WE ARE OLOW
The artistic adventure of a human and conscious project
This is the story of an adventure ...
OLOW was created in 2006 in Montreuil, an eastern suburb of Paris, by Valentin Porcher and Mathieu Sorosina, two lifelong friends. On the eve of their twenty-fifth birthdays, armed with a youthful carefree attitude, they decided to bring to life a creative and ethical endeavour, using clothing as its medium.
Let’s go back to the very beginning
On the one hand we have Mathieu, a full-time student, and on the other, me, Valentin, working odd jobs. After our studies in communication, working together on creative projects, we decide to take a leap and dive in head-first building this somewhat hybrid project of ours. The initial pitch is pretty clear: we want to convey our love of art as well as our moral and ethical values through a clothing brand.
The OLOW adventure officially begins
To set the scene, e-commerce has only just popped up, with only a handful of well-established websites in France. So we decide to invest our small savings (2000 euros each) to create an online store selling t-shirts made in collaboration with artists. At the same time, we decide to take part in a business creation competition, and end up winning first prize. The money goes towards the production of 1 200 t-shirts, screen-printed in a slightly sketchy workshop near Les Lilas in the north-eastern suburbs of Paris, and stored at my parents' house. Two years pass, and we’re still left with pretty much as many shirts. But never mind, OLOW has lift off.
2008 sees the creation of a wider range of products: jackets, sweatshirts, shirts, all mainly made using organic cotton, quite an ambitious feat at the time since responsible production is truly in its infancy. Our friends are our bankers: with no official financial support, they’re the ones who loan us money, allowing us to pursue our project and keep production alive. We even set up shop in a friend's dirt-floored cellar, an extension cord running along his window, powering our whole enterprise. It’s nothing fancy, but we never give up. We’re at the turning point of our OLOW (“hollow”) adventure.
Time to hit the road to meet our future retailers
Our last commercial tour remains by far the most memorable: 8 000 km zig-zagging across France, squatting on friends' sofas and pitching our tent in campsites. After five weeks in the great outdoors, sharing and introducing the brand, we manage to place it in about forty stores. In each of them, we leave forty artworks depicting OLOW made on skateboards, to be used for advertising. We even manage to get our brand into Citadium (a French streetwear concept store selling a variety of brands), a key step in our commercial development.
Goodbye Paris, hello Nantes!
For five years we set up shop in Jules Vernes’ city. We take advantage of its artistic effervescence to gather the local creative community around cultural events that we organise. Like our traveling exhibition “Planchettes”, we mix genres and people, from internationally-recognised artists, to students fresh out of art school. Two key ideas begin to emerge: anti-elitism and diversity.
We head back to Paris to open the first OLOW shop, rue de Montmorency, a few steps from the Pompidou Centre
Surrounded by art galleries and small cafes, we decide to make it a malleable space, accommodating our shop, our office, a showroom and a photo studio. We also regularly bring it to life hosting concerts and exhibitions.
Our second shop rue de Marseille is born two years later. We use these two spaces to highlight our passion for art, and often ask artists we love to leave their marks on our walls. Jean Jullien is up first, followed by Quentin Monge.
Between 2016 and 2019, the brand takes off commercially in France (Le Bon Marché in Paris, Les intrépides in Lille and Dijon, Le Patron in Rennes) but also across the world (Freaky House in Taipei, Trueffelschwein in Berlin, Pépé Cassius in Lausanne). Our products are now sold in around 200 stores. We’re also very proud to have been able to grow our OLOW family and to transmit our passion for art and desire for independence to our employees. Since 2019, part of the team has returned to Nantes, as we’re still very much attached to western France. On the one hand for its artistic and cultural side, but also because Nantes is a city which, thanks to its avant-garde nature in terms of projects linked to its social and solidarity-based economy and its human dimension, fits in perfectly with the identity of the brand.
... and of a team
Today, our Parisian cellar a distant memory, OLOW has one stylish shop in the heart of Paris, and a team split between the capital and Nantes.
As a child, in the living room of a tower block of the Cité des Tilleuls in the Blanc-Mesnil commune of the northeastern suburbs of Paris, Valentin would draw on countless sheets of paper taped together, gigantic pencil frescoes made up of thousands of characters springing to life... Meanwhile, on the balcony, the hen and the rooster bought by his wacky father would cluck and crow, pissing off all the neighbours. A few years later, in a suburban detached house, he imagined himself becoming a “Font Designer”. At the weekends and during school holidays, he found himself in his parents’ Toyota Van, traveling across France, dreaming of distant spaces and endless wilderness. After his baccalaureate, he wasn’t accepted in any art school, failed at university, then met Mathieu doing communication studies in Montreuil. An “a ha!” moment, the perfect duo. OLOW, in a sense, was born.
