INTERVIEW: MEET THE FOUNDERS OF OUR NEWEST BRAND IN THE FAMILY - EMBASSY OF BRICKS & LOGS
This season we’re introducing a new label in our agency portfolio; urban outerwear brand Embassy of Bricks & Logs. We’ve asked founders Niko Vatheuer and Eric Mirbach what inspired them to start the brand.
When they launched in 2015, Niko had been working in fashion for more than two decades, running a successful streetwear fashion brand before, while Eric came in as the head of ethical fashion and lifestyle magazine Vegan Good Life.
NIKO, WHY DID YOU QUIT YOUR OTHER LABEL AND START EMBASSY OF BRICKS & LOGS? “Things changed when my first daughter was born. I became more aware of what was going on in the world and my industry for that matter. And that’s what inspired me to start a new business, which had to be in line with my core beliefs.
COULD YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF DESIGN FOR YOU AND YOUR BRAND Niko : “Through our designs, we aim to bring a high-quality streetwear approach into the realm of ethical fashion. To accomplish our mission, we strongly believe in putting design first. We want to make a great product that wins people over. Then, in the next step, make this product as sustainable as possible – but without compromising on quality.“
Eric: “It often feels like in the general public eye, it’s still rather unclear what’s ethical or unethical about clothing and even if people are in the know, there’s this idea that ethically or sustainably made garments are ‘just clothes‘, not actual fashion. For my magazine, I always tried to find exciting new brands that have an actual fashion approach and then ethics as an add-on because I believe that’s is how it works. Of course ethics are more important, but we have to get people to actually feel passionate about a product. What companies like Tesla or, my favorite example, Oatly, are doing is proof that in today’s world, packaging and marketing and especially a sound product are key aspects to bringing a good idea across.“
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DESIGNS? Niko: “We focus on contemporary silhouettes with a bit of a functional approach and the use of hand selected premium materials. We’re trying to create quality, favorite pieces with cuts and colors that are more than just ‚this season’. We aim for an extended life-span of the product, to make them real ‚slow fashion’ items. We work on engineering pieces that are sustainable through outstanding craftsmanship and longevity. Then, in the next step, we look at alternative materials and other options we have in the realm of design.“
ON YOUR WEBSITE YOU STATE THAT FAIR LABOR CONDITIONS AND SAFE WORKING CONDITIONS ARE A MUST. HOW DO YOU ASSURE THIS FOR YOUR BRAND? Eric: “We make it a point to work with manufacturers that Niko, through his vast background in fashion, knows very well. We proudly manufacture the outerwear in China, with a production partner Niko has been working with for years and years. The sweats and shirts we’re currently developing will be made in Turkey, by another longterm associate. We only work with partners who see and understand our mission and who either can guarantee good working conditions for their employees already or, if there are areas where some things might not be up to par yet, are willing to work with us, learn and develop in a give-and-take-relationship. We want to meet on eye-level and make it a point to not just go to places where everything’s already picture-perfect (i.e. Portugal) but bring work to countries where we can actually trigger change, even if that means that it’s harder to do and that it will maybe take a while to get to the standards we’re looking for.“
SPEAKING OF STANDARDS, YOUR ENTIRE COLLECTION IS PETA APPROVED VEGAN. HOW IMPORTANT IS HAVING THIS ACCREDITATION FOR YOU? Eric: „For us, sustainability starts and ends with inclusiveness. Inclusiveness of garment workers and the environment but also the inclusion of animals and therefore animal-derived products. It’s a matter of ethics first, but the impact on sustainability on a big scale isn’t far: Animal agriculture is the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions and has a huge impact on deforestation, acidification of both soil and the ocean, world hunger, you name it.
Talking about certifications: It’s one of our main goals to get certified through the whole production chain, using fairtrade goods and certified organic materials (fairtrade organic cotton for our upcoming sweats collection is a first example) and work with third-party-stakeholders that assure the well-being of the garment workers. We’re on our way!“
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE MATERIALS YOU USE? Niko: „Sure! Most of our fabric suppliers are from South-Korea. South-Korea is a highly developed country and offers the best fabrics in the textile industry of the Far East, comparable to what Italy means to Europe. Our materials are bought from manufacturers that are mostly certifiied (oeko-tex or blue sign), such as YKK, Thermore and others.
For our padding, we use faux down fillings and paddings. In this area of expertise, we‘re constantly doing research, talking to new suppliers and trying to find new angles. The sustainable market has become a very dynamic one and so we‘re on the lookout for new, exciting finds always. We understand it as part of the brand‘s DNA to find the best solution for each item we create.
For example, we just developed our very own filling material together with our manufacturer in China, called E100. It’s a faux-down material made from 100% recycled polester, taken from the ocean.
The mesh-lining in Embassy coats is eco-tex certified. Other linings are made of 100% recycled Polyester.
Our sweat materials are made from 100% organic fairtrade cotton, some (but not all) of the outer shells are blue sign certified.
The Faux-Fur used in Embassy products is commonly sourced as of now as the look and feel of recycled materials isn‘t up to the quality standards we‘ve set for ourselves. We are, however, always searching for recycling-based or otherwise eco-friendly alternatives.
We only use high quality zippers by YKK which are blue sign certified. All accessories (press buttons, zipper pullers, eyelets and so on) are bluesign-products as well.“
LOTS OF SUSTAINABLE INNOVATION THERE! HOW ABOUT THOSE PARTS OF YOUR COLLECTION FOR WHICH THE SUSTAINABLE ALTERNATIVES AREN’T UP TO STANDARD YET? WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS WHEN THEY WILL BE? Niko: „We’re constantly working on that. Again, first and foremost, we want to offer some of the best jackets out there and we are willing to make temporary sacrifices here in order to create a product that exceeds expectations – but we want to, step by step, replace commonly sourced materials through more sustainable options as soon as they get available in the quality we aim for. That’s why we’re planning to get to 60% of the overall production run to be made of recycled and/or organic materials for F/W 2019 and want to extend that to 80% of the overall production by the end of 2021.
The final goal is putting out a 100% sustainable collection by 2023!“
WE LIKE THAT YOU ARE BEING SO TRANSPARANT ABOUT THIS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TRANSPARANCY IN GENERAL AND THE FEAR LOTS OF BRANDS OFTEN HAVE TO COMMUNICATE THE STEPS THEY STILL NEED TO TAKE? Eric: „Well, there’s very good reasons for that, right? The fashion industry is a big, broken machine and a lot of things are hard to explain, it’s easier to try and not mention them. We hope to be one of the brands that help raise the right questions and shake things up a little bit. We want to do our homework, be honest and straight forward, especially about the things that are not perfect. And we certainly hope that others will follow.“
FINAL QUESTION: WHERE DO WE BUY YOUR COATS? Niko: „We have a good list of selected partner stores all over Europe, with an emphasis on Germany, for obvious reasons, with our headquarter here and all. But we’ll deliver the new collection to a first store in the US this year, Nois in New York. Very exciting. And as we started working with Charlie + Mary’s agency you’ll find us at the best stores in the Benelux soon as well, check out Verse Good Store in Amsterdam and Twiggy in Gent for example. Our FW19 collections will be available there from September 2019!