Why Inka Williams Is Basically the Gigi Hadid of Bali
APRIL 13, 2017 11:40 PM
by BROOKE BOBB
How exactly does someone who grew up on an island overlooking the Indian Ocean define a style influencer? Against the serene palm tree–dotted backdrop of Bali, that title has been claimed by 17-year-old Inka Williams, a doe-eyed, dirty-blonde IMG model with more than 870,000 followers on Instagram. To put that into context for those of us who live on main lands, Williams is like the Balinese version of Gigi Hadid.
She started modeling about two years ago, and having just finished school, plans to move to London in May to work at it full time. You can tell that Williams was raised in paradise—her attitude is all Zen. But don’t mistake her for a beach bum. Even though she does spend much of her time barefoot and in bikinis, Williams is a diehard fashion fan. She and her friends love to wear lacy crop tops and sneakers, and slogan tees and ripped jeans, often from streetwear labels like Champion and Adidas; at the local thrift market, finding a piece of Moschino or Prada is like uncovering buried treasure in the sand.
Here, Williams talks about dressing up for house parties, digging for vintage gold, and her hometown’s freeing no-judgment policy. Bali may be more than an 18-hour plane ride from sprawling cities like New York or Los Angeles, but to Williams, it’s as cool as any fashion capital. After all, she’s the one leading the style charge, proving that an It girl can be found anywhere in the world—even paradise.
Tell me a bit about your personal style.
Living in Bali, my style has always been pretty casual. However, as soon as I step into a party or a social environment, I love taking things to an edgier level by adding jewelry and maybe a cute pair of heeled boots or sneakers. Unfortunately, stilettos don’t work with our uneven pavements or the grass, so I usually arrive at an event wearing them but end up barefoot after 30 minutes.
Have you always been interested in fashion? How did you learn about it while living in Bali?
I never used to care about what I wore, but when I started modeling, I really developed a massive passion for style and fashion. Also, I think growing up during a time when Instagram was on the rise really gave me the opportunity to explore fashion in big cities like New York, Paris, and London. As soon as I was old enough to understand what Prada meant, I couldn’t stop stealing my mom’s magazines and ripping out all of the pages to stick on my bedroom walls.
Who is your personal style muse?
My favorite fashion muses at the moment would probably have to be the supermodel queens of today: Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Gigi Hadid. Their style is all about streetwear, which is my favorite. I have also always been a fan of Victoria’s Secret Angel Candice Swanepoel. I love the way that she dresses when she travels to tropical places—she looks flawless when she’s wearing nothing but a pastel sarong.
What is the fashion scene like?
Most of my friends are like me and grew up on the island. There are eight international schools and 65 different nationalities of expat kids in each that all know one another. Our little community of Bali kids is really into fashion. The house parties are our times to shine when it comes to getting dressed up. But then the next day we end up at the beach with a $2 dress from the market and a pair of rubber sandals. It really depends on the day—one day you will feel like leaving the house looking like Kylie Jenner and the next you don’t care at all about what you wear. For me, it’s the perfect balance. And the best thing about it is that no one ever judges your style here.
What’s the biggest fashion trend in Bali right now?
In my group of friends, streetwear is huge. Anything denim, gray, camo, burgundy, khaki, and a lot of orange is all very popular, as are brands like Adidas, Champion, Hilfiger, Bape, Supreme, and Gucci. You can’t find many of those labels in Bali though—most of us shop for it when we travel over to Australia. But you can sometimes find cool designer labels if you dig at the local vintage markets, which is usually what I love to do.
What are some of your favorite local shops?
My number one go-to is a secret local vintage market. I once found a vintage Moschino one-piece for $10—locals rarely know about the brands, and so they just sell them for what they think is a decent price. The most expensive pair of Levi’s jeans or a Champion hoodie will be priced at $8. They get a lot of their pieces from all of the different factories around Asia, and the items are usually rejects or samples, but they’re all legit. Also, Indah Clothing is one of my favorite Bali-based brands, as well as Bamboo Blonde. If I ever need to find an outfit for a nice dinner, that’s usually where I go.
Are there any young local designers that you admire?
Yes, definitely! Many of the older kids that I went to school with are doing so well. Growing up around such a variety of people and cultures helps feed people’s aesthetic and creativity. Actually, my best friends Reo, Franny, and I started our own crochet swimwear label called Akoia when we were just 14 or so. Reo’s mother, who is in retail, now oversees it, but we are all still very much involved in the design process.
Resort is a keyword people tend to use when describing Bali style. Do you think this aesthetic applies to the cool, fashion-forward locals you know?
I personally am not into resort clothes. As I said though, you can really find it all here. For me, as long as people are dressing to show their personality, then I think that’s great. Everyone is unique and you should wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.