A word is around: Sustainability. In the fashion industry a rethinking is happening. Both, brands’ and consumers’ conscience of sustainable and fair produced fashion grows continuously. Armedangels has a big share of it. As a green brand that aims to combine sustainability and design from its very first beginning, it once started to make the world better and cleaner with its products.
“10 years ago, we only existed as an idea on white paper. 5 years ago we were known as an online shop for sustainable T-shirts and prints. Today we belong to the best-known fair fashion labels in Germany – in whole-sale and with our own online shop”, said Martin Höfeler CEO of Armedangels. And for the next 10 years they have ambitious plans. “In 10 years we want to have established fair fashion as a standard in the industry and we want to have convinced the people to rethink their buying behavior.” To reach this aim the brand works continuously on their collection. The latest result: a whole stylish denim collection for spring/ summer 17. The special: it’s totally GOTS-certified. Here Martin Höfeler explains why this is so special and hard to get.
Green or eco fashion still has a rather dusty, slightly uncool image to it, even if the segment seemingly keeps gaining relevance. How would you assess the status quo, which criteria do you set?
The conscience for sustainable and fair produced fashion is definitely growing. We don’t just see it in our sales figures and the increasing demand. Also, the number of fair fashion labels is growing – worldwide. People in general are more enlightened when I comes to fair fashion and they’re rather concerned about what they’re wearing, how it was produced and under which circumstances. We’re happy about that. Still, I believe that we have socially met the point of an increasing conscience about the production of what we’re wearing, but ultimately still buy what we like. Fair enough. Nobody wants to wear an ugly T-Shirt, no matter how sustainable in production. That’s exactly what we’re trying to change. I think we are on a good path of showing people out there that fair fashion does not have to be jutes and batik-worked harem pants. One look at our collection is enough to proof that.
That's why Armedangels works continuously on their collection. The brand recently launched a denim line. Why did you decide to do that? Apparently there are already a lot of denim labels in the segment…
Right. Last year we launched our very first GOTS-certified denim pieces. The resonance was amazing and we are very proud of that. Especially in the denim segment it is not common to get certified by GOTS. For us, it was the goal from the beginning that we either produce after GOTS directives or leave it. The development almost took us two years. The women’s and men’s denim assortment will be extended for our SS17 collection. We are constantly working on improving the collection and becoming more versatile. A lot happened since our early stages when we used to mainly produce T-Shirts – by now we can offer a full collection which rules!
But what differentiates your denim line exaclty from others? How do you make sure, it really deserves the label “green and fair”?
We always had an eye on producing as eco-friendly as possible. As I said before, for our denims the goal was to produce after GOTS standards. That means a complex research on the particular production steps. The appropriate suppliers need to be found, new controls need to take place etc. To really close the production chain, every single step (weave, sewing, laundry, print…) needs to be GOTS-certified. Even more difficult is creating a jeans wash which we like and which is fashionable
following all those standards. All in all, the development almost took us two years. It all can be quite exhausting at times, but those are the challenges you face if you want to become the fairest label of the world.
Does that perspectively also have to do with area capability? Do you have any plans investing in the retail business or will you stick to wholesale?
We want the real multi-channel! The customer shall have the freedom to decide where he wants to buy: online, retail or in our own stores. That’s our goal. We’re currently working on an area concept with our retail partners. To support the whole-sale, we are mid-term planning on own stores. It could already happen in 2017. Own stores and area concepts on the POS bring us closer to the customer and help us to explain our message and what differentiates us from others. That’s extremely important to us. We do not sell “any” product, we want to also change something. We want to spread this message to the right channels via the right measures. In addition, we want to expand the retail internationally, especially in countries we already maintain from here, for example France.
How do you control the value chain? And where do you produce your apparel?
Our teams in design, buying, techniques and sustainability frequently visit our suppliers. I also regularly get involved to meet the suppliers personally to intensify the partnerships. On-site we do not only have a look at the showrooms, but we also visit the different factories: sewing, laundry, weaving, embroidery etc. In the end of last year two colleagues went to see the cotton harvest in India and talked to the farmers from whom we obtain the bio cotton. The Travel Journal of this trip can be read on our website. Depending on who is on-site, the focus of the visit is totally different. But every colleague takes the concerns of the others with them, so a cross section of all matters can be discussed. We always announce our visits and plan the date with the producers. Our suppliers are our partners and that’s what we treat them like. In particular that means that we build up a business relationship based on trust and not control.
In the past few years the brand has continuously developed. What’s your USP?
We make fair, sustainable fashion – and it’s actually pretty! That means, sustainability and a good product design do not exclude one another. On the contrary, it is our goal to combine both aspects.
But it’s even more important that as many people as possible understand why we’re doing this. We want to rouse, attack the mass market and show that fashion can also work in a different way: timeless design preferred to fast fashion, sustainable materials rather than cheap mass ware and a fair production instead of wage slavery. We are deeply convinced, that it’s never too late to make a change. One only needs to do it.
Which are your strongest markets? Which are the strongest sales drivers and where do you still see potential in product categories and markets?
By now, we are represented in over 800 POS in 18 countries, with a focus on DACH, the Netherlands and Belgium with their own sales representatives. But Germany remains our strongest market with about 70%.