Johan Olsson didn’t set out to sell sneakers, let alone so-called “sustainable” ones.
“I was a private-equity guy who invested in brands,” he told Sourcing Journal. Somewhere along the way, however, Olsson became enamored with the idea of launching a direct-to-consumer company. He had some friends in the business, it seemed like fun and he wanted to try his hand at something new. So Olsson left the world of London finance and launched Roscomar in the summer of 2018. The shoes, he admitted, had “zero sustainability attributes,” but the brand started attracting wholesale interest and soon its high-tops and low-tops, which were made in Vietnam and sold at prices comparable to Converse, were treading the floors of retailers across the United Kingdom.
Then Covid-19 happened.
In a span of two weeks, Roscomar’s business “basically imploded,” Olsson said. While he had enough cash squared away in the company coffers to avoid declaring bankruptcy, Olsson quickly realized he wouldn’t be able to scrounge up any meaningful revenue for the rest of the year. He thought about sustainability, and then the flagrant “green” claims that were often exaggerated or patently false. Shoes supposedly clad in ocean plastic, for instance, might contain only a fraction of what they promise. An “eco-friendly” sweater might be brimming with petrochemical-based fibers.
A light bulb went off.