Founder Focus: Co-Founder of Avre, Connie Kuo
Meet Avre, the Los Angeles-based, sustainable, and female-founded athletic footwear brand that should be on your radar (and in your shopping basket). Established by sisters Julie and Connie Kuo in 2019, the label focuses on both sustainability and women empowerment. When it comes to the line, every Avre shoe is knitted using recycled P.E.T plastic fibres that are made from 8-10 water bottles. The result? Comfortable, innovative footwear that decreases the waste in landfills. The same thought process is applied to the packaging too, which is also made from recycled materials. Plus, they’ll arrive in just the one box (rather than the small box shipped in a bigger box method), in turn creating less waste.
If the brand couldn’t get any better, with every Avre purchase, in an effort to support sustainability, conservation, and women empowerment 10% of the proceeds are donated to the charities, Oceana and Girls In Tech.
When and how did the idea come about for your own footwear brand? Were you inspired by your family?
Absolutely! Our AVRE company was my sister and I first baby together! And the idea of the brand was inspired by her babies, my nieces! All you want to do for any child is protect and give them the best future possible. That is not only in the love you give them, their upbringing, lifestyle, emotional security, but also their physical which environment plays into. As we become older, priorities shift, and the conversation was very organic of how we can evolve to make a positive change within our industry in helping to create a better planet for our future generations.
What’s in the name?
AVRE is an acronym that really embodies Julie and I as individuals and as a unit. We wanted to take what attributes represents Julie and I best and that became AVRE (authentic, versatile, responsible, empowered). All women are AVRE in some shape or form, it’s just seeing how they identify to it in how it translates to their own life.
Our parents started in footwear in 1981, and it has been part of our family DNA since we were born. It was only natural for us to follow along, but with the goal of letting us evolve with the times.
“Don’t waste it, wear it” tell us more about your brand ethos…
Global warming in the past decade has alarmingly increased at such a rapid rate, it has become such a polarized topic. Being part of this fashion industry is in our blood, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grow and help create change. Fashion industry contributes to about 1/5 of water pollution worldwide, and that number continues to stagger. 10% of the world’s plastic bottles end up in the ocean and its estimated by 2050 there will be more plastic than fishes in the sea. We realized we needed to be part of the solution and not the problem. That is where we recognized there must be a better way to utilize our design strengths with modern technology. From that mindset it really sphered us forward into taking deeper dives with our suppliers and looking into sustainable aspects and seeing how we can merge that into footwear. We not only wanted to create a product, but we wanted to make a difference by helping to make “waste” of plastic bottles into a positive change. What better way in doing that, by wearing it!
What are the cornerstones of your label?
Sustainability, women empowerment, and community. Each person needs to own their strength and find value in what they offer. We are all creatures in this great land with a purpose to help protect it. It does not matter what age, gender, race, creed, or status you are; we are all valued and of worth. We want all women to know they have a voice, and can make a difference and feel empowered and authentic in their own skin. When we first started AVRE, though we are still a small business finding our way, we knew we were going to create a company that gave back in helping to make a difference in people’s life.
That is why our charities are integral to who we are and what is important to our hearts, with 10% of our proceeds going to our charities. Our focus is being able to advocate and provide help to women and children by offering resources so they can have a chance for better future and life. Especially with the recent pandemic, it is now more important for us to help when we can. Throughout quarantine, on the news there has been a rise in social issues with a strong focus on mental health and domestic abuse. It is very disheartening our society has in a way been desensitized in the inequality and abuse to women/ children. Many of these deep-rooted issues have magnified with more reported cases during pandemic. It was reported during pandemic 1 out of every 4 women were experiences domestic abuse. 1 out of every 7 children were reported abuse in this past year. There was a 13% increase in reports of sexual harassment cases due to the pandemic where many women and even children were exploited sexually; some because they could not cover finances or rent. These statistics are only in the US, not even including the world. Every country in the world has laws that treat people differently based on sex and/or gender.
The pandemic really propelled us in recently adding our third charity, Equality Now to help stop the inequalities and fight for equal rights. We as a society need to do a better job to help and support these women and children to recovery to feel whole again when they have suffered extreme trauma from these horrific, illegal, and injustice invasive and violating acts. Equality Now is an international charity which helps to fight for enacting change by ending legal inequalities, fighting for rights for women and children, with strong focuses on stopping sex trafficking, sexual violence, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriages.
What are your ambitions for the company?
Our brand is based on inclusivity and beyond race, colour, creed, or size that also includes gender. With family being such an integral part of what identifies us, we want to expand into a men’s and children’s line.
Do you have a mentor, or are you one?
Yes I have several. It’s important to align yourself with people who have the same mindset and who continue to motivate you.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own business?
Know your purpose. Do not get discouraged by outside factors, or other people’s opinion. Business is about going through cycles, where you have to be flexible and be open to keep pivoting. If something is not working, don’t be afraid to break your pattern and change. You must remind yourself to continue to push through and be accepting to try new approaches until you hit a breakthrough. The breakthrough will come as long as you don’t become stagnant.
How do you find balance in your everyday life?
You don’t find balance in life. You either achieve or accept balance.
See the full line on www.avrelife.com.