Rachel Elnar of AIGA Los Angeles Interviews Joshua Onysko of Pangea

Posted on 24. Oct, 2008 by in Design & Culture

Before making a trip to India, Joshua Onysko stopped by his parents’ house and picked up a book called Making Hand Made Soap on the coffee table. He and his family made some soap bars, gave a few to friends, and threw a few bars in Onysko’s backpack for his trip to India, Nepal and Tibet.While in Thailand and Cambodia, Onysko wanted to start an institute to help existing corporations learn to be more socially responsible and environmentally sound and decided to start a soap factory to fund the project. Soon he was selling plant-based soap he made in his garage at farmers’ markets and festivals, and the company grew from there.Onysko is the 30 year-old purveyor of organic soap products through his plant-based bodycare company Pangea Organics. Not only is the product 100% natural, the packaging is made entirely from post-consumer waste materials and is 100% recyclable or biodegradable. Pangea Organics produces 41 skincare products, sold in 21 countries, and can be found in such upscale stores such as Whole Foods, Trade Secret, Nordstrom, Anthropologie and on the company’s Web site, Pangeaorganics.com.Onysko spoke with Rachel about the philosophy behind the company and design of Pangea Organics.

How would you describe yourself?

Well, I’m a lover of all things creative, people, food, art and the conscious compilation of all things found in nature. I believe that in the end, there is no difference between us and that which we create, therefore what we create must be an extension who we are notonly to ourselves but the world around us.

You started in Pangea Organics in 2001. How has company has evolved since?

I have been looking pretty deep into myself and all the things that go into the decisions I make in my life. It’s amazing how true it is-that the only way out, is “through”; but before that, there is the state of “in.” We must be in what we wish to go through as from the outside there is no truth in the path, no understanding of the intent of what it is we wish to experience.For most of my life, I was on the outside looking in, though to rest of the world it would appear that I have always been in it. The rest of my life will be dedicated to the “in” and “through”, as of right now I really don’t know what that is, but it’s where I’m going and not knowing hasn’t seemed to stop me in the past.

Do you feel you’ve gathered more experiences in your decision-making by being on the outside looking in?

Yes, just as it is hard for the ant to see the beauty of the Persian rug he is lost in the fibers of, we to are blinded when we are “in the thick of it.”

Were you a fan of bodycare before you started Pangea Organics?

I used soap, but never really thought much about it.

So how does the company fulfill your personal life?

Inevitably business creation is just an extension of myself, therefore it fulfills me by allowing me to extend my thoughts, concepts and intension with the world that I coexist with.

In what ways do you feel design helps your company?

Design is our way as a human race to express our idealisms or lack thereof, it’s our three-second commercial to the world and Pangea has just decided to take a little more airtime than most.

And has design been able to help carry Pangea’s message beyond just the “organic” market?

Yes, most of our sales are in non “organic” markets, over 70%.

What do you love about the bodycare industry? What do you hate about it?

Lots and lots of people that are fun to be around, good ideas truth and a overall drive to makes things better not just for themselves but for the world. I don’t “hate” anything, hate breeds hate… but I don’t like the other 87% of the industry that is just a sled of liesracing towards the empty all-mighty dollar.

Why was sustainable packaging important for Pangea Organics?

Our tag line is “ecocentric” and so are we… it’s crazy how that works with some brands.

You have led the brand and packaging of the product to align itself with the company’s mission. What inspired you?

Being able to see the world for what it is and not for what it isn’t; and furthermore, having the vision to see what I would like it to be.


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