We were shocked to see that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil. From that point on, we were thinking about our own consumption and realizing that what we wear is a choice and we can vote with our wallet.
Since launching in 2010, eco-fashion brand Amour Vert has partnered with Gwyneth Paltrow for Goop, been nominated for the 2014 CFDA/Lexus Eco-Fashion Challenge and gained a cult-like following with the sartorial set from Olivia Palermo to Blake Lively. During Earth Week, we sat down with CEO Christoph Frehsee, one-half of the husband and wife team behind the brand, to find out what goes on behind the scenes and learn what it really takes to go green.
theFashionSpot: When did you become interested in sustainable fashion?
Christoph Frehsee: The pivotal moment for us was in 2009. I sold my company and [Amour Vert creative director] Linda [Balti] quit her job. We traveled around the world thinking about our next step. Being an entrepreneur was really key for me. I wanted to do something that was not only a great business but also addresses the key challenges of our generation, which is sustainability. So, I applied for the Master’s program at Stanford University in Environmental Resources. Around the same time, Linda and I read an article in Newsweek about the environmental impact of different industries. We were shocked to see that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil. From that point on, we were thinking about our own consumption and realizing that what we wear is a choice and we can vote with our wallet.
tFS: Can you describe the eco-fashion market in 2009 before you started Amour Vert?
CF: We couldn’t find a lot that we wanted to wear. Most of the time the looks were a little more on the bohemian side.That sparked the idea and the motivation for us to build a brand that was fashionable but also sustainable and socially responsible.
tFS: Tell us a little bit about your zero waste philosophy.
CF: It means that every piece of fabric is precious along the whole supply chain. We engineer our fabrics ourselves, so when we started we quickly realized the limitations of certain fabrics. It’s gotten a lot better since then. We had to find the right ingredients for all our materials, and we spent two years developing the fibers we now have. We develop them with certified growers and treat them with low-impact dyes. When we get into our cutting facility in Oakland, California, we make sure we cut the fabric in the most efficient way. Linda modifies the design—she might add another seam, for instance—to get the highest yield out of the fabric.
tFS: How else do you incorporate sustainability into your design?
CF: We create clothes for a long life cycle. Linda always says that she wants our T-shirts to be our customer’s best friend. If you wear our T-shirt for a long time and it withstands one hundred washes and still feels soft, then we’ve done a great part of sustainability because you’ll buy less often and you’ll be less likely to give it away or throw it away. Based on that experience, you’ll become a lifelong friend and fan of the brand and keep buying sustainable clothes.
tFS: What do you do on the logistic side to stay eco-friendly?
CF: Our products get transported between San Francisco and Los Angeles. We found a great trucking company that drives wine from Napa Valley to L.A.; most of the time, they drive back with empty trucks. We partnered with those guys, so they can pick up our fabrics after they drop off their wine.
tFS: How do buyers in the industry react when you tell them your product is sustainable?
CF: It’s happening less now, but at the beginning, when we’d tell buyers from big department stores that we were all sustainable, their first concern was if the product would lose color or fall apart when you wash it too often. The whole sustainable thing can get mixed up with things like biodegradability. So, we had to dispel the notion that sustainability meant inferior quality. In fact, it will last longer than other things you’ve purchased.