Interview with the Owners of Compassion Couture – Online Vegan Boutique

Compassion Couture owners Jill & Tracey

Compassion Couture owners Jill & Tracey Spiritus

What inspired you to start Compassion Couture?
My sister, best friend and business partner, Tracey and I had been discussing opening our own business for years. We just needed to figure out what that business would be. In January of 2008, Tracey decided to give up eating and buying all animal products because of her love of all living things. I, “Jill” followed in Tracey’s footsteps shortly thereafter, giving up buying animal products and becoming vegetarian.

Being so interested in keeping up with the latest fashion trends and shopping, we had a particularly hard time finding handbags and shoes that were not made of leather, while also being made of sustainable materials. In addition to being passionate about protecting the welfare of animals, we both also have always had a sincere concern with the environment and feel that both go hand-in-hand.

We often had to search website upon website to find handbags, shoes and accessories that matched our fashion sense as well as our ideals! A lot of the handbags and shoes that we actually did find and purchase that were not made of leather were “vegan by default” – they were made of cheap, non-sustainable materials and fell apart very easily. We figured other women were having this problem and then the idea clicked. We should make a store that we would shop at and Compassion Couture was born!

What makes you different than other vegan fashion websites out there?
Besides being cruelty-free, we ensure that all of our brands incorporate sustainability into their practices. A lot of vegan websites out there sell accessories that are made cheaply with non-sustainable materials and are labeled as vegan just because they are not made of leather. These items tend to fall apart easily. We hand-pick our brands to ensure that our products are either made of recycled or organic materials, are made in factories that aim to reduce carbon emissions and waste, are made at fair-wage factories, or actually sustain the local economies of developing countries. Our handbag brand, Dialog actually has several fair-trade initiatives including one that stimulates the local Thailand economy by improving the lives of those left without jobs after the 2004 tsunami.

I’ve noticed your prices are on the higher end. Is there a reason for this?
I’m not always a believer in “you get what you pay for”, but in Compassion Couture’s case, this directly relates! All of our brands use high-quality materials (most are eco-friendly or recycled) and our brands also pay fair wages for labor. The fashion industry especially is known for not even paying factory workers minimum wage for producing goods and even using illegal child labor practices. We pride ourselves in not only supporting animals, the environment but human rights as well!

What are your favorite items for the spring season?
• I’d have to say my favorite shoes are definitely Cri de Coeur’s Clio wedges. Besides being super-comfortable, they are also made of eco -friendly materials such as eco-PU and recycled wood.
• I love all of the Cornelia Guest bags but particularly the Pansie clutch because its blush pink color is perfect for the spring season. And, all of her bags are made of eco-friendly PVC.
• My favorite accessory is definitely the Matt & Nat Maya wristlet. I love that you can easily carry all of your necessities around your wrist and the Papaya color makes this a statement piece. If you are on a tight budget, this is the perfect item to fulfill your vegan/eco shopping needs this season!

What are your short-term goals for Compassion Couture?
Our shorter term goals are to partner with non-profit organizations that are in line with our mission. In May, we will be donating a portion of proceeds from certain items to one of our favorite charities, Farm Sanctuary. We also plan on attending more events including the Connecticut Vegetarian Festival (April 28th) and Shecky’s Girls Day Out in the Hamptons (July 7th). Additionally, we plan on hosting our own events – so stay tuned and sign up for our newsletter for updates!

What are your long-term goals for Compassion Couture?
Besides hopefully being able to open up a brick-and-mortar store one day, we would love to contribute to eventually make vegan and eco-friendly fashions mainstream. Our website makes it simple and easy to find even non-vegan consumers’ favorite shoe, bag and accessory trends that are also “compassionate” and “ethical”. We truly believe that once these consumers see the quality and style of the products that we sell, that they will make the conscious effort to switch to cruelty-free and eco-friendly options because they are just as great, if not better than the items that they were previously buying.

Go shopping! www.compassioncoutureshop.com

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