Sustainability in Fashion, Part 5: Interview with Fair-a-porter founder, Alex Bohn

Sustainability in Fashion, Part 5: Interview with Fair-a-porter founder, Alex Bohn

Fair trade

Text: Tracy Phillips

Image: Alex Bohn portrait by Kristin Loschert
Image: Cover image courtesy of Roman Goebel

Aiming to be the online destination for ethical fashion, Fair-a-porter combines inspiring editorial with a retail site for consciously curated clothes, accessories and beauty products

As former fashion editor of Vanity Fair Germany, and the current fashion correspondent for major German newspapers like Die Zeit and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Alex Bohn knows the industry inside out. It was through her work experience that she distilled that most of what we wear and consume is largely unknown to us and a bigger part of the fashion story needed to be told.

As such, Fair-a-porter, which can be read in both English and German, seeks out the authentic stories of not just the creative designers of brands but the people who physically make the clothes. Besides compelling aesthetics, all products showcased are selected based on either being lasting, sustainable, clean or transparent. This mission has taken the team on trips around the world to visit various manufacturing plants, small maker communities and to the showrooms and catwalks of all the major fashion weeks. The fruit of these trips can be seen in the spectrum of labels stocked: Acne Studios, Edun, Isle of Wolf, Live The Process, Christopher Raeburn and Stella McCartney to name a few. 

"Whether it's high fashion, exclusive basics or organic beauty products, Fair-a-porter is all about consuming with a clear conscience", says Bohn. We speak to the founder about how the site intends to create a bigger impact in sustainable fashion. 

Alex Bohn

How did Fair-a-porter come about and why did you decide to launch this site?
I have been working as a fashion journalist for many years and have always enjoyed travelling to the shows. I still love the spectacle and creativity of fashion. However, over the years I've grown a bit frustrated with the way conventional media tends to focus on just one side of fashion: The glamour, the creative designers and the beautiful models. The people who actually produce our fashion with their own hands such as the seamstresses and weavers go largely unmentioned. Given the fact that they often face adverse working conditions, I wanted to change that and cover fashion as a 360 degree experience that tells its whole story. 

I also wanted to highlight the fact that fashion from ethical production has nothing to do with the eco cliche of scratchy wool stockings or felt beanies in awkward shapes. Fashion from ethical production is just as high fashion as any other fashion, but it offers the benefit of being able to purchase with a clear conscience.

You recently relaunched the site. What has been the biggest change from when you started?
We now offer a Fair-a-porter shop that allows you to enjoy the full online shopping experience. In the near future, we will add exclusive offers to the range of brands we feature. We will be bringing in Vieri Haute Joaillerie, which creates fine jewellery through ethical production and a Berlin-based Miami knitwear brand to just name a few. The website offers a very specifically curated point of view and these in-shop exclusives will add to that. I'm also very happy to say that we will be growing our editorial coverage and will offer fashion editorials, full length documentaries and features soon.

How do you think Fair-a-porter can change things?
Ethical fashion is a varied playground. Consumers are willing to tap into this lifestyle but with the myriad of certification available, orientation is hard to find. We strive to become the number one destination for fashion and lifestyle from ethical production. Fair-a-porter is as entertaining as a fashion glossy and as informative as consumer protection. We will be the number one place to learn about ethical fashion, discover new brands and be able to shop them all in one place. 


Which are your favourite brands of the moment, and why?
At New York Fashion Week, I just discovered Gabriela Hearst. Her fall/winter 2016 collection is made up of fine knits, heavy knits, fine wool items — all of which are great classics that are timeless in style, yet designed with a very keen eye for details. For example, what appeared like just dots and lines on the seams and hems of garments, was actually spelling the word "love" in morse code. She also works with her own ranch in Uruguay where she produces organic merino wool and aligns the production with a non-governmental organisation that supports local women workers. It's a great package! I'm also always a fan of Organic by John Patrick because of his great style, the versatility of the pieces, his distinct yet very calm voice in fashion and his efforts to be ethically sound in his production. And I love Vieri jewellery for its beautiful craftsmanship. They offer simple and elegant pieces and ethical production methods in the gold mines of Uganda.

Organic by John Patrick

Do you find it challenging to find enough brands that are sustainable to feature and retail?
We showcase not only the best in class but also those with good practices. That way we can pick from a range and I'm happy to say it grows every day.

To shop on Fair-a-porter, click here.