The Team : Yoki P. Baskara, Co-founder
Yoki with his first gen Alpha 15.
We sat down with our introvert co-founder (it took much longer than necessary to get this one shot) to learn more about the inner workings behind Cravar. He was supposed to write this himself, but given the many delays and ridiculous excuses (this post was scheduled for 2016), we decided to form it in a Q&A.
Let’s start with the basics, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m from Jakarta, Indonesia. At Cravar, I’m in charge of design, supplies, production, managing the team, and for the most part communicating with our customers. If you send us an email, Instagram DM, Whatsapp messages, etc, I'll be the one who answers.
I studied architecture for two years, I didn't finish that one, but I credit it for influencing me on how I approach my designs. I then went on to study politics in Bandung, and then finance in the Netherlands. I love photography, old manual cameras like Leica M3 & Rolleiflex and analogue photography in general, a hobby that sadly has been all but neglected these days.
What first got you interested in leather goods?
I was about to start college, I saw this amazing leather bag, can't remember the brand now, and I couldn't afford it anyway.My initial thought was not how bad I wanted it, but how I wanted to be able to make something as beautiful as that bag. But being too excited about going to college, I didn't think much about it then.
During a study break, I went backpacking to Italy. In Florence, I saw old shops stacked with rows and piles of leather goods; notebooks, bags, etc. That was the moment that reignited my fascination with leather. I was in awe and must've spent hours in those shops.
I began learning more about leather after that trip. Back then it was more of a hobby. The first business I started was instead a photography studio. That doesn't mean I've forgotten about leather goods. It has always been in the back of my mind. I did mostly wedding photography and the first leather goods I made was a leather photo album for my wedding clients. I've since sold the studio and started Cravar in 2013.
Cravar, what was the thinking behind it, what’s driving you?
Initially the idea was simple, I just wanted to make good leather bags. Good enough that it can be accepted by people from all over the world as high quality goods.
As I found out, it's a big challenge, and being based in Indonesia and being an on-line business, made it even harder. How can we convince people that the leather goods from this small brand (for now!) from a far flung country, is actually good? I believe the key is putting quality first in everything we do, the materials; the craftsmanship and as a business, the customer service, quality has to be the motivation behind it. From a practical point of view, it means that we'd need a platform that can help us introduce our bags to a global audience.
How did you proceed?
We started with the materials. Aside from being a brand from Indonesia, we also wanted to highlight that most of the supplies we use are also homegrown. It would have been easier for us to purchase leather from an established tannery, say in the US, UK or Italy, but we wanted the finished goods to be as Indonesian as possible. Obviously it goes without saying that not only are they sourced locally, but the quality is also have to be great.
We partnered with a good friend of mine, Max, who owns a small tannery and I relentlessly kept bugging him to try different techniques to achieve the leather we wanted. I love that he took it as a challenge instead of a nuisance and the result was the full grain vegetable tanned leather processed by pit tanning. We wouldn’t have been able to do this with other tanneries here, as most are settled in how they do things.
As for our craftsmanship. We knew that if we want to be sure of our quality, we have to make them ourselves. We set up our own workshop from the start. Our team members have decades of experience between them, but my main criteria when I was building my team was not how skilled they are but that they have to be open minded and be willing to learn. This is because we do a lot of small things in making our bags that's not commonly done, at least not here.
You can make the best thing in the world, but if your customer service sucks, that will be the lasting impression on your customers. I think it's key that we go the extra mile to make people be at ease from the moment they visit our website, make a purchase, to the time the goods arrive and beyond
I mentioned earlier about a platform to introduce our bags, well in 2013, we officially launched Cravar through Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site. Our first project there was a success, and since then we've gone back to Kickstarter every now and then. In total we've received funding for about USD 180K but more importantly we've shipped to about 1000 satisfied backers (that's what customers are referred to at Kickstarter) from 50+ countries and it continued on from there. I really love the idea that from our small workshop just outside Jakarta, our bags are going places all over the world.
Where do you find inspiration and how do you realize them into Cravar goods?
My travels, though I don't get to do a lot of it these days, meeting interesting people and movies. Creating designs that work well, that make sense, while also aesthetically pleasing. Designs without unnecessary distractions, clutter and embellishments that will work and look great for years.
Making the pieces look nice wouldn't mean much if they don’t serve their purpose. I believe we achieved a good balance between them. If something doesn’t serve a purpose we took it out, and things that do, have to be done properly. A bit of form follows function I suppose. If you’re still using your Cravar bags years from now, that means we have achieved our goal.
What’s the best part of running Cravar?
Watching the company grew to where we are now, and the possibilities of where we could be heading to. My absolute favorite, however, is hearing back from customers that they're happy with their bags and having discussion with them on how we can improve our collection. Our bags have gone through some changes since they were initially launched, and a large part of that is due to receiving feedbacks and suggestions from our customers.