us, we will donate another pair to the people in need. Because simply, we believe that every individual deserves to enjoy the gift of sight. And together we can make an impact to make it possible.
For some people, eyeglasses are a luxury that they cannot afford. We had done several social services for a number of orphanages in Jakarta and Bogor, where we performed eye examination on the kids there with help from our partners and we gave them eyeglasses for free afterwards.
How would you describe the newest Wakatobi collection?
We released more fashionable designs in our latest collection and also, the lenses on all sunglasses are now polarized ones. There is also this one series, Braga, that uses frame made of Titanium. We have also collaborated with fashion blogger Ayla Dimitri (Wakatobi X Ayla Dimitri), who participated in designing the sunglasses using mirror lens.
Which one is your personal all-time favorite piece from Wakatobi?
Ah, there is no answer to this one, well, at least not an ideal one. Although, we have to say that it might be Natuna. Why? Because it is one of the two frames we first created; it took us about 8 to 9 months in the process. We sort of recall that baby-steps experience rather fondly now.
Talking about sight and view, what is your vision for Wakatobi in the future?
We plan to release approximately 30 to 50 more new collections, as we realized that Indonesians’ facial structure may very well vary with each person. We also want to set deals with international chain hotels to make Wakatobi Sunglasses official merchandise from Indonesia. From social perspective, we wish to collaborate with more designers, artists and musicians in designing our eyeglasess to increase Wakatobi’s brand awareness. Most important of all is that we aspire to organize more Matamata programs in secluded or rural areas in Indonesia, engaging more partnerships from local ophthalmologists and health centers to help our cause in providing better sight for people
*This interview is edited and condensed for clarity and length.