A Fashion Business Built on Green

Randy Brewer spent his career in fashion following trends. Then he followed one all the way to a new business.Mr. Brewer was working as head buyer for Villains, a San Francisco clothing boutique, when he noticed an idea spreading among designers. Among the hundreds of clothing lines lobbying him for a place in the store, he says, "I noticed more and better green options appearing every year, and more customers were talking to me about eco-friendly fashion, too."After he left that job, he kept thinking about eco-friendly designs. The idea of opening a boutique devoted to the concept "made me feel really inspired again," says Mr. Brewer, who's now 49 years old. In October 2010, a storefront he'd had his eye on for years in Berkeley's Fourth Street shopping district became available—but he had only a couple of months to sign a lease and get stock in before the shopping season. So, he pulled together a holiday pop-up shop called Convert, offering a handful of eco-friendly clothing options and vegan shoes.By spring 2011, Convert was a permanent store filled with clothes and shoes that incorporated some aspect of sustainability, such as using organic cotton or eschewing chemical dyes. In addition to stocking eco-friendly lines he had discovered over the years, Mr. Brewer encouraged designers he knew to work on greener items and commissioned exclusives. "I'm style first and eco second," he says. "I wanted to get the designers I already loved to do things more sustainably. It's much easier to do that than to go to the super-green folks and get them to change their style."Now Mr. Brewer runs two shops in Berkeley and plans to open a San Francisco store. "Organic almost sounds like ugly in the fashion world, it equals unattractive in a lot of people's minds," he says. "We're working to change that

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