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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 Juni 2016 · NEUBAU EYEWEAR
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