Have you ever dreamt of having a studio in the middle of paradise?
If so, you may be a little envious of Braxton Garma!
Braxton is the owner and shoemaker behind the new slow shoemaking company called KōNEA.
Born and raised in Kaua'i, Hawai'i, it is clear that he is very passionate about his culture
and his surroundings have been huge source of inspiration in his work and design philosophy.
Tell us about yourself...
Braxton Garma | Kaua'i, Hawai'i | 30 | Owner & Slow Shoemaker of KōNEA Footwear and Head of footwear innovation at The Foot Collective
My life before discoveing my love of shoemaking was in the marketing and direct sales field. However, I have always been a creative because of my parents influence and the artisan environment I was exposed to at a young age. I grew up in the town that inspired Disney's "Lilo & Stitch". It has a aura of Hawaii's vintage plantation days of the 60's. A haven for art shops & artisans to showcase their talents. Attracting over a million visitors a year with a local town population of barely 2k people.
If you were a shoe what type of shoe would you be?
If I was a shoe I would be a Greek sandal because of the freedom of movement it allows. I don't enjoy the feeling of being boxed in.
What inspired you to take a classes at Art and Sole?
Three years ago I was inspired to take a course at Art and Sole Academy because it allowed me to learn one on one from Jennifer. Who has a wealth of knowledge and to borrow her experience of being immersed in the footwear industry. I did a 10 day intensive course and was able to complete 4 shoemaking projects.
How have you continued to practice the craft?
Since completing the 10 day intensive course at Art and Sole Academy. I have created a small direct to consumer shoemaking business called KōNEA Footwear. KōNEA translated from the Hawaiian language means "restore to health" and developed a niche called slow shoemaking. Slow shoemaking focuses on encouraging slower production schedules, creating footwear manually with every pair being completed by a single pair of hands, being customer service driven, reducing the carbon footprint of manufacturing and being transparent through the entire process.
Konea Client fitting with Braxton
What type of materials do you prefer working with?
I enjoy working with vegetable tanned leather because its a natural biodegradable material with few limitations. It can be shaved, roughed up, dyed, oiled, dried, embossed, molded etc... Once we get to the level that plant based material can be made without being compromised by harmful chemicals & additives. I'll definitely be in line to get on that train.
Molding Veg tan toe puffs in the Art and Sole studio
How would you define your style?
I would define my shoemaking style as "minimal is more". Striking the balance of not compromising the human foot, yet aesthetically pleasing.
Kūkini Pono Unisex Leather sandal available for purchase via www.wayofkonea.com
What’s next for you!?!
What's next for me? That's a great question, over this past few years I have realized there is only so many shoes my hands can make in a year and be able to enjoy the paradise outside of my makerspace. I am currently developing a slow shoemaking Initiative. The root of it is to collaborate & connect with other like minded people from around the globe who enjoy making anything with their hands. Evolving a virtual course and have that individual serve their community with manually crafted footwear made the KōNEA way. Phil Evans our first independant slow shoemaker is based out of New South Wales, Australia. He has been working virtually with me for almost 10 months and will be up and running at the end of the month.
An assortment of shoe lasts - The form used to buy the shape and silhouette of the shoe
How can we follow along with your next steps?
To stay connected and updated on my journey you can find me on Instagram and/or Facebook @wayofkonea.
Curious about KōNEA Footwear? Visit my online shop at www.wayofkonea.com.