Eco-friendly fashion is the future, at least that’s where Nana Boateng Osei says it’s heading.
Sustainability and design are two things that Osei has always been passionate about. A full-time entrepreneur, he’s had many interesting ideas — a limousine service, a trade show and a vertical garden — although only one really worked out.
“When I went back to Ghana, my home country, a couple of years back, I got motivated to do something with the natural outdoors, because for me the natural outdoors are luxury,” says Osei.
He used his degree in environmental science and the fashion sense he gained from growing up in a “fashionable family” to come up with the idea of an eco-friendly eyewear company.
New York-raised and Canada-based Osei got inspired to create his own ”green” company from Greenhouse Nightclub, the first eco-friendly nightclub to hit New York. His Ghanaian roots, love for nature and the legacy of his grandfather, who was a land surveyor in the ’60s, all came together. The designer decided to incorporate eyewear into the project, as he thought glasses are very noticeable on a person and are a form of expression. He wanted his glasses to make as much of an impact as the clothes people wear.
The final product is Bôhten Eyewear, an “eco-luxury eyewear line” that uses reclaimed wood, like tables and cabinet doors, from West Africa to produce its frames. Osei debuted the company on the television show Dragons’ Den. Invest Ottawa helped him prepare by practicing the pitch over and over to gain the confidence to be able to answer any grueling questions the Dragons might have. Osei asked the panel of investors for $75,000 for 20 per cent of his business, and although he didn’t make the deal because they thought the company was still fairly new, he was able to get exposure for the brand.
“It wasn’t really about whether we got the deal or not. My biggest lesson was just to be ready for questions,” he says.
Osei explains that he admires and is inspired by will power and perseverance: his two biggest inspirations are Kobe Bryant and the eyewear company SUPER.
The designer hopes Bôhten will take part in more events in the upcoming months to raise awareness and let people know what the future for the company looks like. They recently wrapped up a networking event with RAW Toronto, an organization that helps emerging talent and artists. In the near future, Bôhten will also introduce the option of customizing the types of lenses. They will also be updating the Barklae line, their most popular line to-date, to be sleeker, smaller and trendier. Some customer feedback says that all their glasses are very large, and even though that’s in-style, Osei wants to be attentive to his clients’ needs.
Osei’s main plan has always been to move the manufacturing plant to Ghana, in order to create jobs in his home country; he wants to supply fashionable glasses by maintaining social responsibility. The designer notes that, “things are right in line” for the manufacturing process to be transferred to Africa.
“My sister lives in Vancouver, and my brother lives in Ghana. But that’s kind of how we’ve always lived; I come from a family that has travelled a lot, so it’s normal for us,” he says. With help from his brother and sister, Osei suspects this summer will be the company’s best.
The glasses are currently available through 12 retail partners nationwide and through Bôhten’s online store.