In 2015, Sydney-born Kim Soo had been living in Bali for about three years, and she'd got to know some of the island’s local artists and producers. Inspired by their beautiful wares – both modern and traditional – she wanted to share these goods with others.
Her vision came to life via a small store and cafe housed in a pretty, Dutch colonial-style building in Bali’s vibrant Seminyak area.
From that tiny locale Kim Soo has grown into a global business with an associated photo studio, international clients, an online store and now an eponymous Melbourne boutique in Collingwood.
Although far from the beach resorts of Seminyak, Collingwood proved the right place for a store that caters to Melbourne’s design-conscious. It’s in what was previously an art gallery, on a boutique-lined laneway behind Smith Street.
The homewares in the Collingwood store are from across the Indonesian archipelago. Though it’s hard for Soo to pick favourite pieces, rare vintage items hold special appeal.
“Right now, our Collingwood store has the most exquisite vintage batik tables that we sourced from Java. I can just picture them in someone’s home, surrounded by people all having the most wonderful time,” she says.
The store also stocks Gertrude, Kim Soo’s silk ready-to-wear label.
“Having lived in Seminyak for many years, and now living between there and Melbourne, you couldn’t get two more opposite places. There are a lot of stylish, beautiful ways to do Bali and I think that speaks to ‘the love of living’ that is so apparent among the people here,” she says. “The people of Indonesia are creating things that are not only beautiful but accessible. We often refer to our products as pieces that have soul and it’s to do with the fact that the majority of our products are handcrafted.”
Soo runs both the Seminyak and Collingwood stores with her daughter Giorgia, so cultivating relationships with family-run suppliers and artisans is elemental to the way Kim Soo stores look, feel and operate.
“As the business has grown, so have our relationships with artisans and suppliers. They’re relationships we’ve always nurtured so it’s been beautiful to watch them and their own businesses develop,” says Soo. “In the beginning, I would buy six or so seagrass baskets from a local supplier and slowly my orders grew.
“Just recently [that supplier] built a huge warehouse with 100 staff in Denpasar. There’s a lot of fulfilment in working and growing with the local community in this way.”
Rear 244 Smith Street, Collingwood
0405 827 984