INTERVIEW: MEET THE FOUNDERS OF EMBASSY OF BRICKS & LOGS
Have you discovered urban outerwear brand Embassy of Bricks & Logs yet? The brand was was created in 2015 by Niko Vatheuer and Eric Mirbach. When they launched, 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. We asked them what inspired them to start the Embassy and how they manage their sustainable business.
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.
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 favourite 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.“
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.“
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, favourite pieces with cuts and colours 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: Our collections are proudly manufactured in China. We make it a point to work with smaller production partners, in need of the business, and keen to grow together – while maintaining a friendly, even familiar vibe. We only work with partners who can guarantee good working conditions for their employees.
We‘re visiting our partners regularly to assure high ethical standards, a good approach to working conditions and fair payment of the garment workers. This being said, it’s entirely possible that some things we find might not be yet up to the standards we’re hoping for – which we prefer to then look at as a chance for our manufacturers and us to learn from and get better by together. We’re working on establishing long term working relationship with them, creating stable business opportunities, longevity and sustainable planning for them and are asking for more sustainable materials etc in return.
Due to the small-business-approach, we are able to ensure that every production step is done in-house: No outsourcing, no sub–contracting.
That being said, it’s one of the main goals here at the Embassy to get certified through the whole production chain by working with third-party stakeholders to assure the well-being of every woman and man working on Embassy garments. We’re well on our way!
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.
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 80% of the overall production run to be made of recycled and/or organic materials by the end of 2021. We are now at 60%. And 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 TRANSPARENCY 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 this September!