There’s an expanse between a craftsperson making beautiful work and the demands and pace of a global fashion market. Carla and I have walked through that expanse. I think it’s called the valley of the shadow of death.
I had been captivated. This idea that I could start partnering and working with these guys, my translators from way up in the highlands. I thought, we could make work together, and I have access to markets they don’t, and hopefully we can create a steady income. So I went and silk screened ten yards of fabric, brought them to my tailor friend, and we went over the pattern of the shirt to be sewn. I was about to learn about garment production, and basically all production the hard way, through day to day experience.
After reviewing the pattern or the shirt, the quantity of fabric I supplied, and the cost of such work, my tailor/translator friend agreed that I would return in a week, and pick up 5 shirts. The week came and went, I drove up to the village and found my tailor/translator friend. My fabric was still rolled up, not even touched. We chatted, and I asked what happened. Well, there are a lot of responsibilities that this man had; farming, family and duties to his neighbors and community. OK, no worries. I’ll come back in a week. I did. Same result. This went on for four weeks. I finally came to realize, that if I wanted this done, I would need to pre purchase the shirts. My eyes were opened even more. This tailor/farmer lived so close to the edge of poverty that he could not afford to spend time on my shirts with only the promise that I would come back and purchase them. (It made me wonder how many times things like this had happened). I prepaid for the shirts, and hoped to return in a week, and collect the goods. To this day, I still think my fabric might be somewhere in the highlands surrounding Lake Atitlan, rolled up, and waiting.
But I was determined. This was my calling. In the meantime, I had been busy. I fell in love, got engaged, and was talking with a dozen craftspeople throughout Guatemala. My wife, Carla, decided to join me on this adventure. We started designing products together, and run around Guatemala finding individuals or co-ops who could produce the goods. It was during one of these trips that we were walking through an artist market in Antigua, and I spotted a pair of shoes that struck my curiosity.
Well, it would be a while before we became an exclusive footwear producer. We were still dabbling with a few products. Ceramic pottery, we were calling “Potheads”, scarves and textiles produced with organic cotton and natural dyes, jewelry made from seeds and stones, and shoes. My wife and I moved to NYC to be close to her mother who had just lost her husband(Carla just loosing her father). While in NYC, we brought all our goods to a little market a friend of a friend was starting. The market was called “The Brooklyn Flea”. This market really kick started our business.
At the Brooklyn Flea, we sold and sold products. But what got all the attention were the shoes. This was a unique idea, and attracted the attention of buyers who frequented the market. We were approached by a Japanese company. They asked if I could make fifty pairs of a boot I made. Sure I said, not realizing what that actually meant. I was using vintage and antique huipil in the shoes, and some of these weaving techniques had been forgotten or lost over the past thirty years or so. With that order, we went to Guatemala, and started searching for a weaver who had knowledge about this particular technique. We also got an uncle involved.
I hope with these entries, to be completely honest and transparent, and share the journey of Osborn. We entered the fashion market, and were kinda side swiped. Not knowing the industry, we felt intimidated, despite our accolades and success. It made for uneasy times and a struggle to know ourselves. With these blog entries I hope to share our story, so you the reader and consumer can know exactly who we are and what we do, what we believe in and what we hope to do with our projects. At the heart of our work is love for communities who find themselves struggling socio-economically.