Local dealer in fair wear: Charlie + Mary

Local dealer in fair wear: Charlie + Mary

Apr 12, 2011 |  by  |  Fashion, Spots
About the author
Hi! My name is Faye and I will be your guide through Amsterdam for the day! Enjoys randomness chat, good banter and will help you find the best dealers in fun, food and adventure.

Your local dealer to help you get your ‘fix’ in Amsterdam. From the best tattoo artist to finding the perfect ‘birthday’ cake.

Kermit tells us to be green, our city’s council offers 5 years of free parking when you drive electric and the Al Gores of this generation try to demonstrate the frightful consequences with very graphic imagery. Living a more conscious and responsible lifestyle has become more imperative in our day-to-day lives. We know what to do; be moderate with energy, separate your garbage, recycle and wear eco-friendly clothes.

The die-hard green folk who started to wear eco-friendly clothing back in the days had a hard time combining hip and green. Mostly because the only choices of garments were stinging nettle dresses or simple frocks made of wool. Not very fashionable indeed. But fear not! With time comes technology, knowledge and taste and if you combine those three, good things happen. My proof for this statement is Charlie + Mary, a fashionable green store that demonstrates eco-friendliness does not necessarily mean living and looking like a seventies social worker. Local Dealer sat down with this unique and radiant duo that put Amsterdam and green fashion on the map.

From down under to the Dam

After saying hello to Charlie (originally named Charlotte) and Mary (Marieke) I am offered a cappuccino from an intern, settle into a comfy chair and kick off the chat.

Lets start at the beginning, how did you girls meet?
Charlie (situated behind her laptop) starts to tell wholeheartedly about their first encounter. “We both studied ‘Fashion Management’ at AMFI in Amsterdam”. Mary automatically joins the conversation by finishing the sentence: “Charlie had found an internship in Australia and I remarked that I would love to go there too. In Australia we got along really well and ideas started to evolve whilst traveling. It took us another 5 years before we started the store though.”

At what point did these ideas turn into an actual concept?
“Well, we still had to graduate when we got back and you don’t just get a loan overnight. After school we both started to work in the fashion industry and learned more about sustainability and how things could be done differently. The trend was already evolving in other cities, so the concept was already there. We wanted coffee, cake and fashion to create an inspiring concept store.”

I was never a fashion victim, I was always very interested in the story behind it.

So what do Charlie and Mary stand for?
“Fair-trade and eco-friendly fashion with coffee and cake, it’s a sustainable lifestyle! Now that’s a t-shirt! Charlie and Mary is also a webshop, events and an agency, so we are more than just a store. We are transparent and tell the true story behind the clothes. You want to be fair and eco-friendly as much as possible, but sometimes you have to accept that it is not 100% possible yet. Fashion is fun! You don’t want to lecture people and say: ‘only wear eco-friendly!”

Talking about ‘fashion is fun’, when did your love for fashion start?
Charlie: “My uncle had a shoe store. He was a buyer, and I was always interested in the buying part of fashion.” Mary: “I was more interested in the story behind it. I was never a fashion victim, we both weren’t. I just wanted to know how it all worked, how it was possible to get the clothes in the store. Fashion is such a big business, I was curious about the story behind the scene”.
Local Dealer: Charlie + Mary

Eco and fashion

So, why did you choose to wear eco-friendly clothes? Did you have a green mindset?
“We knew it was possible and available, and heard about the developments in fashion and its fabrics. So we started to think ‘why isn’t this available here yet?’ In London and New York you could get it everywhere, but not in the Netherlands and if it was, it was very boring. During our travels we found a lot of cool eco-brands, so we decided to bring the clothes to Amsterdam and sell them ourselves. As soon as you get interested in the subject, you try to gain more and more information on the topic and start to look at other ways on how it could be done. It wasn’t because we were very eco-minded from the beginning, it was more of a process and it was more cool over there then here. People here were like eco fashion?  What’s that?”

How would you describe your current collection?
“Internationally orientated, stylish, cool and young; we have got some very original items. It is not grey or really basic what most people think of eco-fashion.  It’s a real fashion store and it shows the opposite of what people think about sustainable clothing. We offer some really cool prints this spring and some of it is sold out already. Like the Kiboots! They are made in Morocco from carpet, that’s why every pair has a unique pattern. We have really nice underwear protection from Denmark ‘soft and sexy!’ We also found some sustainable wooden sunglasses in the States, and we will get them in soon. With everything we consider if it is worth getting from far away, because you have to keep your carbon footprint in mind.”

What do Charlie and Mary contribute to the brand?
“Charlie is more the steady factor,” Mary says smiling. “She is the organizing/production talent and she knows a lot about fabrics.” “Mary is really good with the website, marketing, communication, events and press,” Charlie responds. “We are growing into our own roles. It’s a natural development. In the beginning we did everything together, but we are so busy that we have to split tasks. This works very well. We complement each other, but we still always do the buying part together. Plus, we never fight cause we are not in each other’s field.”

You have a very creative shop display. It’s always changing and fun! Where do you derive your creativity and inspiration from?
“Haha! We find ourselves too busy to get inspiration from anywhere. We should travel or go out more, but we haven’t had time for a year. In Amsterdam you can get inspired just by looking around. We get a lot of inspiration from the people we work with, for example Studio Jux and Strawberry Earth.”

What are the standard requirements for the selection of your products?
“Well, first of all it has to be fashionable. It has to fit in our range and concept. The most important is that the brands we work with are willing ánd trying to get better. The brands have to be motivated and improving. That’s why we work with young designers, because they are not at the stage big companies already reached. Young brands are trying to get better and we want to help them improve, that’s the most important thing. We think it’s important to chat with designers and to get to know them and then we make the choice if the brand is sustainable or not, but lots of young designers actually are. They don’t know any other way, it’s in their DNA.”

Local Dealer: Charlie + Mary

The home base of Charlie+ Mary

What does Amsterdam mean to you and why are you located here?
“We came to study and never left. We have lived here for ten years now. Amsterdam inspired us, it was definitely the place to start a store. This city is also the home base of Charlie and Mary. It’s where our friendship started plus we like this area. The people who shop here are very diverse and we love that.”

What are your favorite places to visit in Amsterdam?
Café Latei at the Zeedijk, good food! Café Struik, Studio K and for ideas the Foam photography museum, the streets or the garden of Amsterdam Het Vondelpark.”

Do you have any advice for people with a similar passion for eco-fashion?
“I believe that sharing your passion with someone else makes you stronger. Starting your own company is one big rough patch, but DO IT, because it’s a lot of fun and it doesn’t feel like work. You get up and your learn something new every day. It’s never boring”. Mary: “Because it is your passion you want to know everything and do everything, but I couldn’t do it on my own”. Charlie: “It’s important to be able to share your passion or tone each other down when needed, and also to survive the rocky parts.”

Where do you see Charlie and Mary in the future?
“We are afraid to tell people our future plans because they might laugh. Well, we would like to have more stores like our current one, but situated in a place like London. Secondly, we would like more people to join the Charlie and Mary lifestyle. So come visit the shop, have a coffee and try on some nice clothes!”

Pictures courtesy of Andrea Huls

Sharing is caring!