Oshra Pahima-Shemesh's 2-year-old label, Oshra, is cruelty-free through and through. The Haifa, Israel-based designer uses all animal-friendly materials, and she supervises production at a small, local factory to ensure the humans involved with the process are also treated fairly. And for every fashion shoot, she sources vegan accessories from head-to-toe.
"I really do believe that no creature should suffer during the creation [and] production process," said Oshra, who also strives to keep her apparel eco-friendly. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
Besides being big on kindness, the brand is also effortlessly cool, featuring dresses, tops, bottoms and accessories that seamlessly blend buttoned-up, chic tailored looks with a boho sensibility -- all with an undercurrent of vintage inspiration.
Currently the line is available via Oshra's website and Etsy, but we predict the label will make an appearance in outside boutiques in the not-too-distant future. It's definitely a brand to watch.
We recently caught up with the designer, who chatted about everything from running her own business to rocking out and, of course, her big plans for Oshra.
What has kept you coming back to vintage looks?
Oh, I love vintage styling! I have always been inspired by the 1960s. There is something about this era; it is magical. You can see the cultural changes in women's fashion -- the early 60s with the hourglass dresses for the almighty housewife, all the way to the late 60s with the colorful oversize mini dresses for the liberated, independent woman. I think what fascinates me most about that era is that transformation. When I design an outfit I try to integrate the early 60s housewife and the late 60s rebel. I think a woman can be diverse. A woman can be both classy and have an edge.
What else influences your work?
My design aesthetic is very clean and feminine. It is urban and smart-elegant. I am influenced by pop culture -- art, television, films, and music. I read many blogs and follow strong, inspirational women. It's [a] combination of feminism and femininity.
What is the most challenging part of running your own business?
As a small business owner, I am a one-woman show. I am the manager, the designer, the marketing expert, the sales woman, the accountant, the secretary, and even the cleaning lady. As a designer and artist, you start out knowing absolutely nothing about business. You learn as you go along, and it is a real challenge. Luckily, I love a good challenge and I find the business world fascinating. I learn more and more about it every day.
Are there specific hurdles that come with being a cruelty-free, eco-friendly designer?
It is challenging. Local production is rather expensive [and] it is hard to compete with the "made in China" eBay market. When I plan a photo shoot, it is hard to find vegan shoes and accessories that suit my designs. But I think people are more and more aware of those issues, and it is only a matter of time until being a cruelty-free designer [will] be common and less challenging. I'm optimistic.
If you could change anything about the fashion industry, what would it be?
I'd love to change the pace. Slow down a little. The fast pace causes trends to be short-term and forgettable. The designer becomes a trend chaser and the customer becomes a fashion victim. I believe that good fashion is everlasting. I also believe it is the designer's job to set trends and not chase them. It is our job to make it count.
What is your favorite thing to wear right now?
It is actually a white shirt dress, one of my latest designs. I wear it as a dress. I wear it with jeans. I wear it with crazy color leggings, with high heels, with short boots, with sandals. I love an outfit that just works with every mood.
Whose style do you admire the most?
I adore Zooey Deschanel and Taylor Swift's style; they are elegant and classy with the right amount of sass and spunk. I love Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen's style. I think they redefined Boho chic. Allison Williams has great style. Also, to be honest, despite the many red carpet mistakes she makes, I adore Lena Dunham's style -- so original, colorful, and funky.
Are there any films that you're really into right now?
Boyhood, most definitely. I loved watching the transformation of that little boy [and] seeing the world change around him in a period of time that we are so familiar with. It was brilliant. And the soundtrack! You have to love a film that starts with Coldplay and ends with Arcade Fire.
Speaking of music, what are you listening to these days?
Well, my name is Oshra and I am a musicoholic. I listen to alternative rock, indie, country, blues, Americana, some pop. My playlist is very diverse. My top 10 at the moment are: Radiohead, Interpol, Arcade Fire, The National, Jack White, Marissa Nadler, Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chicks, Emmylou Harris, and Jillian Jensen.
What are some of your big plans and goals for Oshra over the next few seasons?
My plan is to keep going. I'm currently working on new designs. My goal is that every woman of any body shape will be able to find a cool, vegan, vintage-style outfit at my shop. Also, my biggest goal -- and a great challenge -- is to have my designs appear on the big screen and, if I can aim even higher, television and indie films. I think my designs would be great for a quirky girl role, perhaps for the next Josh Radnor film? This is one heck of a goal but you know what they say -- dream big!