“Sustainability is a continuous learning process”

Madrid – American Vintage was founded more than fifteen years ago by Michaël Azoulay. Since then, the entrepreneur has succeeded like no other in combining French chic with an American casual look. “The French are more romantic, more sensitive, more emotionally driven, while Americans are more practical, cooler, more comfortable in a T-shirt and slightly worn,” explains Azoulay. His brand – which has more than 155 stores worldwide and more than 25 points of sale in the Netherlands and Belgium – feels like a fish in water between these two worlds, to which the founder also added “the cosmopolitan style of Marseille”, the city where he was born. A style that is already iconic for many, and to which a new – although not so new – dimension has been added: sustainability.

With each collection, the number of ecological garments has increased so that the percentage of sustainable items has doubled from year to year. A change that is more than necessary, as fashion is the second most polluting industry on the planet according to the United Nations. “The company was born in 2001 and the brand in 2005. This change and evolution was not the foundation of our company, but we have adapted. We try to do things with the necessary time and dedication, and always in a way that is genuine and authentic to the product, the environment, the customers and the employees,” adds the founder. Inspired by his travels to the United States, the classic cotton T-shirt was the starting point for this French company until it opened its flagship store: quilted cotton, with rolled edges, without seams to create that characteristic loose drape. And on this path to sustainability, which began with the brand’s SS19 collection, organic cotton is increasingly present in American Vintage’s designs. T-shirts, sweatshirts, dresses, jackets, all made with this raw material and grown on land without the use of insecticides or herbicides for the last three years.

Image: American Vintage T-shirts made from organic cotton

When asked what the biggest challenge has been in carrying out such a transformation, the founder has no doubts: “The biggest challenge has been our sweaters. We started with very sensitive, fine and fragile materials”, and the production and dyeing processes were very complex. The yarns are so brittle that they can break during the manufacturing process, but the hardest part, he said, was not to confuse fragility with poor quality and, above all, to make customers aware that these products require more care, that they should be more careful washing, drying, ironing…”. A continuous learning process that has led American Vintage to criticize the quality of their products. However, the brand has since succeeded in “using the right yarn and the most suitable machines, needles, washes and dyes. And our customers have learned to love these products,” Azoulay adds.

Image: American Vintage

“The hardest part was not to confuse ‘fragility’ with ‘poor quality’ and above all to make customers aware that these products will require more maintenance, that they should take precautions in the way they are washed, dried, ironed …”.

-Michael Azoulay, founder of American Vintage.

Recycled materials and vegetable dyes

The use of recycled materials is one of the main pillars of the brand’s sustainable vocation. For the past two seasons, American Vintage has used “recycled fabrics that are shredded and reduced to their fiber state, then re-spun and fabricated or knitted to create a new garment,” Azoulay said. A practice that will soon be mandatory, as the future anti-waste law in France, which is expected to come into force in the first quarter of 2022, prohibits the textile sector from destroying fabrics and obliges the surplus to be reused by introducing an “eco tax”. pay to pollute less.

These are materials with character, which at the same time have a much smaller ecological impact. American Vintage has carried out the typical vintage character since its foundation, an individuality that can also be found in the vegiflower line of the brand. For this line, American Vintage has dyed its garments with vegetable pigments from plants, seeds and flowers. “It’s a process where only natural elements are used for coloring, with no chemical additives, allowing us to obtain those subtle pastel shades that make each piece of clothing unique,” the company explains.

A know-how that they already shared a few years ago with the public at the international fashion, photography and fashion accessories festival Hyères, where the brand held workshops on vegetable dyes.

Image: The denim collection uses 0 percent water

A sustainable denim collection, made in Spain

But the greatest asset of American Vintage this fall/winter season is undoubtedly their denim collection, especially the Orywood jeans made with the eco-technology Dry Indigo. Tejidos Royo, based in Valencia, is the textile company behind this technology that allows denim to be dyed without using a single drop of water. After ten years of research and innovation, 89 percent chemicals are still used, water consumption has been reduced by 100 percent, and the company has been able to save 65 percent in energy. Fashion brands can undoubtedly use similar innovations to comply with the measures announced at the COP26 climate summit in November.

This article was previously published on FashionUnited.ES. Translation and editing from Spanish into Dutch: Veerle Versteeg.

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