Ethical fashion brand Voz opens new ‘Sanctuary’ store in New York
Much like many stores in New York during COVID-19, Voz Sanctuary, a brick and mortar store owned by ethical fashion brand Voz, temporarily closed its doors – and just a year after weathering the many adverse effects of COVID-19. The brand has reopened its store in a new location. Let’s call it a second spring.
Voz Sanctuary kicked off this week at 178 Prince Street in SoHo, where founder Jasmine Aarons says the brand can finally see their “true vision” become a reality. For Voz, the 2,000 square meter area of a former gallery serves as an experimental and temporary retail concept shop and e-commerce platform that “combines fashion, local handicrafts and art by Voz and dedicated artists” – and doubles as a common room who focuses on wellness and spirituality.
More from WWD
Voz is known for its hand-woven, one-of-a-kind pieces that are rooted in ancient South American weaving traditions. It can take up to two months to produce a single item.
And much of Voz’s new retail concept is a mixture of lessons learned during the pandemic. Aarons, Founder and CEO of Voz, told WWD: “The era of COVID-19 was marked by the fragility, grace and the creation of the future we have always envisioned. I realized early on that everything would and will change forever, but that timeless, essential designs will continue to be valued. “
“As a small, independent fashion label based in New York, the pandemic has challenged and destabilized our company considerably, while at the same time showing us the lasting and pure value of our brand and our community. Our mission is to provide fair trade wages for handcrafted production in South America and New York. We believe more than ever that the integrity, omnichannel fluidity, sustainability and soul of Voz are future proofed for the next era after the COVID-19 earthquake. “
Aarons said that, similar to other brands and retailers, when the pandemic first hit New York, all of the brand’s time left the city. “I spent the first few months of the lockout doing every online order myself on foot, applying for a thousand grants and loans, and digging deep into digital storytelling. We’ve been able to grow our e-commerce sales significantly and keep many of our relationships digital and through COVID-19 safe trunk shows and home visits. “
The story goes on
Voz’s unique business model, which employs indigenous rural women, Mapuche artisans from southern Chile, to create its luxurious, hand-woven items through ancestral weaving techniques, added complications during the pandemic. “In Chile, Voz craftsmen and production managers had to contend with immense difficulties as COVID-19 was raging there and the lockdowns (now in their third) were strict across Latin America. Driving was restricted from neighborhood to neighborhood with police checkpoints. We were prevented from reaching all of our artisans for orders and supplies. “
Aarons added, “Our team had to find secret back roads, apply for taxi permits and report to police officers to help them get on during the pandemic. We still pray that our weavers in Araucania will stay safe and do our best to get business for everyone. “
To make matters worse, the former shop – also in SoHo – was closed in the fall of last year after months of operating restrictions and increasing crime in the neighborhood.
“In 2020 our shop and showroom were closed and restricted for multiple use. The riots and increasing crime in SoHo threatened our security. Fortunately, we were safe in these hardships. The biggest challenge was the urban flight of our clientele to quieter pastures and the closure of shops and shopping traffic around us. “
Aarons continued: “When we finally let go of our little shop last fall and weren’t sure how to play with the next lockdown and third wave, our top customers were still longing for a place to meet Voz personally could try on. At Voz, a company that celebrates the handmade and human connection between manufacturer and wearer, we cannot sever our relationship with the physical realm. “
So the brand moved on to bigger and brighter things. Finally, the team was expanded to include new, stimulating talent. And its e-commerce channels grew as its customers and supporters “protected our brand by placing generous orders throughout the pandemic,” Aarons said.
“Our loyal customers and supporters continued to shop by appointment, text messages, and special orders for them and their friends and family to help us stay in business. We have never felt so much love and support from our customers and fans as we did this year. “
Aarons noted that the pandemic accelerated omnichannel retail as it “shifted the entire industry into the future, which is both mobile and digital, but also based on meaning, enduring quality and cultural relevance”. With this in mind, Aarons speaks of the future of retail in an uplifting tone. “There has never been a better time than now to create new visions, start new companies and enter into new partnerships. We know that the future of fashion is sustainable, transparent, culturally diverse and humanly significant. At a time when everyone has been forced into e-commerce, we believe that people will crave intimate personal experiences more than ever. “
“We are honored to be a designer and entrepreneur in New York City at this time of epic change, creating a retail concept based on the soul of our brand, the artisans at our core, and the New York community.”
Aarons stated that their vision is to “offer intimate, luxurious retail experiences where ceremonial designs and materials can be touched and enjoyed, bringing peace and beauty to all who enter. Here we will continue to share the oral transmission of symbols and cosmovision of our work relating to our common journey to restore harmony with the earth. “
F.or more business news from WWD, see:
The Outerwear brand is launching an upcycling campaign
Nature has a moment in fashion
Field Notes: A Gift Guide for Nature
Sign up for the WWD newsletter. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest news.