Wonderful ethical & sustainable stories ~ Portrait N°1 “Muse & Marlowe”
Hello! After the publication of my article "How I have stopped fast fashion and what I think after my first year of abstinence", I received a lot of very positive feedback from you. It made me so happy, you have no idea! It seems that many of you want to change your way of living and consuming. But, you don’t always know where to start or what brands or small creators to trust. I regularly receive messages to ask me what my favorite ethical brands are.
I have to admit that I spend a lot of time looking for pretty brands, French and European for the most part, which use sustainable materials and are respectful of the environment. Brands that also respect human beings, produce locally in Europe or elsewhere in the world, and guarantee a fair wage to its workers and good working conditions. That's how I got the idea for this new column: "Wonderful ethical & responsible stories". A portrait in the form of an interview (I have been journalist for 8 years and I guess I will always be!) to tell the story behind the brand. I want to promote those who, at their level, do their best to protect our beautiful planet and offer us products that we will cherish for a very long time.
The small French brand Muse & Marlowe, for whom I had a huge crush, agreed to inaugurate this series of portraits that I will publish once or twice a month.
Muse & Marlowe
Muse & Marlowe is a Breton clothing brand started in 2018. The brand wants to offer an ethical and sustainable alternative to fast fashion. The clothes designed by the two founders of the brand, Aline and Lucie, are feminine, comfortable and solar. Their first collection is so pretty! I fell for their "Sunset Lover" t-shirt that I keep wearing all summer. I’m a very curious person, so I wanted to know more. Here are their answers to all my questions :)
Could you introduce yourselves in few words?
Aline : My name is Aline. I’m 39 years old and live in Rennes. I’m married and a mother of a 3 year old girl named Ellie. I have a dual training since I graduated as a stylist-modelist at the Atelier Chardon-Savard in 2004 and also got a master's degree in communication in 2009 with distance education. I worked in both fields for more than 10 years before leaving my last position in February 2018 to fully embark on the Muse & Marlowe adventure.
Lucie : I'm Lucie, I'm 32 years old. I live as a couple and am also a mother of a little boy, Hugo, who is 3 years old as well. After several years spent in Rennes, we made the choice with my partner to move to the center of Brittany in a small rural village! A real lifestyle change to a more simple and peaceful life with our family. After obtaining a master's degree in management at a Business School, I worked for 9 years in the field of marketing and communication in the cosmetics and fashion sectors.
When and how was born Muse & Marlowe ?
Aline : We met with Lucie in 2008 in a company, where we met again a few years later in 2013. I always had the desire to become a businesswoman, but for a long time I had a lot of excuses for not doing it. When you are not born in an entrepreneurial family and are educated to stay on track of a "classic" road, you simply believe that business is not for you. Until the day you finally understand that it's really what you want to do with your life!
Lucie and I, we complete each other and we are always on the same page. We are lucky that our paths have crossed. I’m managing the product design and communication part while Lucie is taking care of the marketing, commercial and management part. Muse & Marlowe has really taken shape while sharing our personal experience. Also, the births of our children in 2016 gave us the strength to start our own company. We wanted our daily actions to match our core values. We wanted to create what we felt was missing, raise awareness in a positive way and respond to a demand. We wanted to make our children proud and show them that nothing is impossible.
And when you take a step back, you realize that happiness does not lie in the "always more" kind of mindset but rather in minimalism, the appreciation of what you already have and what you carefully chose. You no longer need a high salary and holidays in countries that are far away You focus on many other frugal, real and essential things.
Where did this beautiful name, Muse & Marlowe, come from?
Lucie : Muse is the 2nd name of Aline's daughter (Ellie Muse). A middle name like many Anglo-Saxon names (Aline's husband is Australian). Marlowe was the number 2 name in the short list that had been made for Ellie. We like both of these names very much!
Aline : With Lucie, we really wanted to evoke femininity with the name of our brand and the idea of community. A brand that embraces the world. So, we listed names we liked the most and played around with them. Muse & Marlowe was by far the most poetic, aspirational and, without hesitation, our favorite. Lucie’s child is a boy named Hugo, so unfortunately we couldn’t use both of our children’s names.
What makes Muse & Marlowe an ethical and sustainable brand? What are the brand's commitments?
Aline : We wanted to have a global approach and look at things from both environmental and humane point of views at each step of our activity. We have two main commitments, and one of them is choosing the materials. For the first collections, we used GOTS certified organic cotton only. We want to make sure that cotton is produced in the best conditions environmentally and humanely. We rely on this certification. It's the most complete one in the textile industry (it's an Ecocert label), which implies that all links in the chain are audited every year. The other commitment is to choose suppliers carefully. We choose the ones that are located close to us. If we can't find suppliers with desired skills nearby, we try to find them in our region or in Europe. For example, our t-shirts are printed in Brittany (where our offices are located), the development (patronnage / prototyping) is done in a workshop in Cholet and by an independent seamstress who is based in Brest. All the production is made in Portugal.
Lucie : Our packaging is designed to achieve zero waste: a compostable envelope, biodegradable wrapping paper that we recommend to reuse, and a label containing seeds. At the end of the buying process on our website, we give the choice between seeds of mini cucumbers or butterfly flowers. It was important for me to offer seeds to grow vegetables, since I dream about living a self-sufficient life (one day maybe)!
We have also printed instructions for our workshop to let them know that we do not want individual plastic packaging that is commonly used to wrap each garment, for example. We receive our items in cardboard boxes without individual packaging. Each size is separated by a cardboard in these boxes.
