Photos: Les Archivistes
AllTRUEist founder Marcus Aliaga has his eyes on scaling “as a global leader for all items produced sustainably – whether it be apparel, shoes, home, beauty”, he tells us when asked about his venture. The online platform as well as their brick-and-mortar location in the second biggest city of the country is the newest addition to the fold of our network of partner-locations all over world and we jumped at the chance to ask Marcus a couple questions while onboarding allTRUEist. We published a rather condensed version in our lastest issue of Vegan Good Life, but our talk went way deeper than what we had room for on paper. So let’s dig a little deeper in this online piece.
Hi Marcus. Why did you start allTRUEist? Like many companies and ideas, they are born out of frustration or to fill a void and allTRUEist was no different. I came up with the idea back in 2012 when I was working for a luxury eyewear company handling the West Coast of the US. I was traveling all the time visiting retail stores, training people, etc. I was based out of San Francisco; were I was born, so I had to be dressed in a suit all the time for work and I really wanted to find dressier men’s clothes but made more responsibly, back then sustainable fashion was really not a thing and I could not find a store in SF or any of the cities I visited that had sustainable work clothes for men. I could only find online stores from Europe, so it became more and more frustrating, even finding cool casual clothes was hard. What was available at that time were sustainable jeans and organic cotton t-shirts but the designs and quality were not what I was looking for either.
What made you want to look for ethical & sustainable fashion in the first place?I wanted to be able to give back in some way and that “want” really started because of two things. Earlier in my career, on my first week with this Eyewear company there was a Summit for the North American team in Arizona, it was a huge gathering and met amazing people. On the last day there was a team building activity. We were about 200 people there, so they divided us into a few teams and it was a race. We had to analyze instructions, divide into sub-teams and then each would work on parts of building these bikes and after they were built, we had to race on them to a finish line. It was fun and great team work, so once everyone had finished, the CEO came on stage to talk and then he asks if anybody knew why we had done this. Nobody really had a clue, so then he says, “all the bikes you just made are not just for team building, they were made for children from low income families” and all of the sudden the doors open and all the kids run inside towards us…. there was not a dry eye. Seeing them so happy made me feel like I had done something good… hello endorphins!
"I wanted to help and figured I can do it in my field."
And the second inspiration was actually Tom’s Shoes, I had bought my first pair back in the late 2000’s and I loved the story behind the brand and for me it was the first time I was seeing a brand having that embedded into their DNA. I went onto searching for more and more companies like that. Now we know that there are many other ways of helping aside from One-For-One business models but back then it was an impactful story.
At the end I wanted to help, I didn’t know how or whom, my schedule was crazy so volunteering was difficult, I would do it sporadically but I didn’t feel I was making a difference. I figured I can try to help in my field, in what I knew, and that was fashion. I studied for it, and worked in the industry since I can remember.
How have you seen this sector of the industry evolve since then?Yes, it is night and day and I mean this in a positive way. Jump to mid 2014, I had moved to Canada and incorporated allTRUEist in 2015. Because I had time (was looking for work) I decided to really start getting allTRUEist going as a side thing.
I began researching brands, fabrics, manufacturing and truly informing myself on sustainable fashion. Back then, it was extremely hard to find brands that were high end, fashion and design driven.
It was not a common thing to have a multi-label online boutique so I got turned down or ignored by many brands because allTRUEist wasn’t well known. But now, at least a few times a week we get new brands emailing us to be part of our platform and it’s hard to keep up with so many talented Designers creating new brands. I’m happy this is a challenge now; it keeps me on my toes!
How did you introduce vegan items into you store?We allTRUEist started it was with jewelry and other small accessories. I decided to start with Jewelry because I knew that industry pretty well from previous work, I started with a brand called Article 22 that made jewelry from recycled bombs dropped in Laos during the Vietnam era and also we carried LSTN Sound, a cool brand that makes amazing headphones and with each purchase they provide hearing aids to those in need.
I really wanted to get into more fashion items, especially handbags and as much as I wanted to find ethically made bags there was no “ethical” way of getting leather, so since day one we made a promise to ourselves that we would never carry anything with leather or fur. We had occasionally tried brands that used recycled wool or upcycled down made from post waste comforters and pillows (cleaned and sterilized) but we no longer carry those.
"When they produce the apple leather it smells like apple pie."
However, the problem many vegan leathers back then was the environmental impact, with PVC being the worst, we also vowed to never carry anything with PVC. We are always looking to what is next in terms of raw materials and spend half our time researching new technologies. Skip to 2020 and the materials and vegan leather coming out are incredible. We were among the first to introduce items made from Piñatex to North America as well as Apple Leather.
Although we don’t design our own items (...yet) we work very closely with each Designer carried at allTRUEist, our relationships are strong and view them as partners, we will go out and find materials, send them to brands so they test them and see if they want to use them. We have done that quite a bit and even with non vegan brands and helping them change to new animal and environmentally friendly materials that are high performing, sustainable and luxurious. Last year we visited the Apple Leather factory in Italy and it was amazing to see how amazingly clean and thoughtful they are. When they produce the apple leather it smells like apple pie.
What is your goal with allTRUEist and where do you see it going? Our goal is and has been to help drive change to a more sustainable future. To do that, we focus on people that really don’t have sustainability or veganism in their minds by offering items that are really well made, comparable or better than mainstream designer brands.
When an item appeals aesthetically first and it’s functional, the customer will show interest then you educate them through story telling and it becomes a no brainer. Having innovative fabrics or technology sparks interesting conversations and some customers have their 'aha'-moments and never realized a vegan bag or shoes could look/feel so good. A proud moment was when at the beginning we had a client walk in with her Birkin bag and fell in love with one of our Alexandra K. handbags, the craftsmanship, design and story was on point, so she bought it on the spot.
"A client walked in with her Birkin bag but fell in love with a vegan brand."
Also, down the line we want to create our own non-profit to help new up and coming Designers on how to build their brands, connect them with the right resources to have strong foundations on sustainability, branding, business acumen, merchandising; taught by people in the industry with real life experience and not just text book.
We’re excited to work with new Designers, 2020 will be a year with some big and exciting launches.
"We educate based on facts – but everyone has their journey."
We are thoughtful of everyone’s difference of opinions and we welcome different points of view. We educate based on facts but are not “pushy” in our approach, everyone has their journey and planting the seed can have a large impact that may not be immediate but resonates.
We have worked with a few schools to also speak to young students on sustainability and animal welfare. We continue to be corporate partners with the Humane Society International to raise awareness on their causes and do volunteer work.
Our goal is in the next couple of years to scale allTRUEist as a global leader and a platform for all items produced sustainably whether it be apparel, shoes, home, beauty and eventually food with experiential pop ups and satellite brick and mortar stores in top cities. Obviously, no easy task for a small family run business, but not impossible, we are currently looking on how to take allTRUEist to the next level.
allTRUEist | Les Archivistes
376 Victoria Ave Suite 110, Westmount, Quebec H3Z 1C3, Canada
Originally published in
Vegan Good Life 7
Read up on what's happening in the world of plant based counterculture. Issue 7 of our coffee table quality print publication touches on vegan fashion, food, travel, lifestyle, art & design and is available now.
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- Interview: Zero Waste Chef Max La Manna
- A Weekend in Warsaw
- Portrait: Tommy Four Seven