An Interview With The Founder Of EcoVibe Apparel | Sustainable Fashion In Portland
One of the best parts about having Echo in Portland is being surrounded by so many other like minded businesses who value the commitment to sustainability. EcoVibe Apparel is one of them!
EcoVibe Apparel was founded by soulmates, Len and Dre.
Len spent years working in the fashion industry while Dre worked in the wellness industry. Together they have created a stellar fashion forward brand that is committed to sustainability.
We've got some partnerships in the works with EcoVibe and to kick it all off we are featuring an interview with co-founder Dre!
Be sure to head over to EcoVibe's blog to read their interview with Jami as well.
What sparked your desire to get involved in the ethical and sustainable fashion world?
Len spent many years in the fashion and apparel industry working for some very big brands like Nordstrom. I had a career in the Natural Health and Wellness field. We both love fashion but we also care about the planet and the health of people and we knew that the apparel industry was not very environmentally or socially conscious as a whole. When when we decided to start our own clothing store in 2010, we knew that we wanted to incorporate a focus on natural and sustainable products as the guiding mission for our brand. We also felt that Portland, being such an eco-conscious city, would support this type of company.
How has EcoVibe Apparel evolved from your original vision for the brand?
We have changed and evolved a lot along the way in our 8 years. Many changes have come from just trying to survive as a small business and learning better ways of doing things. Originally, we only carried products made by other brands and we were very strict about fabrics in our clothing being natural or organic. Some of the brands that we carried that sold very well for us, went out of business, forcing us to seek new suppliers and try new things. Other times, the fabrics were great but the styles were not popular so we had to move on, even if we loved the ethics of the company making the products. Customer feedback and demand also helped us evolve to expand our offerings and ultimately led us to developing our own house line in 2015, which now makes up the majority of the clothing that we stock. We also became a member of 1% For The Planet in 2016, which was a huge goal for us since the beginning. We donate 1% of every sale to local environmental non-profits through this membership. We also opened our second store in Portland in 2016 which was very exciting.
We know that you have a background in the health and wellness industry, what part of the industry did you work in?
I studied botanical medicine and was trained in midwifery and maternal and child health, and worked in women’s health and birth clinics for several years in California and West Africa. After having my own child, I entered the health care practitioner exclusive side of the natural supplement industry and worked in sales and marketing for 12 years.
Did your experience in the health and wellness industry create an organic bridge into working in ethical fashion or was it a conscious decision to ‘switch’ industries?
It was definitely more of a bridge. When we started EcoVibe, we had no idea where it was going to take us and we certainly couldn’t support ourselves on it solely starting out, so I maintained my job for the first 5 years. It was a lot to maintain both, since we also have 3 children, but we made it work until the business started demanding so much of my time that I had to retire from that other career in order to help take things to the next level with the business.
What is your favorite part of working in the ethical/sustainable fashion world?
It’s been really wonderful to see ethical and sustainable fashion start to become more mainstream and to see people caring more and more about where clothing comes from and the impact that their purchases have on the planet and people.
Tell us about your experience with The Sustainable Fashion Forum, do you have a favorite experience?
The Sustainable Fashion Forum is a new annual event in Portland, in its second year, and currently growing. We were very honored to have been invited to speak on the designer & manufacturer panel alongside some amazing industry experts. We also featured a selection of our clothing at the pop-up market and had 2 models walk the runway in our looks in the fashion show installation. It was a great day all around but our favorite experience was probably seeing so many people passionate about the movement come together to share ideas with others eager to learn.
What is your go to EcoVibe Apparel piece?
At this point basically everything I wear is an EcoVibe piece! But I think some of my main “go to” pieces are our tencel button up styles like our Maggie or Lara top because the fabric is so nice to wear this time of year and they are great worn open to layer over dresses or tanks. Our 8-way poncho is also one of my favorites year round because it’s so versatile and great for travel.
Is there a certain style of clothing that you try to emulate through the pieces that you carry at EcoVibe?
Our goal is to stay on trend without being “trendy” and to also offer timeless pieces that can be styled and worn regardless of the trends. We want to help people create looks that they feel good in because they are comfortable, stylish and versatile in their wardrobe. We focus a lot on our fabrics and we are well known for really soft fabrics.
Does your vision and Len’s vision for the pieces sold at EcoVibe ever vary?
Yes! We do all of the buying together and we usually agree but sometimes one of us feels very strongly about a particular piece or style and the other person is not convinced. We believe in each other so we are pretty good about allowing each other to try some of these things without going too crazy or taking big risks. Sometimes it doesn’t work out but other times we are surprised at how well some of these things end up doing!
How do your expertise and passions mesh with Len’s expertise and passions when it comes to running EcoVibe? What do each of your bring to the table?
Len is our “visionary” leader and has a lot of creative ideas that often spark new ventures that have helped us move forward and get through hard times. He is a huge believer in the power of intention and that has helped us along the way just by believing in the possibilities. He also helps to inspire and support our staff with his positive energy. I drive a lot of the day to day mechanics of the business and am really passionate about our mission and driving the marketing side of the brand.
What would your greatest piece of advice be to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Don’t give up! There will be many times that you want to because being an entrepreneur is not easy but it is worth it if you still believe in it, love what you are doing and can find a way to make a living doing it.
We loved having an inside look at the sustainable fashion world! A huge thank you to Eco Vibe for collaborating with us!