June 20, 2016
Osborn Shoes is basically heaven for those of us who dream of colored flats. Their shoe silhouettes are classic, but their colors and patterns are bold and beautiful. If you don’t already own a couple pairs, chances are you will soon.
Have you always been passionate about design?
Yes, my husband and business partner Aaron Osborn and I (Carla Venticinque-Osborn) were both very creative growing up, and we both have fine art degrees. Aaron still paints and makes music, and I design textiles and make art under the brand PO-EM.
When/Why did you start working in this particular craft/field?
OSBORN officially began in 2009 after we started working with artisans in Guatemala to make products for us to sell at markets in NYC. Prior to that, Aaron was living in Guatemala for a few years teaching art to orphaned children, and during that journey he continually met out of work shoe makers, craftspeople and artisans. Soon a plan was hatched to work with these craftsmen and make products to sell here in NY. So, we designed and made jewelry, scarves and even sold found objects, but when we came back with the shoes, they really took off, and we focused on developing a small business.
Do you have any important insights gained from setbacks?
What we learned from our setbacks is that the business is malleable and you can implement pivots to make it work better for you. The brand has continually evolved since we first started, ebbing and flowing with us in a way where we have learned how to manage it by pruning it over the years so it better fits our vision, personal capacities and lifestyle.
What do you think sets your designs apart from others?
Although shoes are fashion, we try to focus on the beauty of a well made, handcrafted shoe and explore how to make it so that people can actually feel this in touch and wear. I do think we have reached that point in the product through a lot of trial and error. Whether it be made from handwoven textiles or leather, it’s a shoe made in small batches by teams of well-paid artisans – which makes for a stand-out product.
What are some inspirations for your work?
We are currently inspired by sustainable ways to make things, in this case, shoes. We used to use tire soles a few years ago, and are looking for a way to bring this back. We are also totally in love with our no-dye handwoven cottons. The cotton we use is from the coastal region of Guatemala and is one of the few cottons that is not imported into Guatemala.
What has been your proudest/favorite moments since creating your business?
Being included in the GenArt Fresh Faces in Fashion was an honor. Also, it’s so basic, but whenever we see someone wearing our shoes it makes us so so happy. And when Aaron handmade all the sandals for the Mara Hoffman SS16 spring runway show in a pinch, that was pretty badass!
What valuable experience/knowledge did you have before starting your business?
We had none. What a steep learning curve! In 2013, we were selected to participate in the Design Entrepreneurs NYC program and it really filled in knowledge gaps for us on so many levels.
What are some tips or suggestions you’d like to offer to fellow makers?
Take a business or entrepreneur course. Also, work in the field you are interested in prior to going off on your own.
Anything else you’d like to add about your business?
As an extension of our business, Aaron has started to teach shoe workshops in Brooklyn and sell limited editions of shoes handmade here NYC.