“Going green” is a phrase with many implications. But for companies such as Amour Vert, a San Francisco-based sustainable fashion brand, going green means tackling sustainability from every angle.
Amour Vert said its blend of playful and professional pieces are locally manufactured and produced every month in small batch, limited runs, which keeps production impacts at a minimum. The company scouts sustainable fibers that are integrated into its own signature fabrications that Amour Vert collectively describes as “nonpolluting,” “soft” and “durable,” in addition to exclusively using nontoxic dyes. This year, Amour Vert co-created AGOLDE x Amour Vert, a collaborative denim collection that offers ethically manufactured 100 percent organic and recycled cotton, in addition to its “Cozy Capsule” and “Holiday Dressing” collections. And the company’s five-year partnership with American Forests, a nonprofit conservation organization, plants new trees within North America for every Amour Vert T-shirt sold.
Here, Aaron Hoey, chief executive officer of Amour Vert, talks to WWD about fashion’s circular movement and what it means to be “sustainable.”
WWD: Why is Amour Vert differentiated in the sustainable apparel market?
Aaron Hoey: It starts with how we define sustainability. For us, sustainability means that everything we make is produced with organic and sustainable fibers, as well as nontoxic dyes. We produce 92 percent of our products right here in the U.S. In fact, the majority of the factories that we work with are located within a few miles of our headquarters in San Francisco. Local production also allows us to cut back on transportation, which significantly reduces our carbon footprint. Additionally, all of our shipments are packaged in 100 percent recycled, compostable and biodegradable boxes and mailing envelopes.
Our product is incredibly soft and highly versatile. We are not exclusive or focused on a narrow niche — we focus on inclusivity. We develop clothing for all occasions and for all types of customers. Whether you’re looking for a cozy, casual weekend item, something to wear to work, the perfect date outfit or even clothing for an important occasion, we make dressing sustainably effortless for our customers.
WWD: Would you expand on Amour Vert’s process for sourcing materials? What are some of the fabrics and limited-edition prints Amour Vert is focused on this season?
A.H.: It’s a very rare moment for us to find a fabric off the shelf that we can just use, as there’s almost always a process of sustainable innovation that needs to happen in order for us to be able to create our unique clothes. It’s really important for us to work with mills that are excited to develop sustainable fabrics. We start by using only organic and sustainable fibers. Then, we work directly with our partners to create fabrics that are beautiful, durable and supremely soft. We always focus first and foremost on how the fabric feels. We know our customers are obsessed with how soft our garments are, so we always strive to develop exclusive fabrics that have incredible hand feel and drape well.
And it’s important to note that all of our sourcing is done face to face. We have innovation sessions where we’re able to partner with the mills directly to create the look and feel we’re going for. For example, we’re launching a new Tencel jacquard fabric in January, which has an amazing raindrop and floral texture. The fabric is not available anywhere else on the market right now, and knowing that our customers would love it, we [decided to] create it. We’re always focused on interesting textures because they are a great way to give solids more depth and make a piece interesting. Tencel jacquard is extremely wearable since it’s naturally wrinkle-resistant — which is great for travel — has an amazing drape, a soft hand, and is extremely versatile and easy to dress up or down.
Our January and February prints are inspired by the historical work of female artists in the Pop Art movement who were under-recognized during their time, such as Marisol Escobar and Pauline Boty. There’s also a bit of Seventies influence as well. Of course, all of our prints are proprietary to Amour Vert. We develop them in-house, in addition to collaborating with artists whom we know or encounter along our creative journey.
WWD: How does Amour Vert eliminate or reduce waste throughout its production processes?
A.H.: We buy in yarn forms as we develop our own, proprietary fabrics. Because of this, we’re able to innovate and create new fabrications from scratch. We’re also never left with an excess of one yarn type since they all have so many use cases. The fabrics that we create already have a soft hand, so they don’t require repeated washes to make them wearable, which allows us to save tremendous amounts of water. We also work with a garment-dyeing factory that operates off of solar power.
In the design process, we start by using fabrics we have on hand before we develop anything new. We design and buy into scarcity to prevent leaving any deadstock. When making patterns, we add seams that make the piece fit better, which also reduces fabric waste because having a patternmaker and sewers in-house allows us to pivot quickly and make smart adjustments along the way. This also allows us to make all fit and prototype samples in-house to avoid the wasteful act of shipping garments back and forth between our factories and office.
WWD: Is the demand for traceable and sustainable apparel led by consumers or brands?
A.H.: This is an interesting question as it outlines the opportunity that has been created in the apparel industry. At this point in time, the demand for traceable and sustainable apparel tends to be more brand-driven since there’s not enough mass consumer demand for sustainability yet. However, once the consumer is introduced to Amour Vert, they often realize that they don’t have to compromise or alter their lifestyle. Instead, they become fiercely loyal to the company as a result of our mission of being Effortlessly Sustainable — we make the practice of living sustainably effortless for our customer, and that’s how it should be. As more and more consumers realize they don’t have to give anything up to dress sustainably, they will eventually demand it of all fashion companies, and it will become the norm and simply expected. That’s when the demand will flip to be led by the consumer.
WWD: How has the sustainability movement influenced consumer culture and ideology, or vice versa?
A.H.: There’s a circular movement happening here. Smaller brands that are driven by their core values act as catalysts that influence the demand from consumers, which, in turn, causes bigger brands to want to change the way they make their products as well. We’ve been sustainable since Day One, so we’re a natural leader in the space and it has proven to be a tremendous yet amazing responsibility. The world has grown so much in terms of the trend of “going green,” and information sharing and education is a big part of this movement.
Sustainability is moving from being a trend to becoming an expectation due to the inherent growth of consumer demand, which is largely driven by the ability of people to share what they are interested in. Sustainable living has become more of a conversational topic in our daily lives in a way that it wasn’t before.
WWD: What’s next for Amour Vert?
A.H.: Over the next 12 to 18 months, we expect to see continued growth of our brand and our mission through both digital awareness, and brick-and-mortar expansion. We took our first step outside of California with our recent Atlanta store opening at Ponce City Market, and we have a pipeline of new store locations we’re setting up across the U.S.
We’ll also be expanding into men’s — so that we can continue to help transform wardrobes to being effortlessly sustainable in a way that is inclusive to all genders. Our customers have made it clear to us that the men in their lives should also be able to dress sustainably. Sustainable men’s wear is an underdeveloped market, and we’re looking forward to break into and spearhead it. We’ve also moved into the weekend-casual, elevated loungewear space with our Cozy Capsule. We’ve always had a focus on wardrobing, so this is a natural collection for us. The Cozy Capsule has been really well-received this season, and we plan to continue to expand this assortment moving forward.
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