Based in Amsterdam, OSIER started out with a mission to create beautiful accessories that are kind to both animals and the planet. Its vegan bags are made from apple waste biomaterial, that gives the feeling of a luxurious plant-based leather, as well as recycled lining fabrics and organic cotton dust bags. We spoke to founder Theresa Jentzsch about her journey to starting a business based on the principals of sustainability, transparency and quality.
What inspired you to launch OSIER?
I always knew that I wanted to run my own company. My parents run their own green energy business, so sustainability and entrepreneurship are part of our family’s DNA. When I turned vegan five years ago, I knew that I had found my calling. Eating a vegan diet felt easy, especially with the abundance of options out there, but bothered me were the fashion choices. It missed luxurious, timeless and chic pieces that made me feel like I didn’t have to choose between ethical and fashionable but instead combine both aspects. This is how the idea of OSIER, a creative and independent brand living for sustainable, timeless and ethical design was born.
What are your sustainable priorities for the business?
Our mission is to revolutionise the fashion industry with a focus on sustainability, transparency and quality. With every business decision we take, we ask ourselves the question if this project, material or design adds to our goal to continuously be better and do better. Sustainability is a journey that’s never complete. We are always on the lookout for the most ethical ways to source and manufacture and collaborate with innovation labs to create new materials for future collections. All that being said, our biggest sustainable priority is creating vegan luxury accessories. We would never use leather or other animal-derived materials for our products.
How has your sustainability strategy developed as you have grown?
After every collection, our team sits down to evaluate the products we just launched and how to move forward. We strive towards a zero-waste design process, plastic-free packaging and the continuous improvement of every product we create with a regard towards quality and sustainability as well as implementing ways that increase the transparency of our supply chain. These are some big goals that encourage me and the beautiful team of women I work with to take big steps each day to better ourselves and OSIER.
How challenging has it been to maintain your brand principles?
Strategically, not challenging at all. Sustainability runs within the DNA of OSIER so maintaining these principles feels very natural. The issues we can run into mostly come up during the sourcing process; as a ‘slow fashion’ label we produce small amounts of products to avoid overproduction. This can be challenging when sourcing materials and hardware since minimum order quantities can often be high.
What have been your biggest milestones and triumphs until now?
I don’t think that there has been one big triumph in the journey of building this brand but multiple small ones instead. The times we get enthusiastic emails and messages from customers who love their bags, the times we meet like-minded people during events and shows that turn from business partners to dear friends, and of course every time we open the boxes containing our bags being shipped from the atelier. Rome wasn’t built in a day and no fashion brand has been either – it’s hard work but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
What have been the main prohibitors to your progress in building a sustainable business?
Most of the time we’re deep in the progress of drawing up mood boards to create new collections and sourcing innovative vegan materials. It’s the work we love doing most, but as a new business in the fashion industry it’s important to create awareness of your brand and what it represents. This can be done in various ways: through social media, press, collaborations with fellow sustainable brands and influencers and so on. Getting our message out there is one of our biggest goals for 2020 and this is why we are so excited about being awarded the Eco-Age brandmark.
Do you feel pressure from your customers to be more environmentally friendly?
Not really. We do get an occasional email asking critical, smart questions but for the most part, people find the information they need with regards to our manufacturing process, the materials we use and the certifications we have on our website and social media channels. We are seeing a tendency towards conscious consumption and I am very happy that consumers are a lot more interested in how products are made and what materials are being used nowadays.
What advice would you give to anyone hoping to launch a sustainable business?
I truly believe that most of the innovations we will see in the near future will happen around sustainability because now more than ever, there is a real and desperate urgency for them. So, if you have a great idea to make this world better and if you would like to contribute to the positive change that needs to happen, go for it! There are so many ways you can make an impact, whether you’re a consumer, activist or entrepreneur.
Which other sustainable businesses have inspired you?
As I previously mentioned, my parents, their vision and their business in renewable energy fills me with great pride and is a daily source of inspiration for me. I love to see when dreams and a big vision create change in the world and make it better.
Within the industry, I count myself lucky to know many beautiful, inspirational, hard working women who share my vision of a green fashion industry and world such as the great Mireia, founder of the vegan show brand Mireia Playà, as well as my dear friend Chanel Trapman who created a brilliant documentary about the fashion industry called ‘The Chain of Change’ and many more.
Read more from our Bringing Business to Life series.
Discover more of our favourite ethical and sustainable handbag brands.
Find out everything you need to know about real leather versus faux.