CURATOR JOSÉ TEUNISSEN IN CONVERSATION WITH OSKAR METSAVAHT
Oskar Metsavaht is internationally renowned as one of the forerunners of the ‘new luxury’ concept that advocates conscious fashion and sustainable luxury. According to him, a brand is identified as luxurious if it involves so-called noble values. These, however, imply social concern and the preservation of natural resources for the next generations.
Sustainability has always been on the agenda of his projects and part of Metsavaht’s path. In the early 2000s, he launched E-brigade, a movement that aims to raise awareness and to spread environmental information, thus transforming concepts into attitudes.
Metsavaht is also the founder of the Instituto-e, which develops projects about e-fabrics. In partnership with other companies, institutions and research centers, he identifies fabrics and materials that are developed based on socio-environmental criteria, such as fish leather, Amazonian jute, silk straw fibers, latex, and organic cotton.
Design, art and sustainability compound the universe of Osklen that represents the vision of "new luxury" = ethics + aesthetics.
Jose: How did you get inspired to use fish leather?
Oskar: ‘’Osklen specialises in luxury products made from sustainable materials. Design, art and sustainability compound the universe of Osklen that represents the vision of "new luxury" = ethics + aesthetics. Pirarucu fish skin is totally aligned with this thought , so I decided to include it in our collections.
At Instituto-E we keep searching for sustainable solutions such as raw materials that can be used by the industry while generating a positive social and environmental impact. Usually fish skin has no use in the food industry, it becomes waste. That’s why Osklen increased its use of pirarucu fish skin 16 x in the last ten years. Today 48% of the leather used in Osklen’s accessories are made from fish skin
Taking in consideration that our partner in the fashion industry, Osklen, acts in the new luxury concept always adapting its manufacturing so that it generates the minimal social and environmental impact possible, using fish skin as leather was a logic step.’’
Jose: And which fish is used and why?
Oskar: ‘’We chose to use mainly Pirarucu´s skin as leather for many reasons, the main one is that by been a Brazilian species we can track the entire productive chain, mapping from the carbon footprint to its impact on the locals lives.
Its capture is made in a conscious and non-predatory way that respects environment law and procreation periods. The tanning process of Pirarucu’s Bio-leather is made with natural dyers, avoiding chromium salts, which are extremely toxic and polluent.
The pirarucu is one of the main fish of the Amazon region and the world's largest freshwater and scales. It can reach up to three meters and weigh 250 pounds. We are aware of Pirarucu´s economic importance for the strengthening of the production chain, based on the consumption of meat, especially in the larger cities of the region and increasingly on export - as well as its importance in the sustainability of the various social and environmental support projects.’’
Jose: What are the aesthetic values of fish leather? *how does it look?
Oskar: ‘’The Pirarucu fish leather is soft and flexible, and the colors applied to it make the skin´s appearance exotic and attractive. It carries the history of Amazon´s biodiversity in it, making the product´s concept value even more meaningful.’’
Before Osklen its skin used to be thrown away, now it’s a source of income for the local people, besides avoiding being transformed in a biological waste.
Jose: Could you tell us how fish farming helps with protecting the Amazon?
Oskar: ‘’As the pirarucu is a protected species, Osklen uses fish from government regulated farms which provide employment for local communities and a sustainable source of food while maintaining fish stocks. And also uses the pirarucu from lakes with sustainable management which contributes for zero deforestation. Fish is a key part of both food and local economy in Amazon.
Before Osklen its skin used to be thrown away, now it’s a source of income for the local people, besides avoiding being transformed in a biological waste. Pirarucu’s fishing is carried out by riverine populations in a sustainable way, under the control of government agencies and NGOs dedicated to the preservation of the species and the biodiversity. It helps the local communities and respects the Amazon environmental balance.’’
Jose: You are also the founder of the Instituto-e, which develops projects about e-fabrics. Could you tell us more about this institute?
Oskar: ‘’Instituto-E is an OSCIP (Civil Society Organization of Public Interest) which believes that sharing information is the first step towards achieving sustainable human development. The institute uses alternative communication and multimedia to stimulate the public to take action in the protection of the country's biodiversity, the right to information, the right to education and of Brazil's historical and cultural heritage.
Instituto-E fulfills its mission by creating and managing a network that links different initiatives to social agents. The institute was born from ‘e-brigade’, an environmental activist movement that transforms concept into attitude. This movement takes action according to the six ideal “e”s: earth, environment, energy, education, empowerment and economics.’’
Jose: The Instituto-e is working with materials that are developed based on socio-environmental criteria. Could you tell us about the philosophy behind those criteria?
Oskar: ‘’The e-fabrics project’s objective is to identify sustainable raw materials that may be used by the textile industry and also by the fashion production chain thus stimulating a culture of conscious consumerism. Throughout the process of creating products of design the project also promotes: research on the environmental impacts of the productive processes; the preservation of diversity, and of the social relations with local communities.
Osklen carried out the incubation phase of the e-fabrics and now represents Instituto-E’s innovation lab. Osklen is a brand that values Brazilieness and experimentation with raw materials that are obtained through sustainable processes. The e–fabrics project was launched in 2007 at the São Paulo Fashion Week event. E-fabrics’ purpose is not to certificate but to label its products with information about the products’ socio – environmental attributes.’’