tFS: You also operate your own store now. How do you make your space eco-friendly?
CF: Yes, we sell to a number of retailers very successfully from Nordstrom to Fred Segal and Satine, but we did open up our own store. We make sure the fixtures our locally made and the floor is a reused floor from a church in Oakland. The lights are made from an artist that collects driftwood on the Pacific Coast and puts the lightbulbs in together in these beautiful structures. We also give out cotton tote bags, which are reusable. It goes far beyond just bringing the purchase home. It’s about reusing it for grocery shopping or using it to carry your sports clothes when you go to the gym to work out.
Running a sustainable brand requires a lot of engineering and dedication to every step. We make everything in California, so we have to find ways to stay price-competitive despite higher wages and higher fabric costs, which we have with our sustainable fibers. It’s about process management. We call it smart fashion. We love the artistic aspect of fashion, but it’s also an operational business.
tFS: Why don’t more fashion brands go green?
CF: It’s difficult. We were able to build a sustainable brand from the ground up. Other brands have to change habits. The buyers would have to make changes. The design department would have to change. And big companies earn lauders for their established brands, and they have the goodwill of their customers so they might not feel the need or the pressure to be sustainable.
tFS: What is the biggest obstacle in running a sustainable fashion brand?
CF: Breaking down the myths is the biggest. But we also have to think ahead. Other designers can have an idea, go to the textile market and pick an existing fabric that will work for them. We create our own fabrics, so we have to start earlier and think about what we want and then how we make it. Every stitch has a purpose. When you have a purpose, you’re really into it and that translates to the customer.
tFS: Do the majority of your customers seek you out because you’re sustainable or do they find that out afterward?
CF: Both. If we only had customers that bought us because we were sustainable, it would be limiting. For us, if we want to have an impact, we need to be a global, billion-dollar company one day. We can’t stay a small, artisan shop in San Francisco, which we aren’t even that any more, or we won’t have the reach to change the world. So, we need to cater to both and be transparent about our philosophy.
tFS: How did your collaboration with Goop affect your brand?
CF: It was fantastic. We worked with Gwyneth [Paltrow] last year, and it was a great experience. They have a great team and fantastic input on style and design. The collaboration helped tremendously and gave us additional approval.
tFS: Do you have any other collaborations in the works?
CF: We’re working on a collaboration with Blake Lively on an assortment of tops and dresses that she’ll promote on her own site in a couple weeks. She’s extremely talented and professional when it comes to fashion and design. I was very impressed.
tFS: Tell us a little about your ongoing partnership with American Forests.
CF: We engineered a great fabric out of wood fiber that most of our T-shirts are made out of. They’re extremely soft and have a long life cycle. My wife is still wearing T-shirts from five years ago and they still have the same great fit. To promote that and tell the full story, we’ve partnered with American Forests, one of the oldest national nonprofit conservation agencies in the United States. For every T-shirt we sell, we plant a tree with them in the United States. So far, we’ve planted more than 27,000 trees; by the end of the year we want to plant 100,000. All the trees are planted in specific locations for certain reasons, whether it’s to increase habitat for certain animals or to increase more areas for drain water and flood water control. It highlights the full circle. We use trees to create our sustainable T-shirts and we plant trees to give back.
*In celebration of Earth Day, Amour Vert will kick off their #PlantATreeAV campaign, which expands upon their Plant a T(r)ee program. For today only, anyone who Instagrams a picture of a favorite tree that crosses their path and tags @AmourVert with the hashtag #PlantATreeAV, the brand will plant a tree in their honor with American Forests. But that’s not all! They’ll also plant a tree for each friend/follower who shares the hashtag on Earth Day (up to 10,000 trees).*