BLOG: INTERVIEW WITH FOUNDER ARMEDANGELS
In January of 2007, two guys from cologne decide to revolutionize the fashion world. Driven by their passion for good design and shocked by the conditions in the textile industry, they make a decision: They want to create change, do something they both believe in deeply. They want to build up a company that approaches things differently.
Their simple idea to print and sell t-shirts to collect donations for charity projects grew and became the company that today – 10 years later – can proudly call itself one of the biggest organic fair fashion labels in Europe. With a team of 70 people and four collections a year, they prove each day that sustainability and great product design do not exclude each other. In doing so, they have nothing to hide. The cologne-based label exclusively uses sustainable materials and is continuously working towards fair working conditions and a transparent chain of supply. Today, ARMEDANGELS is not only just Fairtrade- and GOTS-certified, but also a member of the Fair Wear Foundation.
We sat down with CEO Martin Höfeler to talk shop and take a look back – a decade of ARMEDANGELS in hindsight.
Why did you found ARMEDANGELS?
Early on, I realized that I wanted to do something on my own. Same thing with Anton, my co-founder. I always wanted a job I can stand behind, where I can make a difference and don't have to betray my sense of justice. Personally, this is one of the topics that affects me most.
"Total abstinence is not realistic in our society. It's much more important to us to emphasize on conscious consumption."
What does ARMEDANGELS stand for? What's your mission?
We want to prove that fashion can be done differently – organic and fair. We believe that sustainable materials, fair working conditions and great product design go together very well. We want to wake people up, reach as many as possible with our message and show that everyone's got a choice. Of course it would be better to buy less stuff. But total abstinence is not realistic in our society. It's much more important to us to emphasize on conscious consumption, to think about what you really need.
What makes you proud?
Generally, I think it's great when someone gets involved and takes things into their own hands. If that person happens to wear ARMEDANGELS while doing so, amazing. Then, we know we've done our job. For example, there was this video of Thomas D. (german rap artist) where he was picking up trash from the streets because he was fed up about seeing it lying there every day. Instead of complaining about it, he just picked it up himself. I think that's just great. And the best part: He was wearing an ARMEDANGELS T-Shirt. That made me proud. Because for many, ARMEDANGELS is more than just a brand, it's a statement. Also, I'm proud that we stayed true to our beliefs over the course of the last ten years, just went our own way and didn't let anyone tell us otherwise, no matter what they said. I am proud to see people working for the label who believe in its cause and love the brand. I think it makes an important difference if you work for money or for what you believe in.
What was the biggest mistake so far? Was there anything that went completely wrong?
Oh yes. Especially considering choosing the suppliers, we failed a bunch of times in the beginning. But we learned from it. Above all, we learned that you cannot shake off your responsibilities, that you should never stop questioning how things are done and that mistakes are important and necessary. You just shouldn't make them twice.
"My call to everyone out there: Ask yourself what you want to leave behind. Believe in change. And then, just start. Ideally, wear ARMEDANGELS while you do it."
What are the biggest challenges?
One of the biggest challenges definitely is that we are perfectionists and tend to try to find the best possible solution. In the ARMEDANGELS company culture, the wish for positive change is rooted so deeply that we don't just do something new but always try to do the new thing in the best possible way. It doesn't matter if it's about a new material, packaging or new suppliers. That slows us down sometimes. Also, we have extremely high standards when it comes to our partners and we invest a great amount of time and energy in finding out how we can make sustainable changes to the industry. That's not always easy, though, because new solutions often tend to have a downside as well. But if you don't try, you can't fail. The small steps are what really counts. And if I've learned one thing, it's that there are always going to be critical voices. It's easy to criticize. Making a real difference is much more difficult.
"If you don't try, you can't fail. The small steps are what counts."
10 years of ARMEDANGELS. How did you get here, where are you now?
1. Through hard work, endurance and a great team that believes in the cause.
2. With products made from high quality materials with a sophisticated, modern design.
3. Thanks to the growing consciousness of people regarding consumption.
Where do you go from here? What's next?
Our goal is to become the fairest fashion label in the world. Maybe we already are. Still, a lot remains to be done. We are aware of that, and the bigger we become, the more challenges await us. That is exhausting, but it also motivates us every day. In the next five years, we want to conquer the european fair fashion market, and in ten years, we want to have a presence on all the relevant markets around the globe, establish the organic and fair approach as a standard in the fashion world and inspire as many people as possible with our message to overthink the way they consume. So we still have a bit of work to do, but no one ever said changing the world was going to be easy.
"No one ever said changing the world was going to be easy – we still have a bit of work to do"
Bron: www.armedangels.de VON KATIA