By: Jessica Fillak

Seated in his cozy shop, Simon, founder of Otso, began to tell me the story behind his nature-focused brand.

“Otso started about 5 years ago when I worked as a graphic designer. I was getting a bit annoyed doing corporate client work all the time, so I thought it would be nice to do something more creative.”  

An early entrepreneur, Simon designed skateboarding-themed shirts and sold them to his friends when they were teenagers.

“Obviously, this didn’t take off because the designs were just iron-on stickers that would inevitably peel off. Then five years ago, I discovered newer and more advanced technology like direct-to-garment digital printing on t-shirts.” 

Inspired by advanced printing technology and the ease of creating an online shop, Simon decided to start a brand of his own—with logos that would last. Otso's primary logo perfectly encapsulates Simon's creativity and love for graphic design by cleverly depicting the face of a bear, Otso's mascot. 

“Otso means “the spirit of the bear” in Finnish folklore. The bear is the king of the forest. We started out doing a lot of bear designs, and then branched out to other nature related things that I like to do like camping, adventures, exploring, and climbing. I wanted to make aspects from nature in general with quirky design.”

Otso seamlessly blends nature and design through collaboration with a creative community interested in climate and sustainability. Simon teams up with his shop neighbors and local artists to create Otso’s signature streetwear-meets-nature look.

This style parallels the unique location of Otso’s shop.

“We’re based in a small village in the countryside with essentially a National Park in the middle, but we've got Leeds Manchester and Sheffield about 40 minutes away by car or train. We’re surrounded by nature, but can access major cities with clubs and skateboarding, which inspires the streetwear vibe.”

Otso ensures to respect the environment it draws inspiration from by using 100% organic cotton t-shirts that are made locally and ethically. The creative community surrounding the brand enables the tees to be locally screen printed to improve the quality and design while giving local artists an opportunity for projects and exposure.

By blending climate-consciousness and streetwear, Otso hopes to make ethical fashion the new norm.

“There’s a phrase that’s been used a lot lately with COVID, which is living in the ‘new norm.’ This made me think of Otso’s mission. Making things ethically and environmentally conscious should also become the New Norm. and hopefully one day it will be. I wanted to create a streetwear brand that was cool and fashionable but was also ethical and lost the stigma that ethical clothing is just for hippy bohemian folk! I’ve spoken to a lot of people here in the UK that don't know what ethical means and don't know why caring for the environment matters so it’s great to be able to educate people along the way and try to inspire the younger generations especially that caring about these things is a good thing and you can look cool while doing it!”

You can find Otso at The Canvas Williamsburg, Antwerp, and online.