Carla and Aaron Osborn met doing nonprofit work in Guatemala. They would eventually marry and move to Brooklyn—but first, down to business. Working with the materials from their newfound community in Guatemala, the pair founded Osborn Studio, trying out designing shirts and ceramics and what they call “cultivated wood” (beautiful gnarled chunks and knots from trees) before deciding on shoes. “We started with a simple shoe and one cobbler. He was able to make us only ten pairs a week, which was a lot for him.” When the couple brought the shoes back to the States the reception was so overwhelmingly positive that they returned to Guatemala to expand their team of artisans. Working with local tanneries and cobblers, Carla and Aaron are involved in every step of the process, customizing the shoes to their exact specifications—like, for instance, making them big enough for American feet. They’re designing and weaving their own fabric now too, instead of relying on found scraps of vintage shirts.
Both desigers are traditionally educated fine artists, but, they explained, “A painting is a limited product. Only we can make it. With the shoes we can put together a shop and give more people work. We want to weave a social fabric.” The business model is cultivating a real community of supporters: The shoes are currently being sold in boutiques like OAK in New York, and the designers have collaborated with Samantha Pleet. And the potential is limitless, one foot before the other.