Interview with Jessica Althoff of Future:Standard

BARE Reporter Lisa Park had the special opportunity of interviewing Jessica Althoff, the founder of the online women's clothing retailer Future:Standard.

Over winter break, Jessica Althoff was eager enough to share details about herself and her online boutique Future:Standard. Inspired about doing fashion with a cause, Althoff pays attention to the ethical and environmental aspects behind apparel.

Tell us a little about yourself and how your online boutique Future:Standard came about.
I am a University of San Diego grad from Santa Rosa and have been in San Diego off and on for about eight years, with a few years in San Francisco in between. I always loved fashion, and always knew that I would eventually open a boutique, I just never really knew what kind or when. I have also always been somewhat of a hippie. A few years ago, I had an internship with Pants to Poverty, and learned a lot more about ethical clothing and fell in love with it. By choosing clothing that is produced with concern for people and planet, we can eliminate some of the guilt from shopping. We can also wear our clothing with pride, knowing we have purchased something that helps, rather than hurts the people involved.

I really love being outside and am lucky enough to live really close to the ocean, and see it every day. I am constantly reminded of how important the environment is and how our actions and lifestyles can really make a difference. This love has really influenced the direction of my career.

When I graduated last January, I started really thinking about my next step. I decided that the reason I got my MBA was so I could then do anything I want, and I just needed to figure out what that was. So, I started working on Future:Standard.

What makes Future:Standard different from other sites?
I think we are different because we really focus on style and ethics. I will not buy anything that I am not in love with. I also like to buy things with a story that I love. It is so important to me to show customers that ethical does not mean less fashionable. It makes it a little harder to buy, but much more fun. I have definitely had to search out designers and spent the first few months mostly doing research on brands.

Eventually our site will be more of a community than many other sites. This is one of my goals in 2011. I want to see how people are wearing our clothes - people have such a unique sense of style and I'd love to see outfits that I would never have thought of. We aren't there yet, but in the next few months, I look forward to the "how you wore it" section. We'd also like to get a lot of feedback from our customers on what to buy. I think our customers will be a group of women (and eventually men) that are interested in creating an ethical and sustainable lifestyle all around - and we want to know about it. So, this means BARE readers too! I'd love to know your readers’ thoughts on our site, what they want, their personal style, how they wore things, or just a note to say hello: jessica@shopfuturestandard.com.

What are some requirements, or what do you look for in prospective designers and apparel for Future:Standard?
When we look at brands/ designers, the easy part is determining what [the clothes] are made out of. Usually, I will know right away if they are made using sustainable materials. The next step is determining where they are made. Many of our items are made in Los Angeles, the East Coast and Canada. This tells me that the workers are paid a minimum wage and are working in healthy and safe conditions. If the clothing isn't made in the US or Canada, I ask the vendors a lot of questions about their factories to ensure that they meet certain standards. Generally the factories abroad are International Labor Organization Certified, or better. We actually have one designer, PACT, based in Berkeley. You guys should interview them! We love them and everything that they stand for. We will favor a brand that may not be perfect, but seems to be getting better and better with each season, like Yana K. When I first learned of the brand, nothing was organic. In summer '11, they will be using a lot of organic cottons and plenty of silk. They are actively working to make their Los Angeles factory more sustainable.

Can you name some trends or items you’re scouting for right now?
For 2011, I am really looking forward to a lot of color - bright pinks, oranges, turquoises, etc. I can't wait for spring for all of this great stuff. I am also looking forward to a wider leg pant (this might be a personal hope). I have always loved the 70’s and am inspired by the prints, colors, and shapes. Personally, I am (and have been for years) looking for the perfect denim jacket and shirt.

Most importantly, I am looking forward to 2011 being the year when sustainable and ethical fashion becomes a way of life rather than a passing trend. I look forward to more zero-waste designers like Ashley Watson, a lot more use of organics and sustainable materials, more transparency in the fashion supply chains (I know, boring) and more consumer awareness (I want people to ask as many questions as I do about their clothes).

We are very, very new, so I am learning a lot. I am also not afraid to ask my vendors to improve their operations. A few of the brands have sent their items in individually wrapped plastic. This is really unnecessary and creates a lot of extra waste. I have asked them to try to use a different way to ship. I don't know if they will change, or how fast, but I have always been a big believer in the expression "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" so, I will keep asking. I also ask designers and brand reps of lines that aren't sustainable/ ethical to produce something that is. I tell them I would love to carry their line, but it doesn't meet our standards. I am hoping that there are other buyers saying the same thing and eventually, they will realize there is a demand for it and work towards sustainability and ethical production.

New year, new goals! What are some of your resolutions for 2011?
As a team, we are going to always choose the ethical alternative (clothing, food, makeup, supplies, etc.). We are going to try to stop complaining (Inspired by Cup of Jo's Joanna Goddard). We are going to give at least 1% of our profits to a meaningful charity and are looking for suggestions from our customers. We are going to have fun!

For Future:Standard, we are officially launching. So as far as goals go, there are many. First and foremost we want to provide our customers with the most beautiful, relevant and ethical clothing. I want to get the word out, beyond my amazing friends and family. We also want to create a community of like minded fashionistas. We will be adding more features to our site in the next year to make shopping more social and to allow our customers to give us a lot of feedback, show us what they are wearing and what they want. We also are really going to use the year ahead to learn as much as we can about ethical fashion, what our customers want and how we can best give it to them. (To see more goals click here.)

A couple of Jessica's favorites: the PI Organic Cozy Cardigan and the Ashley Watson Pipit purse.

What are some of your own personal favorites from the boutique?
I love everything, but what I am wearing a lot now is:
  • I love the PI Cozy Cardigan. I have one and gave one to my sister. It has basically become our uniform this winter; we both showed up to a barbecue wearing it the other night. I love it!
  • I also love the Ashley Watson Pipit in Olive. I get so many compliments on this bag. Each one is one of a kind, so the one on the site is a little different, but they are just so perfectly worn in, soft and unique.
  • Everything Groceries - these tees are so easy and comfortable. I guess my favorite would be the Hot Tank in Pink. I also really love the Fish Tank for layering.
Readers, what are some of your favorites from the shop?! Jessica Althoff was kind enough to give BARE Readers a special 15% off discount from her boutique Future:Standard! After you buy your items, don't forget to send some feedback or a photo of your personal style to jessica@shopfuturestandard.com.

A couple more favorites: the Groceries Hot Tank in pink and the Groceries Fish Tank. All images courtesy of Future:Standard.

In order to receive the discount, type "BARE" in the company name during checkout. Future:Standard will then adjust the total on the back-end.

Want more info about Future:Standard? Visit their website, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

Lisa Park
BARE Reporter

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