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ARMEDANGELS came to revolutionize the sustainable fashion market – an interview with co-founder Martin Hoefele

How does one go from a background in business administrations to becoming founder of a highly commendable sustainable fashion brand?

With­out any expe­ri­ence in the field at all, in 2007 co-founder Mar­tin Hoe­fel­er took this chal­lenge by the horns and cre­at­ed the Cologne based eco friend­ly brand ARMEDAN­GELS. We talk in depth details of the what’s actu­al­ly behind becom­ing a sus­tain­able brand, chal­lenges every­one faces, com­pe­ti­tion and how true does one stay to their beliefs. The Ger­man design­er has a lot to share when it comes to stay­ing on trend, fas­ci­nat­ing thoughts on chang­ing careers and advice to fel­low entrepreneurs.

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Where does the name ARMEDAN­GELS come from?
The name ARMEDAN­GELS pret­ty much sums up what we stand for. The name sym­bol­izes a sort of Robin Hood“ for the tex­tile indus­try. An armed angel fight­ing against the injus­tices and con­di­tions of an indus­try that needs rev­o­lu­tion­ary change…

Tell us a bit about your his­to­ry with­in the field of fash­ion design?
There is not much to tell. Before I found­ed ARMEDAN­GELS, fash­ion nev­er played a big role in my life. Dur­ing my stud­ies (busi­ness admin­is­tra­tions) I met my Co-founder at an entre­pre­neur work­shop. We were both look­ing for a busi­ness con­cept based on social prin­ci­pals. When we heard about the con­di­tions in the tex­tile indus­try — we were shocked. This was the moment we decid­ed to change the game and make a dif­fer­ence – even with­out any spe­cial­ized knowl­edge in fash­ion. In 2007 ARMEDAN­GELS was born.

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Has the plan always been to cre­ate sus­tain­able wear?
We don’t accept com­pro­mis­es when it comes to the prod­uct. We have and we always will work only with sus­tain­able mate­ri­als. Sus­tain­abil­i­ty is not just a trend for us – it’s our belief. That’s why we only use mate­ri­als such as organ­ic cot­ton, organ­ic wool, TEN­CEL®, Modal or recy­cled poly­ester. And of course we part­nered with orga­ni­za­tions like Fair­trade, GOTS (Glob­al Organ­ic Tex­tile Stan­dard) and the Fair Wear Foun­da­tion to help us imple­ment our high stan­dards and to hold us account­able. Not only mate­r­i­al wise but social wise too.

What are the chal­lenges you’ve come up against in your jour­ney to cre­ate a sus­tain­able cloth­ing brand?
One chal­lenge is def­i­nite­ly to meet com­mer­cial retail prices — despite a sus­tain­able pro­duc­tion. Regard­ing our price range, we can’t com­pete with Fast-Fash­ion“ labels – and that’s not what we want either- not regard­ing the price, nor regard­ing the qual­i­ty. But we are able to com­pete with brands offer­ing a sim­i­lar kind of qual­i­ty and prod­ucts. Anoth­er chal­lenge is to extend our prod­uct range. We have to find new, sus­tain­able mate­ri­als and com­ply to GOTS in every pro­duc­tion step. Also, of course, they have to match our high design stan­dards. All these steps are very time con­sum­ing and cost a lot of mon­ey. And of course it’s tricky some­times – espe­cial­ly for our design­ers and buy­ers. But it‘s a chal­lenge and it’s our job to find cre­ative solu­tions to face these chal­lenges. Nev­er­the­less, we con­tin­u­ous­ly work on extend­ing our col­lec­tions. And a lot has hap­pened since we start­ed. Today we launch four col­lec­tions every year. Men and Women.

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How have you man­aged to meet those chal­lenges?
With a great and pas­sion­ate team. Peo­ple who are cre­ative, love what they do and stand behind our phi­los­o­phy – 100%. We are not per­fect and we will make mis­takes but that’s how we grow. That’s how we change the game.

How do you deal with com­pe­ti­tion with­in the sus­tain­able field?
We love com­pe­ti­tion. We can’t rev­o­lu­tion­ize the tex­tile indus­try our­selves. The more peo­ple care about Fair-Fash­ion and join our mis­sion — the bet­ter. Doesn’t mat­ter if they are cus­tomers, retail­ers or competitors.

Does the fact that you make eco- friend­ly cloth­ing make it hard­er to stay on trend?
We can‘t chase every trend — and we don‘t want to either. We rather focus on mod­ern, con­tem­po­rary col­lec­tions. More­over, we don‘t think there needs to be a con­tra­dic­tion between fair, organ­ic and beau­ti­ful cloth­ing. Our mis­sion is to com­bine fair work­ing con­di­tions and sus­tain­able, high qual­i­ty mate­ri­als with beau­ti­ful design.

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What advice would you give to aspir­ing eco-entre­pre­neurs, espe­cial­ly those with an inter­est in sus­tain­able appar­el?
Don’t respect the sta­tus quo – change it and let no one tell you it’s impos­si­ble. It’s not! It will be tough but it’s worth it.

How have you seen the sus­tain­able fash­ion indus­try change/​develop since launch­ing ARMEDAN­GELS?
The Fair Fash­ion Mar­ket is def­i­nite­ly grow­ing. Our sales fig­ures and retail requests prove it. When we start­ed ARMEDAN­GELS in 2007 we had a team of 3 in a shared office space in Cologne, only sell­ing our prod­ucts via our online shop. Today we are almost 60 peo­ple, sell­ing online and offline in more than 800 Point-of Sales in 16 coun­tries. Peo­ple start being more con­scious about what they wear and where it is pro­duced. That’s great. But even though peo­ple think about sus­tain­abil­i­ty more and more, in the end, they buy what they like. Design and price still come first for the major­i­ty of peo­ple. Fair enough. Nobody wants to wear an ugly shirt – no mat­ter how fair and organ­ic it is. This is the bal­anc­ing act we have to man­age. Cloth­ing, which is fair, organ­ic and beau­ti­ful at the same time. It’s still a long way to go but that’s what you have to deal with if you want to become the fairest fash­ion label in the world.

22 Jun 2016 · neubau eyewear