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Ever since Greta Thunberg environmental awareness and sustainability become known to everyone. Changing attitudes and one’s own actions is not easy at first. Especially not in fashion. The big labels and online shops live from short-lived trends and an unstoppable desire for consumption. For many, sustainable and organic clothing often have an “eco” stamp that makes them think of bad smelling felt jackets. Lisa Fischer (34) and Lena von Linde (23) from Avantgardress demonstrate in this interview that it is no longer the case. The two founded the Slow Fashion online shop Avantgardress. They market sustainable and timeless products online. The vintage, so to speak, of tomorrow.
The two got to know each other when they worked together at a big online luxury retailer. They talked about fashion and found out how bored they are of the offer. The online shop Avantgardress has now been online for three months. Lena’s responsibilities are the creative ones where Lisa takes care of the strategic processes.
Interview with Avantgardress: Founding your own company
How was the founding of Avantgardress initiated?
Lisa: When you explore the world of fashion more deeply, you discover many beautiful labels that still value quality, cuts and sustainability. We asked ourselves why you can’t find them and why nothing is offered in this direction. When large online shops carry these labels, they are lost in the masses. We both wanted to shop in an online shop for sustainable and slow fashion, because we really love it, but that was missing on the market. The idea was that if it didn’t exist, we would do it ourselves.
Lena: Actually an online shop for us!
How did you have the courage to start your own business?
Lena: Lisa always had the dream to become self-employed. I am still young and found it exciting to realize my own dreams. Without Lisa I probably wouldn’t have had the courage.
Lisa: It felt good, the idea was good and we absolutely stand up for it. In addition, the thought came up that if we don’t do it now, we will never do it. We also complement each other perfectly.
Lena (laughs): Like an old married couple!
What were the biggest challenges when founding the company?
Lena: So far we haven’t had any big problems. We wrote our business plan and applied for the KFW start-up loan. Which we got approved.
Lisa: That was the biggest barrier we had to overcome. It was a bit of a pinch here and there, but it was possible to solve it.
Have you ever had the feeling in your business career that you were being underestimated as women?
Lisa: In fact, on the contrary, people liked the idea and gave us positive feedback. Everyone was more than supportive and believed in our concept.
Interview with Avantgardress: Online Shop for Slow Fashion
How did the name Avantgardress come up?
Lena: We wanted a name that would reflect a beautiful, curated selection of sustainable fashion. For customers, it should be a place they can go for favorite wardrobe items.
When does a label count as sustainable and fair for you?
Lena: Sustainability has unbelievably many facets. For some it’s all about the materials, for others it’s about the production sites, and whether the employees are treated and paid fairly.
Lisa: The cuts are also important. Only when a garment fits well does it have the potential to become a treasured item in the wardrobe. There is no overall answer to this question. We consider all the options. For example, the materials must be of high quality and employees must not be exposed to harmful chemicals. It must be clear that the labels attach importance to these points. Transparency is essential here. Most of our brands in the shop also have direct contact to the production sites and know the people personally.
Lena: There are attractive organic cotton or fair trade products. However, smaller labels often can’t afford this, as certification requires Fair Trade to pay two percent of the net turnover per product.
What is the advantage of Slow Fashion?
Lena: Due to the high quality you can pass on the clothes over generations.
Lisa: In the ideal case, you are no longer standing in front of your wardrobe and have nothing to wear, as the selection is more curated.
Lena: Overstraining by the large selection is impossible. You can see all the parts in the wardrobe at a glance and don’t have to fight your way through 30 blouses in the morning.
What would you like to achieve with your online shop? Which goal do you two have?
Lena: We want to promote conscious consumption. It is better for customers to consciously buy a good piece of clothing per season than two or three current trend pieces that disappear from the wardrobe next season. That’s why we like to tell the stories of labels and products. Our customers can identify better with it if they know, for example, that the Espadrilles are handmade by a small family in Spain.
Lisa: Conscious consumption can be fun, and we want to promote that.
What are your current favorite trends in sustainable fashion?
Lena: Traditions like dyeing shoes with vegetables are taken up again. I think that’s nice! At the same time, new innovations such as “leather” made of pineapple and cotton fibres made of banana leaves are gaining ground. It is important that it is not produced in too large a quantity. If there is no pineapple left, it is not sustainable.
Lisa: Exactly, anything too much is bad. Interesting are trends that have an impact in the medium term, for example new innovations for alternative materials.
“With sustainable fashion and slow fashion, I can’t dress in trendy clothes anymore.” What do you think of this statement?
Lisa: Our concept is the answer to that. We show that slow fashion can be fun. It’s not dull. Every color and countless cuts are represented.
Lena: The trend idea should be abolished. It would be better to pay more attention to one’s own taste and not just to be attracted to what influencers or the press show.
Lisa: That doesn’t mean we won’t be inspired by it. This year’s trend is yellow. We include yellow tones, which will also be wearable and up-to-date in the coming years. Trends are good to reinterpret. But only as long as you stay true to your style and don’t disguise yourself.
How did you manage to change from fast to slow fashion in your private life?
Lisa: For me, most of the fast fashion consumption was stress management. I ordered a lot online, but I also sent a lot back. It was like a whirlpool. Even though I buy organic food, I didn’t do it in fashion. A blogger drew my attention to it and informed me. When Lena and I got more involved with the topic at the latest, it suddenly stopped with me.
How is the distribution currently in your wardrobes? More fast or slow Fashion?
Lena: My wardrobe is a collection point. I still own jeans that I wore when I was 16-years old and that still fit. Only rarely do I throw clothes away. I have never shopped much fast fashion. I used to have the privilege of going shopping with my grandma once a year. I still have the jacket or shoes that were bought with her.
Lisa: As I am older than Lena, more has accumulated with me. It’s a good mix. Meanwhile I don’t buy much anymore, which is why the mix transfers more slowly to slow fashion.
The positive nature of the two is something you like to soak up. They firmly believe in their concept and if things go wrong, Lena said, they would both have a big wardrobe with beautiful, sustainable fashion.
Further information about Avantgardress
The two also support other projects. Currently they are selling a small bag with the inscription “Shopping is cheaper than therapy”. The proceeds go to Schneekönige e.V.. an association that fulfils the wishes of homeless people in Munich.
No Return Bonus 10% discount on the next order. The two founders reward their customers who do not return anything. This is intended to promote a more conscious approach to online shopping. The detailed product descriptions should give the customer a better idea of the garment.