From palette furniture to plastic-bottle jewelry, designers are turning more and more to sustainable materials while taking a back-to-basics approach to style. The recent rise in popularity of companies that produce accesories from recycled wood (like Portland-based shwood, maker of premium wooden sunglasses, or Carved, a company out of Elkhart, Indiana that specializes in custom wood iPhone skins and cases), has reached the Czech Republic in the guise of two different, though similar-sounding companies, WeWOOD and BeWooden.
WeWOOD – Italian by nature
Founded in 2010 in Florence, Italy by “eco-smart entrepreneurs with a crush on the environment,” WeWOOD specializes in wooden timepieces and sophisticated sustainability – their watches are made from the scrapwood of exotic trees (Indian Rosewood, Guaiaco, and Tasmanian Blackwood) with inner workings that utilize state-of-the-art Miyota movements. The company has since flourished, opening a branch in Los Angeles and partnering with American Forests, which plants a tree for every WeWOOD purchased. WeWOOD is thriving elsewhere, too: one of the largest branches of the company is located here in the Czech Republic and also distributes oak-frame sunglasses and nifty wooden wireless keyboards as well as original WeWOOD watches.
The Czech branch was founded by David Homola and Jiří Lux, two friends from Ostrava who, wanting to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure, decided to invest their money into selling WeWOOD watches. Starting out was rough, they told us. In the beginning, Jiří says, “It was incredibly hard, because you cannot see any money coming back, and you just keep spending more money.” Luckily, the store has returned its investment more than twice over, and the shop is now very lucrative.
Jiří attritbutes that to their low overhead and modern approach to marketing and sales; so far, there are no brick-and-mortar stores for WeWOOD in the Czech Republic or Slovakia – in fact, the company employs only three people: David, Jiří, and David’s girlfriend. Almost all of their sales come from their online shop. The brand has largely eschewed normal advertising. “Most of our business these days comes from Facebook,” says Jiří. “Without pay-per-click ads, we would have nothing.”
It also helps that the Czech Republic has a well-known tradition of off-beat design and this, combined with the recent proclivity for natural, organic materials in everything from fashion to furniture, has helped WeWOOD fit into the larger scene.
“If you look at the big fashion shows, for H&M and so forth, you see that they are beginning to start eco-friendly lines of clothes. There is a big trend away from color, and more towards things that look natural.” Indeed, other Czech designers, such as TON and LUGI, have been celebrated for their innovative use of wood in interior design.
There is also the element of novelty. Jiří adds that many people express incredulity that the watches are truly made from wood. “I hear it all the time,” he says.
WeWOOD makes watches for both sexes in an array of colors and shapes, though with their heft and masculine cut, they are especially popular with guys. Watches start at 2,499 CZK and can be purchased online; shwood glasses (starting at 3,899 CZK) and Lazerwood keyboards (1,090 CZK for Mac only) are available at www.woodies.cz.
BeWooden – Newstalgia at its finest
The Czech company BeWooden specializes in handcrafted (down to the clasp) wood bowties made from quality wood sourced from “excess materials from craft workshops”. The bowties are all made in the Czech Republic in a workshop located in the Beskydy Mountain valley.
The label was founded by the Czech commercial photographer and designer Ctirad Sára who sites his love of “material that people know for thousands of years” as his initial inspiration. Design duties are shared with fashion designer Eva Kočicová .
While a wooden bowtie brand, Two Guys Bowties, has already launched the classic bow tie revival in the US, BeWooden bowties are comparitively slimmer and crafted by hand in limited numbers. BeWooden produces painted and inlaid bowties as well, drawing on the Czech love of traditional wood handicraft.
When asked if the bowties aren’t a bit heavy around the neck, their creators reassure clients that “They weigh about 30g and have an adjustable strap that doesn’t confine the wearer in any way.” A shop is due to open soon but in the meantime, bowties can be purchased via their on-line shop, fashion website Molo7, or in Prague at the trendy new gallery/retail space Fox Gallery. Prices start at 790 czk and go up to 1290 CZK.
Would you go wooden?