The Cologne-based eco fashion label Armedangels wants fair fashion to be the object of consumers’ desire. Its success speaks for itself.
He has only just turned 34 and can already look back on ten exciting years of company history. Martin Höfeler, co-founder of Armedangels, the Cologne-based eco fashion label, is part of a new generation of entrepreneurs who want to prove to the fashion industry that things can be done differently: fairly, on an ecologically sound basis and with a clear orientation away from maximizing profits.
When Höfeler founded Armedangels in 2007, he was still studying business, exactly like his business partner at the time, who has moved on to other things. What originally started with a charity T-shirt five years ago has since grown into an ecologically sustainable fashion collection for women and men. In 2017, Armedangels is a mid-sized company with 73 employees. Sales revenue was just under €1 million in 2010 but by 2015 sales already stood at €16 million and even reached €24 million the following year. The label supplies 900 points of sale in 18 countries so Armedangels is now one of the biggest sustainable fashion enterprises in Europe. The company has just relocated to its new headquarters: three airy floors of the defunct production building of the famed 4711 eau de cologne company.
How did it manage this expansion? The explanation Höfeler offers seems simple enough: “I think that with sustainability we were able to formulate a sales argument that sets us apart from conventional fashion labels. At the same time, we can plan on other margins by combining the calculation of our online and wholesale sales.” In addition, Höfeler and his former partner Anton Jurina only paid themselves €1,000 to €1,500 a month each in their first five years. So the company knows how to make ends meet.
Competitive retail pricing ranging from €69.90 to €99.90 for clothing and from €99.90 for chinos and denim is designed to appeal to a young target group. It is a brilliant feat considering how much energy the brand devotes to the ongoing improvement of its materials and keeping its supply chain transparent. Fair trade, the use of organic cotton, GOTS certification, recently joining the Fair Wear Foundation–there is nothing to hide when it comes to fairness and sustainability. And yet the label keeps its design clearly in focus. “Nothing works without being evocative,” says Höfeler, whose company now has a nine-person design team.
For spring/summer 2018 the company is underscoring a return to what is essential. The motto of “switching off” celebrates digital detoxing, getting back to nature and living a cool ’90s vibe. In terms of style, this means: nautical meets athletics–high-waist sailor pants, blousons, oversized hoodies and colorblocking for women and cropped pants and sweaters and shirts in a windbreaker style for men. Both lines feature eco-cotton and non-chlorinated vegan raw denim, which are supplemented by hemp and linen for summery fashion looks.
And what will the next ten years look like? “We want to become the largest sustainable fashion company in the world,” says Höfeler with complete self-assurance. Yet there’s good reason for his ambition: “This is the only way to really make a difference.”