Oskar Metsavaht’s Osklen has a tale behind its birth full of the striving romanticism that befits any high-performance sports brand. Seemingly, it was born as the result of the needs of a group of Brazilian snowboarders who decided to climb Aconcagua, the tallest peak in the Americas in the mid-1980s.
Osklen has actually been in existence since 1989, steadily building up a following for its particular style and ethos, initially based on the demands of high-performance sportswear but gradually shifting to an identity emphasising environmentalism and a laid-back surfer zen outlook on the world. The past decade or so has also seen another evolution. Osklen has moved from a directional high-end sportswear brand to something that can very much hold its own as luxury fashion, probably the only Brazilian brand to have recently penetrated the snooty world of fashionistas, particularly in the USA.
Like a number of other brands born out of sportswear, Osklen is a unisex, appealing to both men and women. But rather smartly, unlike numerous other sportswear brands that have designed for women with their origins in women’s’ sportswear, Osklen recognised a gap in the market for clothing for women who lead active outdoorsy lives, but don’t like the idea of ‘sportswear’.
Its move towards designing free-moving, versatile clothes informed by high fashion makes obvious sense for the home market in the sultrier climates of Brazil. But it also created a steady groundswell of international followers. Metsavaht and his team have not disappointed, going from strength to strength.
The womenswear in the SS16 Ashaninka collections, sees Osklen offering perhaps its most overtly Brazilian collection to date – do we detect a little national pride in the amble to the Olympics? – with a collection inspired by the Amazon, its flora, fauna and peoples. But this is no clumsy appropriation of ethnic dress. Instead Ashaninka offers a beautifully restrained reworking of indigenous materials – rough weaves, feathers or woven grass- loose, elegant shapes and dramatic use of digital printing. Casual shirt dresses are given a sculptural finish with apron skirts inspired by jungle grass weaves, comfortable tunic and trouser combinations are animated with bold plant prints and tube dresses, halter-neck or sleeveless, pack a punch with digital prints of oversized animals or jungle canopy vistas.
These are great clothes for any woman who wants to be comfortable at higher temperatures. In the case of Osklen it really isn’t a platitude to say that it segues effortlessly from beach to chic nightspot. The great outdoors, after all, is in its blood.
Osklen’s SS16 Ashaninka womenswear collection.