It all began in Ghana.
In 2009, co-founder of Bôhten Eyewear, Nana Boateng Osei, took a trip to Kwahu. Though he and his siblings were born there and spent a significant portion of their childhood being raised in Ghana, they were—as Osei terms them—“culture kids”, a term which referenced their nomadic upbringing. Their diplomat father’s work obligations took them to live in the United Kingdom, America, South Africa, and even Yugoslavia. But in traveling back to his family’s hometown, Osei reconnected with his roots and became inspired by the country’s natural beauty, an experience that planted the seed for using what would eventually become Bôhten’s defining material: reclaimed wood. Joined by his brother Nana Kwadwo Osei, the two went on to launch Bôhten in 2012.
Rose Bond Sunglasses. Photo: Courtesy of Bôhten.
“My brother and I both have a love for eyewear and, as a way of bonding, we used to share eyewear, and it was always a point of excitement for us to get something new and cool,” explains Osei. “The inspiration for Bôhten came from wanting to create something more reflective of those of us who have traveled and moved around and all the inspirations from across the world and the places and the experiences that we have had. But ultimately, it was rooted in Ghana and us being from here.”
Boasting an aesthetic that, according to Osei, is inspired by Kwahu's rich, earthy color palette, Bôhten’s exuberant collections redefine classic eyewear, their luxurious and sustainable nature offering a rustic twist on elegance. Their customer is a traveler, Osei says, a self-aware storyteller that is actively seeking to make their mark on the world and look chic while doing so. Featuring both classic styles including aviators and wayfarers as well as more unconventional designs that utilize a variety of materials, their collections exude a spirit that’s at once modern and retro. “Our creative process draws a lot from the types of materials that we use, the type of shapes that inspire us, as well as a lot of other random things like texture, landscapes, history, and heritage,” Osei reveals, “Most importantly, it’s finding ways to connect the dots between our ideas and the things that have come before us, and using those connections to tell a story.”
The process of their creation is slow, considered, and as stated by Osei, powered by the question, ‘What else is possible?’. Currently, their design system draws from both an internal team of consultants and artisans. This begins with a written breakdown of an idea which then morphs into a sketch before moving into 2D rendering, and occasionally 3D rendering. Once the render is done, the prototyping of the product begins, eventually progressing into its final stage of production. What the brand is most known for however is its commitment to sustainability. When pressed about this Osei is quick to express that this commitment extends beyond simply ensuring the materials they work with are environmentally friendly. He recalls a quote by Liz Ricketts, an educator and founder of The Or Foundation whose work looks at overconsumption and overproduction, that has stuck with him. It perfectly sums up Bôhten’s approach to going green: “Sustainability is not a product.”
“The beautiful thing for me, when it comes to sustainability, is there is no timestamp or delivery date. It’s something that is constantly happening and will never end, and every day is an opportunity to do better than the day before.”
To Osei this means that the root of ethical sustainability lies in constantly asking yourself, how can we do this better? “It starts with being human and empathetic,” he says, “And it starts with the people who work for you. You can't call yourself ethical and sustainable if you’re not taking care of the people within. So we’re investing in local talent, we’re applying a modern and less wasteful means of design and prototyping so that we can work quickly and make less. We’re also refining our model so that things last longer and most importantly we’re actively engaging changemakers, a community of people who want to leave a better land than what they received and something better for our children.”
Just like the clarity of sight that Bôhten frames offer, Osei’s vision of the future is unclouded. Their long-term vision is to give back by creating fair-paying jobs for creative minds seeking opportunities in Africa. They’re also hoping to create change on a more micro level through offering eye tests and starting reading clubs at local Ghanaian schools. “The beautiful thing for me when it comes to sustainability,” finishes Osei, “is there is no timestamp or delivery date. It’s something that is constantly happening and will never end and every day is an opportunity to do better than the day before.”
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