Yesterday Maria and I were at Globo News’ Prisma Festival in São Paulo, a one day event about entrepreneurship, sustainability and society. In the morning we attended a talk given by Luiz Eduardo Rocha, one of the three co-founders of Zerezes, a young company from Rio de Janeiro who manufacture glasses from recycled wood.
Luiz Eduardo created the company in 2012, along with two other fellow design students. It was a fascinating talk which you can watch in full here (Portuguese). The glasses are designed to last a lifetime, and it was great to hear him tell their story from when they only managed to produce six pairs a month, to the way in which they found some very special team members to help them grow to where they are today, a high-end fashion brand which sells via their two shops in Rio de Janeiro as well as a number of other retail locations.
They are also now expanding to create other types of glasses from other materials as well, such as the glasses above which are a limited edition collaboration with Brazilian fashion company Farm.
The reclaimed wood for their glasses comes from sources such as building sites, and is fully traced. The process for producing their glasses results in 40% of this wood being wasted, but as you can see in this video below, they managed to find a way to create a new line of glasses made from a mixture of this waste sawdust and a plant-based resin.
The talk was facilitated by Samy Dana, a Globo News journalist, and at the end there was time for a question from the audience. Maria explained to Luiz Eduardo that our approach with Holonomics very much matched their approach to the design of their whole business ecosystem, and that we define sustainability as the quality of our relationships. You can hear Luiz Eduardo discuss this aspects of Zerezes with Maria in this short clip below (Portuguese):
What was interesting about this talk was that Liuz Eduardo was very open about the challenges they had faced along the way, but also the way in which they had always focused on developing strong relationships with everyone who was a part of their ecosystem. However, one thing which became clear during this presentation was the way in which people often associate any business model based on social business or sustainability as having the requirement to be cheap.
This is a challenge, because Zerezes are a premium fashion brand competing with the likes of Ray Ban. They are managing to find an audience while at the same time paying all of their workforce fair wages, costs which have to be reflected in their retail price of their products. But if every product we consume is to be sustainable, I do believe that we have to address the question of perceived value, and the assumption that anything sustainable by its very nature must be cheaper.
A related challenge which is cultural is that in general, Brazilians value foreign brands far more than Brazilian brands, and so this is a tendency which Brazilian design companies have to contend with and find ways to counter.
During his presentation Luiz Eduardo handed around a few pairs for us to examine, and as someone who does wear glasses this is something I would definitely love to have, especially in the form of dark glasses.
Zerezes to me appear to be a company which does not project much ego, and Luiz Eduardo did say that the three co-founders do not like to appear in their marketing. Their challenge is how to tell their story to people, in order that people are better able to connect with the very soul of their venture?
In Customer Experiences with Soul, we discuss both the Brazilian hair spa Laces and Hair, and also the story of Scottish brewery BrewDog, and both companies from very different backgrounds have much to teach startups like Zerezes on both how to tell your story, and also on how to continually nurture the soul of the company with a new form of leadership which really understands the way in which the soul is expressed through each and every person.
As this is a new case study, it would be interesting to hear your thoughts on how Zerezes could overcome their challenge of how to tell their story and develop a deeper connection with their customers. Please feel free to leave any thoughts in the comment section below.