To simplify shopping for green-minded consumers, the Osklen company has introduced e-commerce.
The company’s founder, Oskar Metsavaht, has been championing sustainability for years, having developed environmentally friendly practices and products, including a few sourced from the Amazon Forest. The company also consults with other brands to help them improve their environmentalism.
The ramped-up digital focus is partially due to management changes that were put in place at the end of last year. At that time, the Alpargatas Group, which owns 60 percent of Osklen with Metsavaht owning the other 40 percent, named Robert Funari, a member of the parent company’s board of directors, as chief executive officer. The parent company also owns the Brazilian footwear and accessories label Havaianas.
To try to gain more shoppers, Osklen will be expanding its sustainable basics collection and more accessories and shoes made from eco-friendly materials from the Amazon Forest, Metsavaht said. “The project to relaunch e-commerce is set for March and the Osklen headquarters will move to Los Angeles to be based with Havaianas,” said Metsavaht, adding that the company will maintain its New York office in SoHo.
“It’s very difficult to position our brand coming from South America because it is not the center of the fashion industry. But we have very interesting regional concepts and proposals to bring to fashion consumers. We’re going to work more in the U.S. market,” he said.
With a flagship in Rio de Janeiro, Osklen has seen interest from shoppers from Europe and Asia, who can get a better understanding of the concepts behind the brand and the elements of style, Metsavaht said. To emphasize how sustainable items can be stylish, he noted how Gisele Bündchen has been photographed with a Osklen bag. “People think sustainable has to look like granola. I said to my team, ‘C’mon let’s show them what we’ve done.’”
Turning to researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, he gave them access to his company’s sustainable practices and numbers, and now a book is in the works, he said.
Sustainability is new societal behavior for the 21st century, according to the Osklen founder, who is a UNESCO ambassador for sustainability. “A consumer has to decide to make the choice of having a product or service that is sustainable or not. First of all, you have to be intellectually cultured to understand why it’s important to choose a socially responsible, environmental, sustainable product. With most consumers, it’s about price, quality, avant-garde design and things like that,” he said.
Another factor is the expense of sustainable products, which is primarily due to the lack of scale, according to Metsavaht. “We can see now that sustainability is trendy with all these luxury brands using faux-fur,” Metsavaht said. He also noted how Millennials are more conscientious about their choices. “I really think sustainability shouldn’t be a choice — it should come from the manufacturers, the designers.”