I was to help play host to my first ever luncheon (and for those who have never attended a luncheon -- think of a group of well-off individuals being dined and pitched a cause to hopefully fall in love with it and support it with high-dollar donations) and was looking for the perfect dress to wear for weeks. I knew I needed something formal that fit with the tradition of the event. But I also wanted something that had a bit of fun (without going too crazy) to it. And because I have been on a quest to replace my wardrobe with only sustainably sourced clothing, I knew I needed something stylish yet ethical.
Using Miigle+ and searching every ethical female fashion brand I could, I finally fell in love with an Amour Vert dress made sustainably with mulberry silk. It was formal enough for the event and had a beautiful floral print that added just the right amount of whimsy to it. I received numerous compliments on the dress and have since invested in red pumps and accessories for the dress. It has become my go-to piece for any event I have and I can definitely see it as a dress I wear for many seasons to come.
To learn more about [miigle_brand id="197"]Amour Vert[/miigle_brand], continue reading below.
It's one of the clothing industry's more interesting and unlikely stories that one of the most eco-friendly brands was born at an arms fair in Abu Dhabi.
That's where Amour Vert founders Linda Balti and Christoph Frehsee met in 2007. Frehsee was exhibiting with his land-mine clearing company MineWolf while Balti worked as a systems developer for the French defense firm Thales Group.
It was the start of a relationship between the couple who are now married, and also the catalyst for a drastic career change for the pair who went on to set up a sustainable women's clothing brand worth around $3 million with celebrity supporters including Gwyneth Paltrow, Blake Lively and Olivia Palermo.
To paraphrase a well-known Shakespearian quote - some brands are born sustainable, some achieve sustainability and some have sustainability thrust upon them. Amour Vert is definitely one of the first type. The company was set up in 2010 as a mission by Balti and Frehsee to make socially responsible clothing products that would have minimum impact on the environment.
It began in 2009, shortly after Frehsee had sold MineWolf. He and Balti were holidaying in Peru thinking about what they could do next with their lives. What challenges they could sink their teeth into.
While relaxing on a beach, they chanced upon an article about how the fashion industry is the second worst culprit for global pollution after oil.“We got really intrigued by that” recalls Frehsee. “We said 'Oh my God, we've never thought about that. What options do we have as consumers to dress more sustainably and live more sustainably?'”
The couple began researching into production techniques and were horrified by what they discovered – unethical manufacturing processes, use of toxic dyes, tons of wasted fabric – and decided to take action. After relocating to California, Frehsee studied a Masters in business and environmental resources at Stanford University.
Meanwhile, Balti was dismayed by the dearth of decent eco-friendly women's fashion brands and retailers. She partnered with a textile engineer in Los Angeles to create a soft, biodegradable material from a wood-pulp mix. The couple began working on a business plan.
Amour Vert – which means 'green love' in French – began as a wholesaler of t-shirts in 2011 before branching out into other types of women's clothing and eventually moving into retail. Frehsee and Balti opened their first store in San Francisco in 2014 and launched a website in 2016.
Amour Vert's sustainability practices are grounded in a very hands-on approach to the production of their garments. Unusually for a US-based clothing company, their products are manufactured in America. Fabrics – which include modal, tencel, merino wool, organic cotton and mulberry silk - are created at a mill in Los Angeles. The wood-based materials that are harder to source inland come from a sustainable forest in Austria.
Only low impact dyes are used and the company minimizes waste by cutting multiple garments from the same sheet of fabric at a factory in Oakland. Materials are then shipped back to California (in biodegradable bags) where they are sewn at nine factories that have been vetted for fair treatment of employees.
Even transport used for shipping has been selected sustainably. The couple found a trucking company that transports wines to L.A. but was empty on its return to San Francisco, so it now loads up with Amour Vert's textiles.
“We've been trying to be really sustainable along the whole supply chain,” says Balti. “That's part of our DNA.”
In addition to environmentally aware production techniques, the brand has also partnered with American Forests in a “tees for trees” project where a tree is planted in North America for every t-shirt purchased. To date, over 170,000 trees have been planted as a result of the initiative.
Although Amour Vert is built on a premise of social responsibility, the brand has been careful in terms of how it markets itself. Balti states that no women buys clothes purely because they are “eco” and she has been careful that sustainability hasn't come at the expense of style. One of the tag-lines used to define the brand is “Paris chic meets California cool”. Amour Vert's innovation has been in luring consumers in on the strength of the quality of their merchandise and then using the social pledges to maximize customer loyalty.
The company has come a long way in a short period of time. It's hard to believe that just a decade ago both Frehsee and Balti were working in the global defence industry. Now they are trailblazers in ethical clothing. With six stores now running in California and the Amour Vert brand selling in a number of overseas countries, Frehsee has expressed hopes that this will become a catalyst that may eventually transform the clothing industry. It may take some time but maybe one day we'll see bigger name brands adopting these revolutionary techniques.