Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Alternative Outfitters: The Vegan Boutique Combining Kindness & Style

When it comes to cruelty-free fashion Alternative Outfitters is your one-stop-shop! Here's my interview with eco-chic guru and co-founder Jackie Horrick. 

Owners of AO Henny (left) & Jackie (right)
Q. How would you describe the essence of Alternative Outfitters?

We are a vegan boutique that specializes in offering shoes, handbags, accessories, and personal care products that are cruelty-free and animal friendly. We offer both men’s and woman’s items and we strive to keep our price points fairly low so that everyone of any income can shop with a conscience. Many people think that you have to sacrifice fashion to live a more compassionate lifestyle, but at Alternative Outfitters, you can have both. 

Q. What’s the ‘origin story’ for this online store? How did it all begin?

My business partner, Henny, and myself have always wanted to have our own business. We worked together in the food industry and both have food science degrees. So, naturally we thought that if we went into business together, it would revolve around food. However, it was also really important for us to do something that we could feel good about doing and something that would help animals in some way. I haven’t worn leather since I was 16 years old and it had always been a struggle to shop for things like shoes, handbags, belts and wallets. I knew there had to be other people out there like me, who still wanted to wear the same style fashions that everyone else was wearing, but without hurting animals. 

So we decided to do some research on the subject and found there wasn’t a lot of information out there on vegan shopping. That was over 8 years ago. We decided to go for it anyway, and we launched the website in April of 2004. We started to grow pretty quickly and knew that we may actually be able to have a viable business doing what we loved. Within 2 years we moved to our current Pasadena location and we have been growing the business ever since.

Q. What makes Alternative Outfitters unique among ethical shopping destinations?

I think it helps that we were one of the first. We have a lot of experience under our belt and we know what our customers want. We continually seek out new products and new brands to offer and we always do our best to keep our prices low. We also pride ourselves on customer service and we carry the widest selection of products.

Q. Who are your favourite ethical designers?

We love The Vegan Collection. We sell a ton of their belts and wallets. We also love BB Dakota. They offer wool free pea coats and faux leather jackets for women at very reasonable prices. We tend to carry a lot of well known brands that are very fashion forward and that offer vegan shoes in their collections like Madden Girl and CL by Laundry too.

Q. Do you believe we’ll see a time when ethical and sustainable fashion are the norm?

I would love to see that day. It’s amazing how far we have come already. Seven years ago when we would meet with vendors and tell them we were looking for shoes without leather, they thought we were crazy. Now when we meet with them, the show us entire vegan collections that they created. It’s also becoming more mainstream now that they are using sustainable materials and still concentrating on being more fashion forward. Whereas before, many of the ethical and eco-friendly lines were not as fashion conscious.

People loved that they were made out of recycled materials, but that’s not enough to get someone to wear something. People want to feel good about the products they are buying, but they also want to look good in them. I think times are changing and I do think that there will come a time when ethical and sustainable fashion is the norm.

Q. What’s your most cherished vegan fashion item right now?

That’s a really hard one. This time of year I have to say that I love all the boots. We have so many fun styles to choose from and they really do add so much style to any outfit. I’m also really loving our coats this season too. It’s just so hard to find 100% wool free coats and we have a nice selection with quite a few colors and styles.

Q. Is there anything new and exciting on the horizon for Alternative Outfitters?

There are always new and exciting things going on here at AO. In the near future, you will see an updated website which we are really excited about. We have had the same general website design and layout for the last 7 years and it’s time for a facelift.

You can also find Alternative Outfitters on: 
My Vegan Blog

Sunday, 27 November 2011

FJFW11 - Established Designer Show

Over the next few weeks I'll be publishing a series on my experiences at Fiji Fashion Week 2011, held in Suva, Fiji Islands. During this series I invite you to come with me behind-the-scenes and discover a country that's taking some big strides into the world of fashion design.

In part 1 of this series we'll be front and centre at FJFW's Established Designer show. 

For many, the Fiji Islands are synonymous with tropical beach vacations, cocktails, scuba diving and coconut trees. While Fiji does indeed boast all of the above it's important to remember that, as a developing country, creative young (or old!) people can struggle to grow in certain industries such as fashion and design. In 2008 Fiji Fashion Week was created in response to this need, with the primary objective of creating a world class fashion week event which helps nurture, develop and promote individual stakeholders in Fiji’s fashion industry.
Relaxing in the VIP area before the show
I was very privileged to be invited to attend this year's shows as the official (and I believe only) blogger. My aim is to showcase these budding designers to an international audience for 2 main reasons. One reason is that designers within a developing country are presented with unique obstacles when it comes to skill development, access to resources and promotion of their designs. On the other hand, being somewhat cut-off from 'mainstream' fashion can also mean that Fijian designers have a fresh perspective and aesthetic (paired with a unique cultural mix), which could add new life to the international market.
My second reason for taking a keen interest in promoting FJFW to the world, is that I believe the fashion industry as a whole here is at a critical juncture - still fledgling but about to take off. How wonderful would it be for the fashion industry of an entire nation to incorporate environmental, social and animal welfare ethics into every part of the supply chain? What an exciting opportunity! 

