In today’s interview I talk with Thien, the founder of the label L’amour est Bleu about her past in the fast fashion industry, how to find a good quality piece of clothing, and – of course – her label, L’amour est Bleu!
A little while ago, I published an article about vegan leather vs animal derived leather. I wrote about my frustration about vegan leather shoes that do not last longer than a season and how I still wear my seven year old leather boots. After publishing this post, I got sooooo many comments and messages from others who feel the same frustration. However, not only that! I had a few messages saying that it is not only the vegan leather shoes that do not last but that many fair fashion pieces do not last either! I got some messages saying that the given person does not know any longer why she should invest in fair fashion pieces if they do not last!
This made me think, obviously! I mean that it really like a worst case scenario, isn’t it: people start buying fair fashion and then they get frustrated about the quality and go back to fast fashion instead. This is nothing I would like to see happen!
So, while I was thinking I thought I should better talk to someone who knows about the industry – someone who knows WHY it is worth supporting fair fashion labels and HOW to find out if a piece of clothing will last long – or not.
So today I have this wonderful interview with Thien, the founder of the label L’amour est Bleu ready for you! Enjoy it 🙂
Dear Thien, you have a past in the fast fashion industry and are now the woman behind the wonderful fair fashion label “L’amour est Bleu”. Could you explain in a nutshell why you chose to turn your back to fast fashion?
It has always been my dream to work in fashion and eventually start my own fashion label. During my 10-year career in the fashion industry, I have witnessed the negative development of the fashion industry. Already in my first job as a fashion designer I made many bad experiences – and this on both sides, both here in Germany and with the suppliers abroad, very bad working conditions existed. I was shocked by the ignorance with which my colleagues treated the suppliers abroad and accepted the unfair working conditions. After a short time I had to quit my job and changed to a family business in my hometown Hamburg. I was fed up with the working conditions in the fast fashion sector and in the new company I found my joy for fashion again. But I was aware of the change in the fashion market: The collections turned faster and faster, the quality of the clothing decreased and permanent discounts led to the decay of fashion. The disasters in the production countries increased and finally it was the birth of my daughter that made it clear to me that I no longer wanted to be part of this fashion world. I wanted to start my own fashion label to give fashion its value back again.
Your experiences in the fast fashion industry proove that exploitation does not only take place in countries in Asia or Africa, but actually even here in Germany – do you feel like designers here “have no choice” but to stick to the systeme or would you argue that fashion designers here in Germany should be more confident and ask for better conditions/challenge the system?
I was very young when I started my first job as a designer. Nowadays, I wouldn’t let myself be treated that badly anymore and would have stood up against the way my colleagues dealt with producers abroad. However, I realize that the younger generation is more courageous than I was back then. In my last job, I witnessed many times how young women stood up for their rights and defended themselves when they were treated badly. I like this development and support it as much as I can. For example, it is very important to me that all the people I work with are paid and treated with respect. Unfortunately, this is not usual in the fashion industry.
You also travelled to Vietnam and you saw the conditions in the garment industry over there. Would you mind sharing a bit of what you’ve seen during your travels?
When we visited my relatives in a small village, I saw meter-high heaps of clothes in almost every house. In Vietnam the doors are always open, so that you can have a look into the houses without any problems. My family also lived in a house with towers of clothes. I found out that as subcontractors they took over sewing orders from suppliers. They didn’t know which fashion companies they were doing this for, the cut garments were delivered to them and they sewed them together. They received 70 cents for sewing a cargo pants. When I later started working in the fashion industry, I understood that producers would pass on orders to subcontractors (in this case my family) if fashion companies were depressing prices so much that the producer couldn’t do the job with his employees. Since many producers are dependent on the large orders of the fashion companies, they still accept the order and pass it on to subcontractors. So the production facility may have fair working conditions, but the subcontractor may be working with children.
Most conventional labels want to produce clothes for prices as low as possible; this is what then leads to conditions as the ones you’ve seen in Vietnam. What do you think, how can we, as consumers, trust in labels? How can we find out which ones to support and which ones not to?
On the one hand, certifications such as GOTS or Fairtrade can guarantee that the clothes has been produced in an environmentally friendly and fair way. The problem with the certifications is that small fashion labels and suppliers cannot afford a certification. I therefore prefer to make sure that a brand transparently discloses its supply chain and openly communicates to the customer where it obtains its fabrics and where the clothes are made. It means more work for the customer, but it’s worth to invest that time.
Sustainability is not only about under which conditions a piece of garment is made , but also about the quality of a piece of clothing. I recently realised that there is quite some frustration around consumers about buying a fair fashion piece that does not last longer than a primark piece! How can we know that a piece of clothing is actually of good quality and will be long lasting?
It’s disappointing when sustainable brands invest in low quality or cheap manufacturing. Of course, this can also be a lack of know-how, but I have the demand on my fashion that the fabric and manufacturing quality are so good that the garment can be worn for a lifetime. You first recognize the quality of a garment by the look and feel of the fabric. Does the fabric look high-quality or are lint and hair already visible on the surface? Does it feel tightly woven or more like a rag? Second, you look at the seams: How are they sewn, straight and even or crooked and irregular? Have seams already torn? And the last thing you look at is the fit: Does the garment fit your body well? Is the button facing crooked? Is the hem straight? As a customer, you should take this time in order to be happy with your purchase.
Your label is not only about good quality and good materials; what else would you say makes up for “L’amour est bleu”?
l’amour est bleu stands not only for good quality but also for timeless design with attention to detail. I don’t follow trends in design, but I attach importance to creating fashion that women like to wear because they look good and feel comfortable in it. My wish is to create a capsule wardrobe for women with selected garments that will make them look good for any occasion and that they will wear a lifetime.
And finally, what is your favorite piece from your collection?
I love the design of every piece in my collection but I absolutely love to wear the Parisienne dress. It’s so simple but it makes every woman looks fabulous.
Thank you SO much for the interview!
You can find out more about Thien and her label on lamourestbleu.com
This blog post contains names of/pictures of/weblinks to brands and hence, is perceived advertisement. I was not paid for the post and all opinion is my own.