Eco-entrepreneur Deana Bracken got a jump on the greening trend when she and longtime friend Kat Rowan launched a web-based clothing boutique called Green With Glamour in 2007, featuring only environmentally-sound products and fashions. With celebrities like Emily Deschanel, Rachel McApdams, Alicia Silverstone and Courtney Cox numbering among their loyal fans, the move Deana and Kat took in response to their own personal concerns as conscious consumers appears to have been in just the right place at just the right time.
From the Living GWG blog to the personal shopping program, it seems as though Green With Glamour offers customers a lot more than a run-of-the-mill retail option. Exactly what services do you provide to patrons?
Green With Glamour is very customer service-oriented. My business partner and I are both serious shoppers and we’ve spent a lifetime figuring out how things go well in the retail world and how things don’t. In order to be taken seriously, it was very important for us to offer all the things that a bigger department store would — you know, Barneys New York, or Bergdorf Goodman. We wanted to offer the personal shopping, because not everyone loves shopping as much as we do. We curate our collection very carefully, we make sure that we don’t have the same pieces as a lot of other stores, we very much maintain our own aesthetic, which I think has helped us build a following. My business partner Kat and I are both kind of… not high-maintenance customers ourselves, but we expect a lot when we shop, and so we would expect our clients to want nothing less.
Describe what you and your co-founder Kat Rowan each brought to the venture when you launched in 2007.
I actually came up with the concept. I was tired of not knowing where my clothing was coming from, or who was making it, or what was going into the dye work or the textiles, and I started to research what was available — furniture, clothing, artwork, everything. When I decided that there was really nothing out there at the time comparable to what I was looking for, I thought it would be a great idea to launch something, because if I’m looking for it, thousands of people have to be looking for it. So I reached out to Kathleen, who’s an old, old friend of mine. She has a brilliant head for business, which I don’t necessarily [have] — I’m not really business-minded, I’m more of the creative-type — and so we partnered up and she liked the idea as well, and we went from there!
What values did you have in common with Kat? Did she share some of your curiosity about where your clothing was coming from?
Absolutely. Like I said, we’re dear friends, so I started talking to her about wanting more information, and wanting to know that where I was putting my money and what I was putting on my body mattered. And she actually was having some of the same thoughts and reactions, so it was very serendipitous.
Explain your role in the company.
I’m acting President, and also the Creative Director, which pretty much means I’m responsible for every image, every word on the site, the overall aesthetic of it — the look, the logo, the everything. I do all the buying myself, I do our PR and marketing at this point: it’s a lot.
I understand you do some design work as well?
Yeah, I’ve started to develop a small line for Green With Glamour that will be expanding in the next couple of years. We’re trying to add a piece every season.
In an online marketplace that’s virtually awash with fashion retailers and style sites, how do you distinguish yourself as a business?
Well, I think we got there early. We launched early — out of the gates we got a lot of press attention and celebrity clientele, and we’ve just been able to sustain that, even in the tough economy. So I think the fact that we’ve been around for a while, and at this point we’re one of the older eco-boutiques that people can rely on us. They know that they’re getting quality and they know that they’re getting style.
Who would you say is your typical customer? Has he or she changed since the company began?
I would say our current typical customer is a woman, for sure — though we would love to have more men, the options just aren’t there yet, as far as fashionable eco-goods go. But I would say 30s, 40s, successful, working. We have a lot of clients who will ask questions before they buy, which I love. Yeah, just responsible, stylish, successful women.
As a self-identified environmentally-friendly enterprise, how do you safeguard against charges of “greenwashing,” or even just the additional scrutiny that comes from even having a name like “Green With Glamour”?
I remember, when we first started, we would tuck our receipts into a little envelope. One day we got this scathing letter about the wasted paper, and we were like, “You know what? Absolutely right.” So we got rid of that, and from there we’ve grown and grown and we’ve become far more responsible. Every detail of every piece has to be eco or it’s not worth it to us: I’m not interested in organic cotton that’s produced in China — it’s going to be riddled with chemicals anyway. It’s not just one layer of information; every decision that goes into a piece needs to be thought about.
What would you say to those who believe that consumerism is antithetical to environmentalism, that we can’t buy our way out of our present environmental situation?
There’s definitely truth to that. I certainly am not an advocate of over-consumerism. If you don’t need it or if you don’t absolutely love it, don’t buy it: I don’t care what it is. But I think, at the same time, if you spend responsibly, we can chip away at the damage we’ve already done. It’s not an immediate reversal.
What can Daily BR!NK readers do to contribute to your success?
We’re very open to collaborations, we love working with designers, we love working with other business people. We are looking to expand, so we’re looking for other investors. I mean, we’re a constantly evolving company, so there are tons of things that others can do to help us, and hopefully, in turn, things that we can do to help others.