While local design is taking its first steps, it's important to note that some of the world's most recognised labels are manufactured in Fiji e.g. Rip Curl, Just Jeans, Kookai, Country Road and many many more. Fiji now has the opportunity to export it's own locally designed brands. 

Lovely local and international models before the show
Sarah Parsons (left) and Kate Findlay (right) working hard as volunteers backstage
Extremely sweet mini-model
Male models chilling out before the show
The guests start to arrive!
I take my seat in the 'media pit' just adjacent to the end of the catwalk

Okay enough background, let's get on with the show! I have to say that while not everything that was sent down the catwalk appealed to my own personal taste, it was never boring - as designers played with fabrics, patterns and cuts. There were many stunning pieces mixed in with a few experimental items. For me though, that's what makes a great show - designers willing to take risks!

First up is Karalina by Carolyn Ah Koy

In a nutshell: whites; ethereal; roses; traditional Fijian tapa meets Japanese geisha; sleeves; rope belts and necklines; flow and swish; severe hair.

This was a very elegant piece
Purples and greys made a lovely combination

Next is 8 Mountain by Moira Solvalu

In a nutshell: street-chic meets Indian formal; purple for men; white bling for girls; sunglasses; shiny material; rosettes; over-sized one shoulder tops; and optical illusion pantsuits.

Traditional bula shirt and sulu in an unconventional colour
Optical illusion pants - to hypnotise passersby?

Simar by Seema Kumar

In a nutshell: animal prints; long coats with hoods; metallics; bikinis; board-shorts; sunglasses; bubble skirts; kaftans; and pleats.

I think this purple skirt is very cute!
Nice shoe choice for this dress. Next step is to have only vegan leather used at FJFW!

Stylosophy by Ana Rabuka

In a nutshell: frills; chic use of textures; brilliant use of colours; hats; very short dresses; floral print; shiny fabric 'gift wrapping' dresses; and 'lily pond' dresses.

This model manages to carry off the big side ruffle and keep the outfit feeling youthful

The gift wrapping dress
The lily-pad dress

Blue Lagoon by Robert Kennedy - Winner of *Best Collection* in the Established Designer show

In a nutshell: island-style; flowing whites; sophisticated resort-wear; nautilus motif; tights; marine-inspired prints; sundresses; maxi-dresses; over-sized kaftans; tailored pants; bare feet; colourful accessories; over-sized sleeves. 

Loved the drama and storytelling of this opening look!
Very sophisticated, crisp, clean.
Designer Robert Kennedy takes to the catwalk to much applause

Guest Appearance by Kookai Australia *Exempted from judging*
In a nutshell: fitted styles; LBDs; black strappy shoes; classic silhouettes; big patterned dresses; super cute shorts; lollipop colours; cut-outs; big earrings; flamenco influence; and bold use of colour blocking.

I am head over heels for this dress!

SR By Savitri Rae

In a nutshell: hot pinks; patterned dresses; maxis with thick waist bands; pumpkin oranges and whites; bubble dress; frills; longer skirts; animal print; polkadots; bikinis and hoodies; metallics; and lace gloves.

A Fijian take on I Dream of Jeannie?
I would definitely wear this cute dress!
While I love the vibrant colours - for me personally - this outfit is too reminiscent of one worn by my Barbie in the early 1980s
This dress on the other hand is very chic indeed!
Very exciting choices of fabrics and patterns
Getting a distinct Material Girl vibe

Guest Appearance by Zambesi New Zealand *Exempted from judging*

In a nutshell: trench coats; frayed shorts; greys; ruffles; texture; over-sized dresses; colour blocking; nudes and neutrals paired with shimmer; 70s pattern tops and mid-length shorts for men; gorgeous sheer fabrics; and orange belts. 
I love this outfit! It looks so chic yet so comfy too :D
Sweet yet sexy over-sized shirt dress
As much as I want to love these shorts - it was hard to tell whether the fraying was on purpose...
Liking this smart casual look for the blokes
Very fresh, feminine and flirty - perfect for summer garden parties

Dusk to Dawn Hefroni by Aisea Konrote

In a nutshell: canary yellow; high leg slits; sheer patterned fabrics over block colours; and ruffles. 

Guest Appearance by Jerell Scott New York - as seen on Season 5 of Project Runway *Exempted from judging*

In a nutshell: patterned asymmetric dresses; horizontal stripes; super cute short black and white kaftan dresses; quirky lily-pad design; metalics; Arabian Nights; and short bubble dress.

If I could get the top altered to fit better, I'd love to rock this funky little party dress
Fantastic use of pattern
Despite feeling that I perhaps shouldn't like this dress - I find it somehow compelling
80s Barbie outfit take 2?
Love this!
Sexy Arabian Nights outfit
Unlike the relatively shy local designers, Mr Scott knew how to work the cameras! This is a vital skill I hope to see developed by Fijian designers
The FJFW11 Judges - (from left) Rosie Semisi (designer), Mark Halabe (garment manufacturer) and Rachel Fairfax (designer)
Introducing Ryan Collins part time photographer for Kindness by Design and full time partner to moi
Jone Tuiipelehaki (FJFW11 Publicist) with the gorgeous Naziah Ali (designer)

Stay tuned for more FJFW11 goodness including - designer profiles, exclusive pics and video!