It’s not so often that a company like Ora et Labora pops up in the world of fashion. With the quick paced environment of today’s world, fast fashion rules with monster retailers such as H& M and Forever 21 catering to mindless consumption of trends that go in and out with each season. Ora et Labora believes in making finely crafted fashions, whether it’s a bag or shoes, with quality always at the heart of each piece. With roots in Colorado, we were intrigued with how this company emerged out of today’s fast-paced times. So we sat down with Mary Margaret Hocker and Gisela Borghi of Ora et Labora, to learn more about the company, their Colorado roots, and fashion philosophy.
Ora et Labora Offering Up Artisan Fashion With Roots in Denver
303: Tell our readers a bit more about the company. What is the history behind Ora et Labora?
Hocker: Ora et labora is about sharing the heritage and craftsmanship behind the goods we select for our collection. We carefully source products such as clothing, jewelry, home accessories, and leathers from artisans across different regions of the globe. All pieces are handpicked, in limited quantities, to deliver unique, one of a kind luxury pieces to our customers. The collections are seasonless, timeless, and nothing like the churn and burn fast fashion industry. We want to have something for everyone so we try to hit all price points.
303: What’s your connection to Denver?
Hocker: I’ve lived and worked from my home in Denver and have spent over 15 years living in the city and Rocky mountains. The history behind Ora et Labora though, lies with its founder, Gisela Borghi. She grew up in both Buenos Aires, Argentina and a small town in Tuscany Italy. Her heart welcomes the artists she grew up around and purchased, wore, and collected their beautifully crafted products throughout her life. Thus the idea of OETL CO (Ora et Labora Company) was born in 2015 where she could create a business delivering such items to others.
303: Tell us a bit more about the company name and what it means.
Borghi: Ora et Labora translated from Latin means to “pray and work”. The meaning introduces a physical and spiritual approach to one’s craft. It is language, food, culture, art, history, and the people of these regions. The work and craftsmanship inspire a simple and minimalist approach to everyday style.
303: The pieces on the site seem to be very minimalistic. Tell us a bit more about that aesthetic.
Hocker: Yes, most of the pieces are more of a minimalistic aesthetic. The common string among everything we sourced is made with pure and honest materials. Nothing is too refined- Everything is simple and imperfections are ok. We are both drawn to more simple shapes and designs. We believe in timeless, and season-less pieces that one can grow old and develop a character with.
303: How do you guys go about searching for artisans for Ora et Labora?
Borghi: My adolescence and young adult life was spent working, traveling, and buying from merchants whose traditions and craftsmanship have been passed down through the generations. Many of them are still my close friends and part of the family.
303: Can you go into a bit more detail about the craftsmanship and work that goes into the pieces you sell?
Hocker: Many of the techniques have been passed down through the generations and preserve its heritage. For instance, Antonio’s pieces are fashioned out of bronze and inspired by Etruscan Artifacts. Marcelo from Bastardo BA goes back to his hometown to learn old Gaucho techniques and incorporates them into his leather pieces. The girls from Egotique were inspired by the two predominant materials that their city was known for gold and optical resina. We represent an entire family of stone carvers that work in the foothills of the famous Carrara marble stone quarries.
303: How do you think Ora et Labora fits into the Denver market. What do you see / doing for the Denver fashion scene?
Hocker: Denver has changed drastically as far as the fashion scene. People are very involved and aware of the handmade and well designed of clothing, shoes, jewelry, textiles etc. Denverites have become more conscious consumers and have so many more options to shop from small businesses than ever. The movement is exciting. We think OETLCO fits right in since the appreciation for sustainable fashion and ethically made materials are there.
Our customers are well-traveled people that go and think outside the box. We offer something different that you cannot get easily in the States. We would love and hope to find a local Denver artist to collaborate and add to the collection.The close proximity to the mountains is a huge draw for most people living in this city and many of our pieces fit that lifestyle.
303:What is your opinion of the Denver fashion scene? Where do you see it in 10 years?
Hocker: With Denver being the fastest growing city of the moment I feel that positive things are happening with fashion scene. I think at least the outside world doesn’t think we all wear Life is Good t-shirts with Tevas everyday haha..In 10 years I see tourists coming here to shop. We are full of entrepreneurs, innovators, creators, designers….All the new developments, neighborhood communities and events, local support and cool local retailers will bring success to enhancing the fashion industry here in Denver. We have lots of new things in store so get ready Denver.