Reprinted from Vegan Mainstream, written by Jessi Stafford
Compassion Couture is a brand spanking new start-up run by the ever-fashionable and driven sister team, Jill and Tracey Spiritus. While working in the “hustle and bustle of corporate America,” the sisters realized they wanted a little more, and subsequently redirected their focus with a stylish, animal-friendly site to connect high-end eco-friendly, vegan fashions with the consumers who are seeking those types of items. Vegan Mainstream recently chatted with the dynamic duo to find out how they choose the trends to place on their site, how they got their start as entrepreneurs and what’s in store for the future of compassionate high-end wares.
Vegan Mainstream: How did you get the idea to start Compassion Couture?
Tracey Spiritus: It kind of stemmed from the fact that I was having a really hard time, personally, finding products that had qualities in line with my values. I really searched hard for products that were not made from animals and where the labels were conscious of the environment as well. I wanted to start a place where I could find all these items in one spot. [I wanted to develop a site that people would be able to come to] and not have to weed out things that weren’t well-made or that were just vegan by accident, but that were also fashion forward.
VM: What were each of your backgrounds before you started CC?
Jill Spiritus: I actually work for a digital company doing marketing in Manhattan. I’ve been in marketing and PR for about four years now.
VM:Do you still do marketing/PR on the side or are you now fully invested in CC stuff?
JS: We’re both actually still working full-time jobs.
TS: I work in commercial real estate finance. I’ve been in real estate for probably almost ten years now.
VM: How are you finding making the switch from the corporate world to being an entrepreneur?
JS: We’re finding it really exciting. It’s tough doing both at the same time, but I’m really passionate about the cause and promoting compassionate fashion. Most people aren’t even aware that what they’re wearing are animals. There’s really no need to be wearing these products when there’s such a big selection out there, especially with shoes now. I’m so much more passionate about this, and fashion as well, than I am about my current job!
TS: I pretty much feel exactly the same way. We’re both so excited to be focusing on making a difference in how the world views compassionate fashion; we’re so much more passionate about this business than what we do for our day jobs, so it’s really exciting and we’re looking forward to spreading the word and watching the market grow.
VM: How long do you plan to juggle both jobs?
JS: We’re basically basing it on how our sales are and how fast the company grows, but I’m hoping maybe a year. Like a year from when we started in September.
VM: So, you started in September 2010?
JS: 2011! Yeah,we just started.
TS: The site’s brand new. We launched basically September 1st, so not even three months ago.
VM: How has the response been so far in just a few months?
JS: It has been really well received. We’ve gotten a lot of fans on Facebook and Twitter. I think a lot of people are passionate about the same thing we are, and they are searching for the same thing we were – and that’s what will make our business successful…fingers crossed!
VM: How did you start sourcing all the brands you feature on the site? Did you already have connections or did you have to just start by doing outreach?
TS: First of all, we started out with some of the brands we knew we could rely on when we were shopping and reached out to them. We didn’t really have any connections, but we found brands on our own that really liked the mission; we just reached out and hoped for the best. I think over the past couple of years a lot of brands have been popping up that weren’t there when we first started looking for this stuff. We’ve actually had a lot of labels reach out to us and want to be featured on our site, so it’s exciting to see that happening.
VM: Did you first set out to do high-end?
JS: We actually did set out with the plan of focusing on high-end products, because a lot of the sites out there that do sell vegan handbags, shoes and accessories are more focused on low-end products. We’ve worn their products and they wear out really quickly. But if you’re looking at the brands that are high quality, most of them we already own and they have great reputations, like olsen Haus and Cri de Coeur. We figured there actually was a space in the market for this.
VM: So you were both pretty into fashion beforehand?
TS: Yeah, we enjoy keeping up with fashion and trends. You know, we like to dress up. That’s kind of a passion of ours.
VM: Are you guys planning to move into clothing or just accessories and shoes for right now?
JS: We’re actually thinking we’re going to stay away from clothes for now. When we expand we want [to start including] more eco-friendly jewelry lines on our site, and maybe even beauty products.
VM: What are some of the trends you’re currently incorporating on your website?
JS: We both have our own unique sense of style, so pretty much the brands that we are following are keeping up with what’s fashion forward and what regular brands are doing…We also hand-pick every item to give our consumer more options.
VM: I also saw you have a blog [Compassion Forward] that you update, Tracey. Do you have any plans to partner with other blogs?
TS: We don’t really have time for that. I wouldn’t say it’s something I wouldn’t consider, but for right now the business aspect is keeping us so busy. I really have been slacking on posting on the blog. Hopefully I’ll be able to get more stuff up there soon. But it’s hard to work full time, and do the business, and keep up with writing.
VM: You guys need interns!
Both: Yes, we do!
VM: You guys are busy bees. What do you have in the works for the new year?
JS: We have a few different plans we’re going to be incorporating into our site in the summer. We’re definitely going to be doing some events. We’d also love to have a pop-up shop and we hope in the future to partner with some of the non-profits that focus on animals like Farm Sanctuary and the Humane Society.
We look forward to watching you grow Compassion Couture!
Photo Credit: Compassion Couture