We can’t create a fair fashion world without a lot of passionate people working in the industry. In ‘Fair Fashion Pioneers’ we will interview brand owners, agents, designers, and other inspiring people about what thrives them to do this work and how they try to contribute to a better world.
Talking about pioneers! This week we meet up with Charlotte van Waes aka Charlie. In 2009 she started, together with Marieke Vinck, the fair fashion store, and agency Charlie+Mary.
What was the reason or moment fair and sustainable fashion became important to you?
At the beginning of my study at AMFI, I came across a pair of Veja’s, and that was the first time I realized there were other ways of producing fashion. But it was after my study that I really realized I was not going to be happy in the mainstream fashion industry and I wanted to do something different.
So, how did you start Charlie+Mary?
For me, it really started with my own curiosity for sustainable brands, and that is how the idea for the store started. Once we had the store in Amsterdam, other retailers started asking us about our brands. On the other hand, brands started asking us if we knew more stores that could represent them. And that is how the agency Charlie+Mary was born. The agency brought us further to our goal: making true fashion available for more people. From that moment we grew from representing one brand to seven fashion brands, two shoe brands, and one accessory brand throughout the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
What is the difference between when you started in 2009 and now?
You see a lot more possibilities for brands in design, because of the developments of different fabrics for example. There is definitely more diversity than there was when we started. We also notice that a lot more conventional stores are getting more and more interested in true fashion brands. They are starting to see they don’t have to hand in on style and look if they choose a fair and sustainable fashion brand.
What makes you and Marieke a good team?
I think we really compliment each other. Marieke is more of a pioneer; she is good in thinking of concepts. And I am more practical. She is busier with communication to the outside and I work a lot more on the agency itself. We did have the same vision from day one: We want to change the industry. And if you have that same vision, that is already a strong base I think.
At thegreenlabels.com we select our brands on 4 values: clean processes, vegan, waste reduction and local. Each brand has at least 2 of those values. How do you select your brands at Charlie&Mary?
For us, sustainability and fair labor are both important values when selecting our brands. Secondly, we look if those values are truly in the DNA of the company. A third point that we focus on is that brands still develop their selves in the field of sustainability and fair labor. And not in the last place: fashion is very important. The feeling of a brand has to be good.
What are the plans for Charlie+Mary in the future?
Our ultimate goal is that the consumer can shop sustainable fashion within a scope of 50km. To reach that goal we have to keep updating our shop-portfolio, to convince more consumers to buy sustainable fashion, and to stay valuable. We know we still have a long way to go, but if you see the changes that are made within the nine years we are active, there is a lot of hope for that to succeed.