Sustainability has become one of the leading trends in the fashion industry, resulting in many companies changing their practices. Indeed, it is now cool to be green and promote a brand that follows an environmentally friendly mindset—even if they really aren’t. But for Aaron Hoey, it is no passing fad. For him, it is standard that all need to adopt wholeheartedly and not because it is de rigueur.
Hoey is the new CEO of Amour Vert, a San Francisco-based brand that was built on offering apparel that is, in large part, made of sustainable fibers; that wouldn’t contribute to the 5% of landfill space that is occupied by 25.5 billion pounds of reusable textiles. He took the reins from the label’s founders, Linda Balti and Christoph Frehsee, who created a company that was (by many accounts) ahead of its time. For seven years, the duo did a very good job creating pieces that were as chic as they were ecologically sound, pushing sustainable fashion forward. So much so that it caught the attention of Hoey.
Now, under Hoey’s sole leadership, Amour Vert is accelerating its business, hoping to grow its consumer base through multiple channels. From a supposedly thriving e-commerce site to a traditional catalogues to a number retail locations that, according to Hoey, garner steady streams of foot traffic, the label is going at it from different angles. It may even consider selling wares wholesale with the right partner.
This diversified approach has certainly worked at Hoey’s previous gigs at some of the most recognized labels in America. And it would appear that he is doing the same—albeit, on a smaller scale—with a brand that is as close to being a bonafide sustainable fashion brand as it gets.
Here, Hoey expands on his growth strategy for Amour Vert.
Barry Samaha: What attracted you to Amour Vert?
Aaron Hoey: It felt obvious with the green mega-trend happening in the world. Amour Vert was founded on sustainability in 2010, and was ahead its time in revolutionizing the fashion industry to become more sustainable. With every fiber and yarn being organic and sustainable, it was the most authentic mission in fashion I could find. In addition, what customers can’t see is the incredible speed in which we create our products. We are faster than fast fashion, but with a big difference: We are creating quality garments that are built to last and are sustainable.
Samaha: How does the brand differ from others in the market?
Hoey: Amour Vert is different from other brands because of our authentic sustainability, but also extreme versatility. Our garments are also extremely versatile and soft, which makes dressing in sustainable fashion effortless. Our clothes are meant to be worn everyday, so style and sustainability go hand in hand.
Samaha: How did your past experiences prepare you for taking on this role?
Hoey: I would never be able to do this without my vast experience at Anthropologie and Gap. I started my career working in the Gap fitting rooms, selling to customers and mastering the ability to understand what a customer needs in their wardrobe. I’ve learned that when you ask the customer what they want, they often don’t know how to articulate the answer or it’s too late. It’s the confluence of instinct and data that allows us to take her breath away. As the Chief Merchandising Officer of Anthropologie, I learned how an emotional connection with products could be priceless when developing a merchandising strategy. Now, as CEO of Amour Vert, we’ve woven the emotional connection into every garment we produce—not only from an aesthetic standpoint, but also through being authentically sustainable. Additionally, most digitally native brands are fearful or lack experience on expanding into brick and mortar stores, but my background of running omni-channel brands has allowed us to enter the retail landscape profitably.
Samaha: How will the brand change under your leadership?
Hoey: Under my leadership, the focus will continue to be on the direct-to-consumer model and to have a very strong relationship with our customers. Amour Vert will continue to expand quickly into new markets with stores and explore new channels of revenue and advertising. We will also continue to develop our product offering into the expanded women’s categories of lounge, sweaters and denim, in addition to introducing men’s this year.
While we are focused on direct-to-consumer as our primary revenue driver, we remain channel agnostic with regards to external partnerships. While we have opportunities daily to partner with other third-party brands and stores, we are very selective in our approach to ensure our authentic sustainable message is consistent across every channel.
Samaha: Sustainability is different for every brand. How do you define it?
Hoey: We start with every fiber and yarn being organically or sustainably produced and we only use non-toxic dyes. We also produce 97% of our products here in California, reducing the carbon footprint normally created while producing overseas. We’ve been doing this since day one. These concepts are not new for us. We’ve always stood by them.
Samaha: How do you reconcile the fact that some of your pieces aren’t 100% ecologically friendly?
Hoey: Our garments are as sustainable as we can make them. In order to make quality garments that last, it is sometimes necessary to add 1% to 2% spandex. We feel that it is more important for people to purchase an item that will last and that they will love for years than an item with a poor fit and short lifespan because then it ends up in a landfill. With that said, we do avoid this when possible. The majority of our pieces are made with 100% sustainable materials. We have 100% organic cotton, Tencel and silk items.
Samaha: Why do you think consumers nowadays are interested in sustainable fashion?
Hoey: Consumers are more educated and have more access to the brands they shop with today. With fashion being the second most polluting industry in the world, it’s natural for consumers to express a concern and vote with their purchases. We’ve taken the customer’s concerns head on and have delivered style and sustainability without compromise.
Samaha: Do you think this mindset will last?
Hoey: Absolutely. There is no turning back. This mindset will only expand and become more prominent in our everyday decisions. Being green was never a trend for us. It’s a mentality that’s here to stay.
Samaha: Aside from the sustainable element, what are you doing in terms of design the sets Amort Vert apart?
Hoey: We make thoughtful, everyday garments that are timeless staples in her wardrobe. Our clothes are extraordinarily soft to the touch and extremely versatile. So many brands are trying to be the best at one thing, but because sustainability is so important, it’s critical for us to reach many different occasions in her life. We fulfill her needs whether it’s for casual weekends, day-to-evening, or dressy occasions.
Samaha: The brand primarily focuses on a direct-to-consumer model. Why not have a few wholesale accounts?
Hoey: We’re still looking for the right partners that share our commitment to sustainability. If the right partner approaches us, we are willing to explore.
Samaha: How are you looking to grow the company in the next five years?
Hoey: We’ve structured ourselves as a platform for other sustainable collaborations. We are expecting to expand our product categories into beauty, men’s, kids, and baby apparel. In the next two to three years, we will focus on domestic growth while also expanding internationally both in e-commerce as well as brick and mortar.