Clear Conscience Revival
In the under-belly of the fashion world, there is a barely audible grumbling about the detrimental effects of the fast fashion world, and the masses are begrudgingly catching on. Ultimately, most people do not consciously buy and discard unethically, but rather have no other choice but to go with cheaper, more disposable options. Griffin Vanze, the founder of AEON ROW, is tackling that problem head on with one sustainably-made and moderately-priced basic at a time. Even the name – Aeon, plural of eon: something that lasts a very long time; and Row from John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row: a focus on community - insinuates that Vanze and AEON ROW plan on sticking around for the long haul.
AEON ROW’s mission is simple: make sustainable fashion affordable. Vanze’s explanation is irrefutable: “We don’t think customers should have to choose between price and impact, and revived fabrics provide the perfect solution: because it requires no land, water, chemicals, or cotton dyes to produce, it spares us production costs, allowing us to pass savings on to our customers.” In order to make this possible, AEON ROW works with several different partners who can process and recycle different types of fabrics in different manners, creating their trademark ‘revived fabric.’
Previously, Vanze worked with a non-profit called Ocean Conservancy that, in addition to its ocean trash prevention work, also did beach cleanups. Vanze was shocked to find how much of that trash consisted of clothing, and so began his quest to find a solution. In his research, Vanze found that ‘revived fabric’ was relatively more affordable than other eco-friendly options, and just a week later, he was working with fashion insiders to make his dream a reality.
The clothing line so far is precise and minimalist, consisting mainly of no-fuss basics that can be dressed up or down. The pieces are not simplistic, though. The tees, tanks, dresses, and skirts are a breath of fresh air compared to the embellishment-obsessed looks that dominate fast-fashion. It’s as if Howard Roarke designed the line, doing away with the unnecessary, Italianate decoration that he so despised, leaving clean lines and functional structure. This is not surprising, since Vanze draws much of his inspiration from architecture. “My favorite architect is Mies van der Rohe, who adopted the terms ‘less is more’ and ‘the devil is in the details,’” explains Vanze. These ideals are fundamental at AEON ROW. And, to make these designs possible, Vanze has packed his team with pros coming from reputable organizations, such as Li&Fung and Elie Tahari.
A concept that perhaps other sustainable clothing companies are missing that AEON ROW is driven by, is the idea of transformation. Vanze says they want their customers to be able to “transcend the cat-and-mouse game of trends.” To make this transformation possible, AEON ROW has what they call the “Alternate Endings” program. The name sounds like an outreach program, and in a way it is. It is a system of recycling that they’ve created that gives a second life to old clothing, or as Vance puts it, “to hack the typical life cycle of clothing.”
So, what’s the catch? A solution so simple seems obvious, so why hasn’t it caught on and revolutionized the fashion world yet? The problem seems to lie not in the product, but rather in the consumer. “Some people are wary of [revived fabrics],” laments Vanze, compassionately. “In many cases, customers are right to be wary of products that they haven’t heard of before, considering the historical opaqueness of the fashion industry with respect to supply chains and quality.” However, as the customer base grows and reports of pleasant surprise with quality flow in, Vanze remains optimistic that their revived fabric could potentially convert clothing into a more sustainable commodity. “Waste not, want not” and get something in return.
photograph by Karin Dailey