Variety truly is the spice of life, especially when it comes to your closet. But as that ongoing desire for the next new thing eventually spurs waste and overconsumption, the Epicurean idea of simplicity — or in this case, versatility — suddenly becomes a bit sexier.
And companies such as San Francisco-based Époque Évolution, a sustainable activewear and apparel brand, focus on multipurpose wardrobe essentials that can be worn several ways and hold an enduring perennial-focused aesthetic. The idea is to design clothes that people want to buy, and hold onto.
Époque Évolution was cofounded in 2018 by best friends Nancy Taylor, chief executive officer, and Hannah Franco, chief operating officer, who worked together in the activewear industry for brands such as Athleta and Gaiam for a number of years. During an art inspiration trip to Morocco, Taylor was impressed by Franco’s utilitarian packing skills — Franco sported a single backpack for the long venture and nothing else, she says — and it sparked the idea to create a women’s wear line of multiuse apparel that packed a lot of punch. The brand’s products would need to be sustainable, high-performing and possess an enviable look and feel.
Franco told WWD, “We realized that clothing couldn’t keep up with women’s lives, period. And we knew we weren’t the only people who had that problem. If you had clothing that was chic, it was going to be uncomfortable. If you had sustainable clothing, it was going to be kind of frumpy. And if you had functional clothing, it wasn’t going to be very stylish.”
She added, “So we thought, there’s no reason anymore why fashion shouldn’t evolve to fit women’s lives. The technology and fabrics that could make this possible are out there, and we just knew there had to be a better way. We knew there were other women who were living lives like ours, that went from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. with no break.”
Époque Évolution means “always be poised to evolve,” Taylor says. Epoque refers to a moment in time, and evolution, a time for change, she explained. “We’re always looking to change,” Taylor said. “And I think our industry had to change,” Franco added.
The brand’s newly released spring 2020 capsule collection introduced four multipurpose pieces made of its “The Change” fabric, that are undeniably hot: a chic black crop top that can be worn for layering, on its own, or swim; a high-rise swim bottom that folds down into a low-rise; a midi-length pencil skirt with a foldable high-rise; and a dress that can be worn front to back. All four items “can be worn 24/7,” the brand says, in addition to being SPF 50, and made of Econyl, a 100 percent regenerated nylon fiber made from landfill and ocean waste.
Fan favorites include its sleek Orion Leggings with front ankle slits, or its expertly cut Jet Set Trousers (that initially sold out in just three weeks, according to the brand).
“And the other thing that was a big priority for us, in addition to making sure that they were all essential designs for your life that were super versatile, is making sure that everything was easy to care for, too. Nobody has time to go to the dry cleaners and dry clean their clothes,” Franco said, adding that the average female spends $1,800 per year on dry cleaning.
With that said, the duo abides by a self-imposed strict set of rules for selecting fabrics: They must be sustainable, functional and easy to care for (that means machine washable, a light-hand wash, or wrinkle resistant). “They’re all fabrics that we’ve chosen from mills that we’ve either worked with in the past, or we’ve found recently that have really responsible manufacturing practices,” Taylor said, which includes, among several others, 100 percent bovine leather, GOTS-certified organic cotton, merino wool and a workwear woven that is an Italian-made blend of recycled polyester and certified non-mulesed wool.
The pair says “responsible” in lieu of “sustainable” because it’s all encompassing — and Époque Évolution takes a genuine approach to ensuring high ethical standards throughout its entire production process, from the fabric to the finished product, and considers waste in every aspect of the business, which includes testing style concepts by ordering small batches based on projected demands, to avoid being excess in inventory.
Taylor explained that extreme consumerism has, in a way, tricked us into thinking that we always need more, more, more — but strategic and sharp minimalism may be the panacea to ongoing wardrobe woes. Taylor told WWD, “[We wanted to] design a collection of these core, go-to pieces that [were versatile] and could be worn to walk into a series of either meetings, or activities, or go to out at night in — and we all have those pieces, it’s not like they didn’t exist — but I think you get tricked into buying this vast stuff. What you really need is this core wardrobe that kind of rotates around. You can put some fluff pieces in, and make it look good — but you just need those pieces that work.”
And while activewear and lounge-y, comfy clothes have been in high demand throughout the coronavirus pandemic — and Époque Évolution added a “WFH” category to its web site — the change in pace has been a period of positive reflection for the brand.
“We took a step back, looked at the brand, our initiatives, and it gave us a moment in time without the pressure,” Taylor said, adding that “in a weird way, it’s been a gift.” And part of its sustainability model that aligns well for shoppers confined to virtual environments is its offering of “give back classes,” a bi-monthly online yoga class via Zoom that raises funds for various sustainability nonprofits such as the Hydrous Foundation and currently, the Center for Domestic Peace.
Franco told WWD, “We consider this a brand, but our tag line is ‘experiences first,’ because your clothes — we love them, we’re very into style — but they should be secondary. We’re so passionate about experiences first and the more that we can use this platform for education and creating those kind of beautiful things in our life that we really love and want to get behind, the better.”
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