While their peers were bouncing back and forth to college career fairs and social events, Inês and Joana were thinking bigger: “Let’s do something creative and fun!”
This relentless determination has driven the transformation of two girls from Portugal into two rising stars in the textile industry. But this inspiring story is not just about needlework, because for them, being visionary entrepreneurs require the fundamental building blocks: a pursuit of creativity, an attitude of integrity, and a mindset of sustainability.
This is the foundation on which Saako was built in 2009 when Inês and Joana finished college. With a plan of action in mind, they set out to share their passion for precise craftsmanship and playful design with the world.
The story started at an old market that Inês and Joana came across randomly. In that market, they found some vibrant tirelas, or spaghetti fabric, that are washable and reusable, featuring a unique blend of colors. With an eye to the future, they believed there would be a rising demand for garments that had a low-impact production cycle and were both functional and sustainably produced.
That year, as Inês and Joana headed to Barcelona to continue their education, tirelas in hand, they started a new life of studying during the day, and sewing necklaces at night. Their design gained huge popularity among their friends and families for their aesthetic and functionality. This motivated them to sell the scarflace to the stores in Barcelona.
During that time, the team worked around the clock to balance their studies and budding careers, as Inês said, “…working hard fed our creative minds and we pushed ourselves to the limit.” Their hard work paid off when they started gaining recognition. Award recognitions began to build, and their designs were featured in journals and magazines such as Women’s Wear Daily (WWD) and Vogue. Shortly after, Saako was founded in Barcelona.
An Ideal Lineup
After graduation, Inês and Joana joined local design studios to work as graphic designers. Beyond their daily 9-to-5 grind, they dived in headfirst learning the craft of needlework to advance their sewing skills and create what they envisioned. As the business grew rapidly, it was time to readjust the company’s direction with a new strategy. In 2010, they brought Oakley Johnson on board, who specialized in E-commerce business operations, to help grow the business.
Oakley was presenting to clients.
As Oakley, Joana, and Inês collaborated on their shared vision for Saako’s future, each one focused on their respective goals: Inês moved back to Portugal to expand production by hiring retired Portuguese seamstresses at textile factories; Joana stayed in Barcelona to manage branding, web design and graphic design needs; and Oakley developed the official online store, and introduced the brand to the United States in 2013, launching in San Francisco, CA. Grounded in each one’s specialties, skills, and network, Saako quickly garnered recognition and sold globally with an expanded product line ranging from accessories to home décor.
Integrity is the Brand
Valuing creativity and sustainability as inherent parts of the brand experience from the very beginning, Saako has been a major influencer in the global conversation of fabric and textiles by combining aesthetics without compromising functionality. As the founders and head designers, Inês and Joana set the vision for Saako and bring it to life; as the helmsman and CEO, Oakley continues to oversee brand expansion and engagement – bringing Sakko to new communities daily. True to their belief that you get back only what you put in, the growth of the brand could not have been accomplished without the team’s determination and grit to stay the course for over 10 years to make their dreams a reality.
And this is just the beginning. Saako is focused on a future of growth, working harder to create innovative solutions that reflect enhanced lifestyles and progressive changes in consumer behavior.