Want an antidote to wasteful, throwaway fast fashion? Check out Antidote, a chic “ethical retailer” that opened its doors this past November in Miami’s artsy Wynwood area.
This conscious boutique is filled with sustainable apparel and accessories items that look as good as they do, all at pricepoints ranging from $150 to $2,000. Materials like chemical-free fabrics or sustainable fish leather keep the environment in mind, but the store is heavy on style as well, avoiding the overly boho feel that often blankets such concept shops. Brands include Stella McCartney, who built her business on vegan leathers and ethical items; Lemlem, founded by Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede; Le Beret Francais, which was founded in 1904 using sustainable practices and many more.
Accessories caught up with founder Sophie Zembra to discuss Antidote’s mission and method, both from a product standpoint as well as community building through in-store events.
What is your background in retailing?
My background falls more in e-commerce; about five years ago I launched a marketplace in France entirely dedicated to ethical activewear called Shopethik. I was never really expecting to open a retail store, but after launching a strong successful website, the next steps felt right for me to create a physical space where you can touch and feel the product and have the customer experience a more artistic platform. Especially when you are selling a new concept and representing emerging, lesser-known designers, it’s important to allow your customer to engage in a physical experience for themselves. At the end of the day, we are human and it is important to meet our customer and interact with them.
How did you get inspired to open an ethically-focused fashion store?
Fashion and art have always inspired me. My past work experience was in textiles where I traveled frequently to India and China visiting factories and seeing first hand the pollution and unethical manufacturing practices, I didn’t feel comfortable having those textiles close to my body. This is where my personal interest in ethical fashion started. I would scout the market for ethical fashion and would only be able to find clothing with a Bohemian and Hippie aesthetic. It was very difficult to find any fashion-forward environmentally conscious pieces, which were more my style, so I decided to create a platform for woman like me.
Which “ethical” categories do you focus on (Vegan, Made in the USA, Fair Trade, etc.)?
We focus on all of them. It’s important to explain the different aspects of ethicality. Ethical fashion is a mix of different actions and causes. We have many manners to shop ethically and I think it’s important to show that and be honest with our customers. Any action from a brand and consumer towards a more sustainable fashion industry is helpful and we support it.
What is the store an antidote for?
ANTIDOTE is a remedy; it’s our solution towards a more ethical fast fashion. The space was created with a conscious mind incorporating ecological materials such as eco-cement, non toxic paints and natural woods. Achieving eco-friendly practices every step of the way. We also have our manifesto written right by the entrance, sort of like when you walk into a museum you can read about the artist’s inspiration and background, to help share our vision as soon as you walk in the store.
How does the site’s “Follow my Story” approach for each item provide more depth to the ethical message?
This is extremely important to us. We are firm believers in being transparent about the brands we sell and their products’ trajectory. As consumers, you need to be asking the important questions about what you are wearing and our goal is to provide all the answers.
Do you use hang tags to explain a brand’s or an item’s message and purpose?
We will soon have a new in-store scanning system where you can learn about the brands story by scanning the piece.
How are consumers responding to your store and site?
We get a lot of emails supporting our mission. Behind every piece there is a narrative, from its source of inspiration to its formation. Our customers are big fans of our brands’ stories and will frequently purchase items to support brands they believe in. It’s great to feel good about a purchase especially knowing the product was created consciously with people and the earth in mind.
MORNING STORIES, WORKSHOPS & EVENTS
How do you interact with your customer in store beyond just making the sale?
Including our Morning Stories, we tend to have two to three events per month. It is important to manifest our vision in various ways, and keep consumers excited and engaged. We believe great things happen when woman gather together. Morning Stories is an intimate morning talk between women. Bringing together charismatic, intellectual woman with a valuable voice and story to be told. Each month we select a host who is at the forefront within her industry; food, fashion, florists, artists, chefs etc. The idea is to not only speak about fashion but about creativity in different angles. Attendees usually leave inspired and well informed about a new field of interest. We’ve also found it to be a a great networking opportunity for woman to meet. Many brand collaborations have emerged from relationships garnered during Morning Stories.
How you pick the subjects?
Each host has a strong and diverse story, we take time to listen and select the best host that will share a unique and inspiring message.
Is there an in-store tie-in or are these online interviews?
Before our Morning Stories we interview our upcoming host and share it on our website, we also add multiple teasers on our social media giving followers a preview of what is to come. Morning Stories is an in store event that generally occurs on the first Tuesday each month.
What about in-store events like the Wellness Day?
We are firm believers in community and educating our customers. We do this through events and workshops. One of our upcoming events is on Earth Day. We are hosting a Wellness Day at Antidote, inviting 10-12 attendees for a yoga class with Tamara Kenisberg creator of Namaste Social Club, followed by a workshop from Baiser Beauty, focusing on 100% organic cosmetics, to create your daily skincare routine with fruits. Raw Repulic, who will soon open in Wynwood, will be providing us with cold pressed juices for the event. We tend to bring in local beverage and food companies to sponsor some events, supporting local businesses is a must for us!
Do you sell items or is it more community building?
It is both, for us the most important aspects is to share our vision with the most people possible.