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.
This week we meet up with Janice Schuurman. Janice is the Brand & Sales Manager for ARMEDANGELS, a sustainable and traceable fashion label from Cologne. We talked to her about her work, the values of the brand and the future of fair and sustainable fashion.
What did you study?
I studied journalism first, followed by a masters degree in strategic communication at the University of Antwerp. I finished my master in 2014, focusing on green washing, which was a pretty new research topic at the time. My main goal was isolating the important aspects for consumers that would help them decide whether a brand that profiled itself as ‘sustainable’ was worth investing their money in. I found out that transparency throughout all aspects production (going from sourcing materials to packaging, for example) was considered most important, and that a lot of brands at the time weren’t willing to share this information.
Where did your career in sustainable fashion start after your studies?
I lived in Belgium for a few years and the years before I traveled around quite a lot. So, I decided that I wanted to go back to the Netherlands and stay put, for at least a little while. I knew I wanted to work in sustainability, preferably in communication or branding. That’s when I started working for W.Green, a creative communications & branding agency, specialized in sustainable lifestyle and fashion. First as an intern and after a couple of months, I got hired as an account manager. After 2,5 amazing years of working together with many inspiring brands and people, I decided that I needed to focus more. So I did. And that’s how I ended up at ARMEDANGELS.
What do you do at ARMEDANGELS?
I’m responsible for sales and marketing in the Netherlands and making sure that we’re working together with the right people, retailers, and brands. Where ARMEDANGELS started off with just a couple of t-shirts, we now launch multiple collections per year that are produced in a completely traceable and sustainable way.
I think the most important part of my role is that I make sure we’re working together with partners that can bring across our story in a true, authentic way.
What does your average workday look like at ARMEDANGELS?
We have four mayor sales seasons per year. Before every sales season, I will be in Cologne, meeting up with all my (international) colleagues and the design team to go through the collection (and to have dinner and drinks, of course 😉). After this meeting I will take the samples of the new collection with me to my showroom in Amsterdam, where I meet up with all retailers, so they can make a selection for their stores. During the rest of the year I am traveling around a lot, visiting clients, going to Germany for collection meetings, attending fashion fairs and last but definitely not least; giving sustainability- and sales training at events or retailers.
What are the most important values of the brand?
It's our mission to combine transparency, fair working conditions and sustainable, high-quality materials with beautiful design. Instead of chasing the latest trends we focus on modern, contemporary collections. Fair fashion instead of fast fashion.
Sustainability is not just a trend for us - it’s our belief - and taking responsibility and protecting our environment is not an option but a must.
In which ways do you try to communicate those values with the costumers?
On our labeling, website and social media. Everywhere, really. Our clients know what they can and may expect from us, and we’re willing to go really far to honor this trust. For example, sometimes an entire style gets canceled from our collection because one part of the production chain is not 100% traceable. We focus on transparency, so we NEED to know where our garments, buttons or zippers are coming from. No concessions are made. And we really try to do something with feedback from our consumers. For example, a customer asked us why we used mother-of-pearl buttons - why not go for a vegan option? We are not a fully vegan brand, but we decided to make new buttons that look like mother-of-pearl but are actually made from recycled plastic.
We sell ARMEDANGELS in our webshop. Why do you think ARMEDANGELS fits in at thegreenlabels.com?
I think we fit in perfectly with the rest of your collection. Also, you offer some really nice designer pieces on your webshop and I think our styles match seamlessly with these more outspoken ones, because of our timeless designs and commercial prices.
In previous interviews we talked a lot about the struggle of fair fashion still being in a bubble, and about the mission to make fair and sustainable fashion bigger and mainstream. What does ARMEDANGELS do to contribute to this mission?
With ARMEDANGELS we’re taking fair/sustainable fashion out of that ‘geiten wollen sokken’- and expensive niche, because it’s affordable, qualitative, timeless and on-trend at the same time. We want to crack open the market by being available. That’s why we’re not only working together with eco-stores but also with boutiques, shopping malls and new retail initiatives that don’t necessarily focus on sustainability. To reach the non-conscious consumer; still the biggest share of consumers.
What do you hope to see in the future for ARMEDANGELS?
ARMEDANGELS is growing. The number of conscious consumers is increasing in general and I hope we can go further down this road. The first important change that needs to happen: buy less. This will be hard, of course, since our entire society is built on consumerism. Once we start consuming less (step 1), we’re hopefully revaluing goods again (step 2) and willing to pay the true price of something (step 3). People really need to understand that it’s impossible to produce jeans and then sell them for 24,99. So I hope that in the future, brands like ARMEDANGELS will be the mainstream/go-to option for people who need a new t-shirt or a pair of jeans.
We loved talking to you, Janice! Check out ARMEDANGELS, available on our webshop and the Elke Dress Janice is wearing.
Interview by Floor Boschhuizen.