Who: Aaron and Carla Osborn
What did you do before launching your own line/what is your fashion background?
After graduating from RISD, I moved to Guatemala and was working with NGO’s , organizing various art programs. There we would teach disadvantaged kids silk screening and make great shirts and bags. Our fashion background stems from our fine art background. We were supporting ourselves as fine artists, selling paintings, drawing and prints.
How did the line come to be?
I wanted to start to use the talent I was engaged with in Guatemala for economic development, and community growth. Running aid, and working with non-profits, most of the older men I was interacting with were out of work cobblers and tailors. I had always wanted to make shirts and shoes. So, we just started to make shoes. I had a vast collection of Huipile, Cortes, and other various folk weavings. I had always been trying to use these weavings in a new way. I thought that using them with classic shoe shapes would be killer, and I think it still is!
What has been your biggest challenge?
Owning our own production. Organizing the work force, and dealing with Guatemalan law and gangs, while maintaining our standards has been very difficult, and continues to be our biggest challenge.
What’s the ballsiest thing you’ve had to do to for your business?
The ballsiest, well, I don’t if I can talk about it. (Let me just say, the gangs of Guatemala are no joke, and you need to protect your people and keep them safe.) The second ballsiest thing we did was dumping every last penny we had into our Guatemalan production while we were still uncertain of sales. We simply had to keep all our peeps working.
Where do you see Osborn Design five years from now?
I’d like to see us grow in production. Our goal is to do good with good design. I want to keep growing our workforce as this strengthens the communities we work with, and provides economic development. We are starting to branch out and use our workforce to manufacture other items besides shoes. We want to start producing Jeans for a designer friend of mine, and I’d love to see Osborn be associated with killer craft and ethical manufacturing.
We are also getting our hands deep into weaving textiles. We work exclusively with wooden foot looms, and don’t use any electricity (see video of one of our fabrics being made).
What advice would you give to an aspiring designer?
Be courageous, and be flexible.