This is the second installment in our “In My Backyard” series where we are interviewing the designers we work with! Up today is Griffin Vanze from Aeon Row, a company we love because of their dedication to using recycled materials.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
Hi! I’m Griffin Vanze, founder of AEON ROW. We’re transforming the sustainable shopping experience.
I jumped around a bit between sectors before founding AEON ROW – I started my career in the Peace Corps, and upon my return to the US I worked on ocean trash prevention at Ocean Conservancy – but I think the theme that ties everything together is the desire to make a difference in ways that help people and our planet.
What inspired you to start Aeon Row?
The inspiration for AEON ROW stems from the idea that sustainable fashion should be affordable and sustainable behavior should be encouraged.
The idea started through my work to prevent ocean trash at Ocean Conservancy, which focused on mobilizing people to help keep our ocean clean. It then went to the next level when I was looking to transition my wardrobe to be more sustainable, but I couldn’t afford the expensive sustainability markups.
So I decided to make a clothing line where you didn’t have to choose between price and impact, and where you could also do your part to prevent clothing waste.
What does the name Aeon Row mean?
I get asked that a lot! Aeon is the plural of eon, meaning something that lasts a very long time. Row is a reference to the John Steinbeck book Cannery Row – one of its major themes is about building community. We picked the name because we want to create our own community of people who care about getting the most out of their clothing from a style standpoint as well as sustainable one.
How did you choose the factory you work with?
We manufacture our clothes in Everett, Massachusetts. You hear all of these horror stories about sweat shops in other countries, so I wanted to keep things as local as possible. I have an open door policy with my manufacturer in which I can stop by unannounced at any time to ensure ethical working conditions. I visit them often enough to be on a first name basis with several of the seamstresses.
You work exclusively with recycled materials, which is so awesome. How did that come about?
Thanks! Originally when I wanted to upgrade my wardrobe, I just thought, Oh I’ll just buy some sustainably sourced fabrics and then make the clothes myself! But as I started researching eco-fabrics, I became captivated by how affordable revived fabric was in relation to other eco-fabrics, and I was getting all of these ideas in my head about looks that I could design using the revived fabrics to bring down costs. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and a week later I was on the phone recruiting fashion industry insiders to help me make it come to life.
What does ethical fashion mean to you, and how has that changed, if at all, since you launched Aeon Row?
At AEON ROW, we see clothing waste as a big challenge, especially with all of the resources that go into making clothing, so the last thing we want to do is add to the problem. This is the crux of why we decided to use revived fabrics in our designs.
Since we launched, we’ve gotten incredible reception regarding the ability to recycle clothing as well through our Alternate Endings program. That has been a reaffirming reminder that we’re doing the right thing!
How do Aeon Row pieces make getting dressed easier in the morning?
For all of our pieces, the goal is to design looks that are truly timeless. They are striking enough to stand out while also being a solid go-to item that will never look dated.
We studied artists and designers from many different disciplines to think about our aesthetic, but I think the person that most influenced our style was the architect Mies Van der Rohe, who adopted the terms “less is more” and “the devil is in the details.” These ideas are inherent to AEON ROW’s designs.
The result is a look we call “low-stress cool.” To us, it means that dressing well doesn’t need to be complicated. Good style can be effortless, and it stands the test of time.
How are you hoping to change the fashion industry?
I don’t think we’re looking to change the industry as much as we’re looking to help our customers create a healthy relationship with their closets. By offering our customers discounts when they recycled their worn out clothes, we encourage them to make purchases only when their old clothing has worn out.
What’s your favorite part of running Aeon Row?
Honestly, I love hearing from customers – it’s really touching when you get an email from someone you don’t know who cares about what you’re doing and wants to share their thoughts with you. I’ve learned so much about personal style from our customers, which in turn helps me provide a better product to them.
Tell us something about you that we never would have guessed.
This might sound crazy, but the first clothing items I ever made were leather tops for my school’s cultural performance club while I was in the Peace Corps in Namibia! The club didn’t have a budget for outfits, so I asked for a cowhide from one of the local butchers, and then community members helped me treat the leather using traditional methods to condition it and turn it into clothing. It was an incredible learning experience.
Thanks, Griffin! Comment on our Instagram photo to ask Griffin questions. Check out Aeon Row in the shop!