December 2011 Green Business Interview: FaeriesDance.com
For the second year in a row, online clothing retailer FaeriesDance.com received enough nominations from its loyal customers to earn a coveted spot among the top-ten green businesses competing for Green America’s People’s Choice Award.
As a perennial People’s Choice favorite, FaeriesDance.com seemed the perfect choice for our December interview. Currently based in Los Angeles (but with a possible move to Portland coming in 2012), FaeriesDance.com offers a robust line of eco-friendly fashion: evening wear, intimates, jewelry, swimwear, coats, plus-sizes, and much more.
We asked owner Adrienne Catone to tell us more about the Faerie’s Dance name and her side-work as an aerospace engineer…
Green America: What does your business do?
Adrienne Catone: FaeriesDance.com opened in July 2005 initially offering about 60 eco-friendly clothing items. That first year we focused on organic cotton, hemp and soy pieces. We’re an online-only company with offices and warehouse in Los Angeles. We applied for Green America membership as soon as we opened so our customers could have confidence that we were the “real green deal.”
What makes your business green?
Adrienne: FaeriesDance.com is an end-to-end green business. Every decision takes overall sustainability into account – from the environment to human rights issues to animal welfare.
As an example, we literally spent several months finding gift wrapping options that met our standards. Our gift wrap is printed on 100-percent recycled craft paper; our apparel boxes have a minimum 65-percent post-consumer recycled paper; our tissue is 100-percent post-consumer recycled paper whitened with peroxide instead of bleach; and the entire package is decorated with real dried raffia ribbon rather than a synthetic bow. Lovely and as green as you can get.
We offer clothing that is made from sustainable fabrics and dyes without chemical finishing agents. We offer both garments that are made in the USA and items made overseas as long as they are either made in areas with strict labor standards (such as the European Union), Fair Trade certified, or 3rd party audited for fair labor practices. This ensures no sweatshop conditions or child labor are ever used to create garments we offer and minimum wage standards are met within the context of the local economies.
All paper is printed double sided and 100-percent post consumer recycled. Bags and boxes are reused or recycled. Even the light bulbs are compact fluorescent.
What did you do before you started your own green business?
Adrienne: I spent a long career in aerospace engineering which afforded me the opportunity to travel. In 1994 I met a mountain gorilla troupe in the forests of Zaire, and in an instant my mind changed to environmentalism. It took a while for the lifestyle to follow, though.
Ten years later on a second sabbatical I firmed up the transition of the last bit of my life that hadn’t turned dark green – my work. I came up with a list of green job ideas and played around with it for a few months. By early 2005, I’d decided to offer the kind of eco-fashions that I wanted to find and wear, but couldn’t. Even today, while we try to offer a little bit of everything, we focus on the hard-to-find stuff like lingerie, formal wear, coats and plus-sized items. Those initial 60 products have turned into more than 700 choices.
Is there a story behind the name “Faerie’s Dance”?
Adrienne: I love the name of my business, but alas have finally realized it’s not the easiest to market online, especially with the odd Celtic spelling of Faerie.
The Faerie’s dance is both elegant and playful. Each step of the dance is performed wildly, with great pleasure, and yet also honorably and gently with deep reverence. Celtic myths depict the Faeries as honoring the earth and the trees, not as worship, but as a deeply ingrained respect and with knowledge of their connection to all things through their shared home. They express their gratitude through joy and action. I wanted my business to do the same.
What have been some of the biggest challenges of maintaining high standards of social and environmental responsibility?
Adrienne: The biggest challenge to maintaining high social and environmental standards is always cost. Oftentimes buying green means spending more. In the end, though I’m willing to exchange a little profit for a lot of environmental good will.
What has been your proudest moment as a green business owner?
Adrienne: My proudest moment is yet to come. I still consult in the aerospace industry to make ends meet. When I can rely solely on this sustainable business to live comfortably, I’ll feel I’ve “made it.” My target date for permanent retirement from the corporate treadmill is April 2012.
What’s the most hopeful sign you have seen recently from the green economy?
Adrienne: My business is definitely changing as the green economy changes. Five years ago, finding fashionable tops that were truly sustainable was difficult outside of a thrift store. Today basic organic and sustainable fashions abound. I keep searching for the problem finds, and am proud to offer arguably the largest collection of organic lingerie and intimates in the USA. So now when you pick up that eco-fashion top, you can get an appropriate organic bra to go under it as well.
What advice would you give to other green entrepreneurs just starting out?
Adrienne: I did so much research before starting, but it wasn’t until I was in certain situations that I realized what the research meant. I read about cash flow in article after article, but I really didn’t get it until the cash wasn’t flowing! In retrospect, I had no idea how much work it would be to run a business – even just online. You keep taking one step forward and the next and the next. In all honesty, if I knew “then” the amount of effort that would be required, I wouldn’t have started at all. Maybe it’s best that entrepreneurs start out with a touch of snow-blindness.
What green product (besides your own!) can you not live without?