Whether at our work or in our daily lives, we really try to do our best. Perfection does not exist. However, when one activates a respectful lever, there is often another one that lets go. Nonetheless it is important to always look for the optimal solution and also to evolve with time.
Why was it so important for you?
Aline : We couldn't imagine doing things differently. We both love clothes as a useful object and a source of pleasure and expression. Nevertheless, Muse & Marlowe's purpose is not to really launch a brand and produce more clothes, but it is to just make a difference on our level.
Is each garnement produced in small quantities? Can you tell us more about the process of creation and production?
Aline : Each model is produced in 100 copies in each size (from 34 to 42 at the moment), so it is considered small to medium scale. This has led to complications in finding our partner workshop. It's not easy when you are producing items in smaller quantities.
Lucie : We organize launches 4 times a year: 2 collections of around ten models supplemented by two capsules of 2 or 3 models. We try to make our collections in a way that everything goes well altogether so that not only will they last longer but also they will free ourselves from the weight of trends. Thus, we keep each collection for 1 year until it goes out of stock. So, in a way, they are not just collections; we could even call them chapters of a story. We very much want to stage the pieces from the 2nd collection along with those of the 1st collection, for example. A garment is made to be loved for a long time and reinvented to infinity. For instance, a dress can be worn with sandals in the summer and boots in the winter ...
What materials are you using and why ?
Lucie : At the moment, we have chosen to focus on GOTS certified organic cotton because the audit to obtain this certification is reassuring for us and for the consumer. And to be honest, we were not able to investigate all the production steps. Organic cotton requires only 10% of the amount of water usually used for cotton. It also allows the farmer to rotate his crops, so he can grow vegetables to feed his family for example. Pesticides are prohibited, as well as a long list of chemical products. It is therefore safe from a health point of view for the workers, but also for the consumer! GOTS certification also covers all the social and human aspects, often forgotten and yet so important. In fact: no child labor is allowed and each worker has to be paid above the minimum wage of his country.
Aline : We currently have 3 European suppliers, including one in France. We made the choice of natural materials to avoid the rejection of microparticles during the laundry washing. However, we are thinking about using other materials, including flax and hemp, but also recycled natural materials (It’s difficult to source them though, and there is a real interrogation about their durability) and innovative materials.
How would you describe Muse & Marlowe style ? For whom is this brand?
Aline : Muse & Marlowe is strongly inspired by the 70s, this very "laid back" but naturally feminine spirit. Each piece can fit a sharp style but also a more classical style. We want Muse & Marlowe style to evolve with us and adapt to (almost) every moment of our women's lives. I say almost because all clothes are not wearable when you're pregnant. But we would love to provide "pregnant-friendly" or "breastfeeding-friendly" design.
We want every woman to feel strong and free in our clothes. We know that the beauty of a product is very subjective, but we try to place the cursor to install a strong identity, without falling into the extreme or the trend.
How could you describe Muse & Marlowe in one sentence?
Aline and Lucie : "A simple aesthetic with rustic and artistic notes, a bit raw and sensitive at the same time, with earthy colors, timeless and feminine lines. "
What is your iconic item?
Aline et Lucie : Very difficult question! Nevertheless, I would say the canyon color Phanie dress. It’s the perfect mix of feminine and casual that I was talking about before. The dress is easy to wear to go to the beach or to go out at night with a belt and a pair of heels!
What’s the price range of Muse & Marlowe clothing?
Aline : In entry price, one can find a scarf at 29 euros, and the most expensive pieces today are at 129 euros for a jacket or a dress. For the next collection, we will have some models that require more work so we may have some higher prices, but we try to keep the prices as low as possible to make it affordable to most of people.
Lucie : We know that the price can be an obstacle to a purchase. The notion of the right price has been strongly shaken in the last two decades because the emergence of "fast fashion" brands. Our model is not based on profit, however, if we want to sustain Muse & Marlowe and properly compensate each worker involved in the production, we have to practice today’s prices. It’s the right price. Also, we strongly believe that the way to consume fashion has to evolve: buying less, mixing second-hand and eco-designed clothing, there are plenty of ways to balance a budget.
What will the next collection look like ? What did inspire you?
Lucie : The next collection, that will be released in October, has been inspired by Australia. This country is important for Aline since her husband is Australian. It's a real source of inspiration. Life there is very different, of course, and all these differences have been infused into this collection. The next print is about Australian flora.
Where can we buy your products?
Lucie : You can order our products on our website https://museandmarlowe.com/ We ship worldwide!
A word to convince or encourage my readers to consume ethically and sustainably?
Aline : Consuming is a committed act, and after having experienced the satisfaction of getting your hands back on our consumption, we can only recommend doing so. And as for everything, do not rush, do not look for perfection! It must remain a pleasure.
Lucie : Becoming attached to a garment, loving it, respecting it. Creating memories. This is very important. In addition to helping to reduce the impact of it on the environment and help make workers' lives fairer. There is so many reasons to change our way to consume, slowly but surely.
It’s your turn!
That's it! I hope you enjoyed this first interview. I’m so happy to talk about brands I love, with beautiful values. To support Aline and Lucie, and their brand Muse & Marlowe, do not hesitate to follow them on Instagram account and talk about their brand around you. Word of mouth is precious for small creators. Do not hesitate neither to share this article to support my work :) Thank you very much.
Website : https://museandmarlowe.com/
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/museandmarlowe/