Les Sublimes: Ethical Parisian chic

"I was hooked on making a difference."

When fashion expert Alexis Assoignon joined good friend and sustainability consultant Kachen Hong on a trek to Nepal, everything changed for this duo.

The seeds for their sustainable fashion label Les Sublimes were planted as the pair saw the poor working conditions of the women making garments in Nepal.

"In 2014, we both quit our jobs to go travelling and decided to meet in Nepal for two weeks. We had both been thinking about starting something of our own but we weren’t really sure what to build or where to start," Les Sublimes co-founder Alexis Assoignon says. 

Les Sublimes co-founders Kachen and Alexis in Nepal -
the trip that changed their lives. Image via Les Sublimes
"We went to visit a group of Tibetan refugees spinning yarn for weaving and a small group of knitters making sweaters in a remote village. We saw the women working so hard, for so many hours, and earning so little," co-founder Kachen Hong adds.

"We quickly discovered that by marrying our own skills in fashion and sustainability, we could create a long-term solution for these women in underprivileged communities. Ethical and fair alternatives in fashion are still limited, which is one of the motivating factors behind creating Les Sublimes."

Both Alexis and Kachen had already witnessed the benefits of combining strong ethics with smart business. 

Les Sublimes co-founder Alexis at their debut
collection photoshoot. Image via Les Sublimes
Alexis says she found her "sustainable calling" when she made the move from New York to Vancouver.

"I got an opportunity to work for a social enterprise called G Adventures. This company found a way to be environmentally and socially responsible, while creating opportunities in developing communities, and also touching the lives of its customers and employees on a scale that a charity or NGO could not achieve," Alexis says.

"After this experience I knew that I could not go back to work for a “regular” company. I was hooked on making a difference."

For Kachen, her role as a sustainability consultant naturally led her to embrace those values in her own way.

"I witnessed how innovative businesses were integrating sustainability into their strategies, leading the way within their respective industries," Kachen says.

"When sustainable values were also merging into my personal life during this time, I realised that sustainable fashion didn’t even seem to be on anyone’s radar yet and the options available mirrored this."

After planning the concepts behind Les Sublimes for more than a year, the pair launched a crowdfunding campaign in June 2016 alongside their first collection - to amazing results.
Les Sublimes' debut collection is comprised of beautiful wardrobe staples made in France.
Pictured is the London Dress.
"We were overwhelmed by the positive response. It was the encouragement we needed to know that we are creating products that women really desire and need in their lives," the co-founders agree.

Reaching their crowdfunding goal allowed them to begin shipping pre-orders in September this year, with an e-store close behind.

The pair have launched with 100% commitment to their sustainable and ethical practices, using organic, sustainably-harvested resources and innovative technologies to reduce water consumption and recover waste.

"France is our headquarters and it was really important to us to support home with this debut permanent collection," Kachen says.

"Every piece we sell directly supports garment workers, artisans, farmers, working mums and families with a healthy wage and the freedom that comes with it."
Kachen reviewing samples with the Les Sublimes team in France.
Image via Les Sublimes
Alexis adds, "If we had to compromise on these elements, for example giving up either the environmental or social components of our business, we would not have launched. We deserve a brand that does not ask us to compromise on either of our values!"

And they're not afraid to share everything that goes on behind the scenes.

"Transparency is very important to us. We are proud to share information about the everyday running of our business, including the names and addresses of all of our production partners," Kachen says.

"The idea of keeping all of these details secret from customers and competitors is such an old-fashioned concept that needs to change. We have so much to share!"
"We want to encourage people to invest in quality over quantity pieces – items that provide long-term satisfaction over temporary gratification," Alexis says.

So what advice can they offer to others wanting to make a difference in the way they approach business?
Les Sublimes Stockholm Luxury Tee in white.
Image via Les Sublimes
"It definitely is an extra challenge to operate ethically but it’s the future, so designers should not get discouraged," Alexis says.

"Form partnerships where you can share costs and advice with people that are in the same situation. Pull together!"

Kachen sums it up: "Les Sublimes is so much more than just a beautiful colour or a new style but about our strong belief in making a change in the world of fashion - to inform people, to make them question things."

It's energetic, inspiring entrepreneurs like Alexis and Kachen that truly demonstrate the future of not only the fashion industry but consumption, society and humanity as a whole.

Les Sublimes co-founders Alexis Assoignon and Kachen Hong. Image via Les Sublimes


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