story by Julia Steele
photo by Brad Goda
In 2001, Eric Gamundoy was wandering in a Barnes & Noble when he stumbled on a book called How to Make Soap. He was intrigued. Soap was just one of those things, like toothpaste, he’d always taken for granted—he’d never thought about how you actually make it. “It started a fascination,” he recalls. In those days, he was a helicopter rescue diver in the Coast Guard in California, but not long after, he returned home to Hawai‘i and met a woman named Love Chance. He confided that he dreamt of making soap. “Then just do it,” she urged.
Was it love? Chance? Whatever the force, it compelled Eric to buy some old pots at Goodwill, a little oil and lye and to create his first batch. “Gnarly,” he describes it with a look that is half-grimace, half-grin. But how things change. These days Eric and Love are married, with a daughter, and together they are creating some of the finest, purest and most creative soap around. “Our focus is to use natural things and to educate,” says Eric as he swirls together oils and herbs, a fragrant mix born of olives, kukui nuts, aloe, ginger, turmeric, oranges and limu (seaweed). The mix will go into the ninety bars of ‘aina Eric is in the midst of crafting—‘aina being the Indigenous Soap Company’s most popular soap and the Indigenous Soap Company being the evolutionary end point of that day in the bookstore.
Love studied la‘au lapa‘au, traditional Hawaiian healing through herbs, under a kumu (teacher) at the University of Hawai‘i; much of what she learned led directly to Indigenous’ bars, all of which lather richly and cheer the skin. In addition to ‘aina, there’s citrus-y Mama‘o and Nïoi, made with chili peppers. Soaps from beyond Hawaiian traditions include Wise Old Soap, made with Native American favorite, sage; and The Heavyweights, a potent combo of European-favored lavender and rosemary. “When we say “indigenous,” we don’t mean only Hawai‘i,” says Eric. “Everybody’s indigenous to someplace. Indigenous is going back to your roots, back to understanding that we are all connected to the earth.” HH
Indigenous Soap Company