Orange Harp is out to change the way you buy clothes, accessories, and and beauty products. It's not a brick-and-mortar store. It's not an online shop. It's a mobile app that curates sustainable and ethical brands. And it's just getting started.
"In five years, we will be the destination where everyone finds something that resonates with their personality [and] learns about how their choices affect them and the world around them," said founder and CEO Anbu Anbalagapandian, who launched Orange Harp last spring. "We want to make it easy for people to be socially conscious in every aspect of their lives without any compromises."
We can get behind that. While not all of the labels featured on Orange Harp are vegan, options sans animal products are plentiful, and the team uses strict guidelines when selecting partners. According to Anbu, non-negotiable criteria include: 1) Design -- a clean supply chain and use of natural, renewable, or recycled materials; 2) People -- a commitment to fair working conditions; and 3) Planet -- use of low-impact manufacturing techniques, environmentally-friendly packaging and shipping, and other eco-conscious methods. Orange Harp also encourages its partners to give to good causes, and the company itself donates 1% of each of its sales to combating human trafficking through Not For Sale.
Our Orange Harp wish-list is too huge to share in its entirety, but a few items we're currently coveting are Jessica Faulkner's Lisbeth mini dress (we'd wear it to the office with a blouse underneath, then go strapless for after-work drinks or holiday parties), Love and Piece's Chalcedony druzy earrings (fancy yet cool enough for everyday wear), and Rickshaw Bagworks' houndstooth Metro tote bag (a girl can never have enough totes, are we right?).
We took a quick break from pining for the above items to chat with Anbu about everything from Orange Harp's beginnings to why she adores Emma Watson.
I grew up in a middle class family in India where "reduce, reuse, recycle" is a part of everyday life. My grandpa's old T-shirts would become his handkerchiefs. We had a rainwater harvesting system in our farm. Being socially conscious is very important to me. When I first heard about sustainable fashion, I couldn't stop thinking about it. After realizing that there was no easy way to discover socially conscious products, I set out to solve this problem.
After living on three continents, I'm proud to call San Francisco my home. Its iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge is international orange in color. SF Chronicle called it a $35 million steel harp when it was open to the public. Combining those two, Orange Harp was born.
The hard stuff:
We are a small, dedicated team with limited resources. We have so many interesting things on our roadmap but we need to ruthlessly prioritize and execute. That is our biggest challenge, but it makes us work on the right priorities and delight our users. I'm pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming support we are getting from our users, bloggers, our advisers, and investors.
Cruelty-free shopping strategy:
Labels -- check if the products are certified such as USDA organic, N.P.A (Natural Products Association), Cruelty-Free, PETA-Approved vegan, fair trade. Mission -- take some time to read a bit about the makers, their mission, and their inspiration. You are smart and you can smell bullshit from a mile away. Influencers and tastemakers -- follow them and discover products through them. I would recommend following Ethical Writers Coalition members.
If the ingredients are organic but the working conditions for the employees are bad, buying those products defies the meaning of sustainable living. Let's vote with our dollars to the brands that respect the planet and its people.
On making clothes last:
I'm going to share a well-known fact but less-used tip. We wear only 20% of our wardrobe. Try to mix and match and use all the pieces in your wardrobe. It takes just three extra minutes to think about what goes with what. I promise, you will have fun.
You can call me the "New Girl" wearing socially-conscious fashion. I love bright colors and wear a lot of dresses and skirts.
Emma Watson -- brilliant, brave, and stylish. She cares about sustainable fashion too.
We're working on a new feature on our app to share more about the people behind the labels we carry. We also have interesting partnerships in the making for the holiday season. Stay tuned!