digitalinfowave


For nearly 15 years, Amour Vert has concentrated most of its business around the San Francisco Bay area, where it was founded by two entrepreneurs who believed that clothing needed to be more environmentally friendly.

But the womenswear company which bills itself as “French-inspired design, California-natural style,” is ready to take on Southern California, with several retail outposts opening in the area within the next year. At the same time, Amour Vert is relocating its headquarters from San Francisco to the heart of the Los Angeles Fashion District by leasing space in The New Mart, a historic building housing contemporary-clothing showrooms and the twice-yearly Designers and Agents trade show.

“It is a strategic shift toward maximizing our opportunities,” said Dominique Mikolajczak, named the company’s chief executive last year after spending more than three years on the board. “Southern California is a fashion hub, and Northern California is a tech hub.”

Amour Vert just opened its first Southern California location in Long Beach at a relatively new open-air shopping complex in the seaside city 30 miles south of L.A. The shopping center, known as 2nd & PCH, is located on Pacific Coast Highway, anchored by a huge Whole Foods Market and populated by several trendy stores including Lululemon, Johnny Was and Free People.

Soon to join this expanding retail lineup are locations at the Irvine Spectrum, a massive outdoor-oriented shopping location in Orange County, and in San Diego at the Westfield UTC shopping center. This summer, Amour Vert will unveil a store at Manhattan Village in the affluent community of Manhattan Beach, where homes sell for at least $2 million.

Next year, the sustainable label of clothing and accessories priced mostly under $300 will open a store at Westfield Topanga, bordering the well-to-do residential hubs of Calabasas and Hidden Hills where the Kardashians live.

Inside an Amour Vert store. Courtesy: Amour Vert

Before entering the Southern California market, Amour Vert had seven stores, all in Northern California except for one unit in Chicago. It seems logical that Southern California, just down the road, would be its next retail step. However, moving its headquarters from San Francisco to L.A. is a dramatic move from years in Northern California where residents have long embraced environmentally friendly efforts to thwart climate change.  

This southward shift is part of a company revamp and rebranding effort. It started by creating a cleaner logo and redesigning stores with a sleeker look and neutral colors instead of wood-heavy elements. Also, fashion styles will have finer details and better-quality craftsmanship to improve looks made of recycled cashmere, linen, repurposed cotton waste, sustainable silk and upcycled fabrics.

Being headquartered in L.A. will bring Amour Vert closer to its logistics center one hour east of the downtown area. Much of Amour Vert’s apparel now arrives at the Port of Los Angeles because clothing production has shifted away from northern California to overseas locations. Currently, about 80 percent of manufacturing is done at factories closer to fabric inputs. For example, recycled cashmere items added last year are made in China, and linen styles introduced last summer are made in India. Other manufacturing hubs include Portugal and Turkey.

Dominique Mikolajczak. Courtesy: Amour Vert.

With offices at The New Mart, Amour Vert hopes to capture more wholesale opportunities when store buyers visit the building that houses more than 100 showrooms. And it will be closer to the country’s largest apparel manufacturing center, which employs more than 40,000 factory workers.

Amour Vert was founded by Christopher Frehsee and Linda Balti at a time when not many sustainable clothing lines existed. Balti came up with the idea after reading the fashion industry was one of the most polluting in the world, second after the oil industry. Her first collection consisted of five pieces that combined her love of French fashion with California’s casual vibe, with a label whose name means “green love” in French.

The founders are no longer with the company. Currently, Amour Vert’s principal investor is Emil Capital Partners in Greenwich, Conn., which tapped Mikolajczak to take the company to the next level. While the CEO is expanding the label’s retail footprint to Southern California, there are thoughts of someday unveiling stores in other areas around the country. “Retail has made a huge comeback after the pandemic. I think there was a need for people to go out and experience things,” Mikolajczak said. “We continue to see that extremely strong retail trend, which encourages us to accelerate our expansion.”



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