Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Alternative Outfitters: The Vegan Boutique Combining Kindness & Style

When it comes to cruelty-free fashion Alternative Outfitters is your one-stop-shop! Here's my interview with eco-chic guru and co-founder Jackie Horrick. 

Owners of AO Henny (left) & Jackie (right)
Q. How would you describe the essence of Alternative Outfitters?

We are a vegan boutique that specializes in offering shoes, handbags, accessories, and personal care products that are cruelty-free and animal friendly. We offer both men’s and woman’s items and we strive to keep our price points fairly low so that everyone of any income can shop with a conscience. Many people think that you have to sacrifice fashion to live a more compassionate lifestyle, but at Alternative Outfitters, you can have both. 

Q. What’s the ‘origin story’ for this online store? How did it all begin?

My business partner, Henny, and myself have always wanted to have our own business. We worked together in the food industry and both have food science degrees. So, naturally we thought that if we went into business together, it would revolve around food. However, it was also really important for us to do something that we could feel good about doing and something that would help animals in some way. I haven’t worn leather since I was 16 years old and it had always been a struggle to shop for things like shoes, handbags, belts and wallets. I knew there had to be other people out there like me, who still wanted to wear the same style fashions that everyone else was wearing, but without hurting animals. 

So we decided to do some research on the subject and found there wasn’t a lot of information out there on vegan shopping. That was over 8 years ago. We decided to go for it anyway, and we launched the website in April of 2004. We started to grow pretty quickly and knew that we may actually be able to have a viable business doing what we loved. Within 2 years we moved to our current Pasadena location and we have been growing the business ever since.

Q. What makes Alternative Outfitters unique among ethical shopping destinations?

I think it helps that we were one of the first. We have a lot of experience under our belt and we know what our customers want. We continually seek out new products and new brands to offer and we always do our best to keep our prices low. We also pride ourselves on customer service and we carry the widest selection of products.

Q. Who are your favourite ethical designers?

We love The Vegan Collection. We sell a ton of their belts and wallets. We also love BB Dakota. They offer wool free pea coats and faux leather jackets for women at very reasonable prices. We tend to carry a lot of well known brands that are very fashion forward and that offer vegan shoes in their collections like Madden Girl and CL by Laundry too.

Q. Do you believe we’ll see a time when ethical and sustainable fashion are the norm?

I would love to see that day. It’s amazing how far we have come already. Seven years ago when we would meet with vendors and tell them we were looking for shoes without leather, they thought we were crazy. Now when we meet with them, the show us entire vegan collections that they created. It’s also becoming more mainstream now that they are using sustainable materials and still concentrating on being more fashion forward. Whereas before, many of the ethical and eco-friendly lines were not as fashion conscious.

People loved that they were made out of recycled materials, but that’s not enough to get someone to wear something. People want to feel good about the products they are buying, but they also want to look good in them. I think times are changing and I do think that there will come a time when ethical and sustainable fashion is the norm.

Q. What’s your most cherished vegan fashion item right now?

That’s a really hard one. This time of year I have to say that I love all the boots. We have so many fun styles to choose from and they really do add so much style to any outfit. I’m also really loving our coats this season too. It’s just so hard to find 100% wool free coats and we have a nice selection with quite a few colors and styles.

Q. Is there anything new and exciting on the horizon for Alternative Outfitters?

There are always new and exciting things going on here at AO. In the near future, you will see an updated website which we are really excited about. We have had the same general website design and layout for the last 7 years and it’s time for a facelift.

You can also find Alternative Outfitters on: 
My Vegan Blog

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