Convert knows a good thing when it sees it. The Berkeley, Calif.-based boutique is following the likes of Everlane and Zady with an ethical online marketplace of its own. Launched late October, the e-commerce platform offers clothing and accessories with a sustainable, made-in-America focus. Many are even exclusive to the store. For despite the “newness” of Convert’s virtual teller, the relationships powering it are longstanding. Co-owners Randy Brewer and Fred Whitefield are old hands at cultivating relationships with designers and labels. That tack that has resulted in several collaborations, ones that marry California’s unique brand of casual-cool with their unwavering business ethic.
Take, for example, famed shoe designer Jeffrey Campbell’s ongoing partnership with Convert. Aptly known as “Jeffrey Campbell for Convert,” the footwear line combines Campbell’s trademark fashion-forward aesthetic with vegan materials, reinforcing that one can wear their ethics in style.
Convert’s collaboration with Jeffrey Campbell combines the shoe designer’s fashion-forward aesthetic with vegan materials.
Customers can search the collections by department, brand, and sustainability factors that matter to them such as organic or vegan materials. To bring Ecouterre readers the details about Convert’s e-commerce platform, we caught up with Brewer for a brief chat.
Congratulations on Convert’s e-commerce launch. How is Convert claiming its place within the online retail space
There are a couple of approaches that set us apart from other sustainable e-commerce sites. First, we focus primarily on fashion, meaning we don’t just buy a line because it’s sustainable. I think this makes our mix more interesting and personal, which our customers seem to like. Second, we do collaborations to give a more unique offering.
Our vegan Jeffery Campbell line is selling worldwide, as women around the world are letting us know how hard it is to find stylish non-leather shoes. I also like to keep things light and fun, with item descriptions that are a little more personal than just an inseam or waist size.
SUPPLYING THE DEMAND
Are your customers driving Convert’s made-in-America and local brand focus? Have you seen their desire for “made in America” and local brands increase?
In a way they are. We have always considered locally made fashion to be sustainable, simply from a delivery standpoint, and have promoted them in the store. What we weren’t aware of was the magnitude of the response to made in America.
“Made in America” is “by far the most important factor” for Convert’s in-store customers, Brewer says.
It is by far the most important factor for our in-store customers and we are focusing more heavily on that when buying. It also makes us a little more unique for e-commerce, as you won’t find anything made in America in the big-box stores.
How does our platform let viewers search for apparel and accessories that embody the sustainability practices that matter to them?
For every item on the site we have a “sustainability factor” listing, letting the customer know there is a reason that piece is on the website. Customers can also search a department—say “skinny denim” or ‘hats and scarves”—for items with specific sustainability factors, such as “made in the U.S.A.,” “earth-friendly production,” “organic/natural,” etc.
Some products are more sustainable than others and we are up front about the fact that not everything is entirely sustainable. We are still striving to convince companies to change their lines to more sustainable practices and rewarding them by carrying their products, some of which still have a ways to go. We think there are many approaches to sustainability and we try to touch on quite a few. Every little bit helps.