With time, Valentin perfected his writing and developed his artistic eye, his quest for adventure intensifying even more. After having backpacked across some twenty countries, he set off on a world tour in 2017. Eleven months spent exploring, enriching himself and learning from others, from nature, from life.
Today Valentin is based in Nantes with part of the OLOW team. He takes care of the artistic direction, as well as all communications.
Mathieu breaks down all the doors with his banter and legendary outspokenness. His hair isn’t as long as it was back in the day, but Metallica's soul still echoes in his eardrums.
A child of the La Maladrerie estate in Aubervilliers, a northeastern suburb of Paris, he was a frequent visitor of artists' studios. His parents, friends of photographers like Pierre Terrasson, initiated him very early on to creative and aesthetic freedom. Curious by nature, and a big fan of Basquiat, Blek le rat and Shepard Feirey, Mathieu is an avid fan of art, in all its forms.
When he's not out on one of his nighttime adventures, a pint in hand in the bars of Paris or at an exhibition opening, Mathieu works from our rue de Montmorency HQ. Expertly managing the whole operation, he’s our conductor who knows all the files from A to Z. A real Swiss Army knife, he also oversees all the manufacturing in Portugal so that the clothes are always perfect, digs out future collaboration opportunities, keeps tabs on our collections and helps Valentin out with the artistic direction. A fascinating, fast-paced job, perfect for a dynamo like him.
Vendéenne 100% pure Gâche, Marie a rejoint l’équipe à la rentrée 2020. Elle travaille sur la DA pour mettre en beauté les idées de l’équipe, et bien plus encore. Ne vous laissez pas berner par son jeune âge, elle a ce qu’il faut de bagout et d’assurance pour mener sa barque là où il faut.
Véritable ambassadrice des birks and socks (oui oui), quand elle ne bosse pas, elle écume les pâtisseries et autres commerces de bouche et pourrait certainement publier son propre guide.
Quelques années déjà qu’Alexandre a quitté son Sud-Ouest, pour s’engager dans le projet OLOW avec nous à Paris. Aujourd’hui, c’est notre principal bras droit, un capitaine de bateau hors pair. Il s’occupe du développement commercial de la marque dans le monde entier, et grâce à son côté nature, sa franchise, son esprit d’aventure et de challenge, ça nous réussit plutôt bien.
Sur son temps libre, le bonhomme retourne chez lui surfer à gogo et pêcher. Et quand il le peut, il prend aussi son sac à dos histoire de découvrir quelques villages paumées d’Afrique noire ou d’ Asie…
50% Bretonne, 50% Basque, Charline a grandi dans un bled paumé du centre Bretagne. Après avoir occupé des postes différents dans la culture et le commerce, elle a intégré OLOW et joue les couteaux Suisses entre la communication et la gestion de projets « parce que c’est vachement plus sympa »
Passion huîtres/muscadet, camembert et calembours, son temps libre se passe entre troquets de quartiers et sorties culturelles (ce qui ne manque pas à Nantes, qu’on se le dise)
As Nantes-based as the little LUs, Juliette is our all-round graphic designer. She works on AD to bring the team's ideas to life, and much more besides. Whether it's creating collections or visual communication, we trust her creativity with our eyes closed.
When she's not working, she organises a monthly live model drawing workshop called 'Les tétons qui pointent' in Nantes. An acrobat in her work, she is also an acrobat outside work, but on a trapeze.
Alexandre left his native southwest in France a few years ago to join us on the OLOW adventure in Paris. Today he is our right-hand man, an outstanding boat captain. He’s in charge of the commercial development of the brand all over the world, and thanks to his natural charisma and frankness, as well as his love of adventure and challenges, he fits right in.
In his free time, the dude likes to head back home to surf and fish. And when he can, he grabs his backpack and sets of discovering lost villages in Africa or Asia…
50% Breton, 50% Basque, Charline grew up in the middle of nowhere in central Brittany. After holding a number of different positions in culture and commerce, she joined OLOW and now plays the Swiss army knife between communications and project management, "because it's so much more fun".
A HUMAN ADVENTURE
OLOW is synonymous with encounters. Beyond the very close team, our brand would be nothing without the people who make up our extended family, helping us with all the projects we undertake.
Revolutionizing the textile industry nowadays is a complicated feat. But we strive to take steps in the right direction.
When we manage a project with feeling like we do with OLOW,
we necessarily throw a lot of ourselves into it.
Designing clothes that we’d want to wear every day seems obvious to us, I’m sure (at least I think) any brand thinks the same way. In order to do that, the need to have fun whist doing it is essential to us, like a visceral urge to let our creative minds roam wherever they want, in the wackiest of places sometimes. We’re nourished by the encounters we make along the way in the art world, but also beyond, and aim to remain true to our core values.