Hearts Offers Sustainable, Fair Trade Fashion with a Story

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Inside the Hearts headquarters, a mannequin shows off a prototype purse made from upcycled coffee bags. Excess reclaimed material, which the Hearts team keeps around for inspiration, sits nearby. Photo: Jennifer Giacoppo/Earth911

While browsing the racks at your local mall, do you ever stop to think about the story behind all those trendy duds? If you do, you may often be disappointed, as mainstream clothing and accessories tend to be made from newly-manufactured materials by nameless, faceless workers from who-knows-where.

But the team at Hearts.com is out to change all that, with its recently launched Web store and brand featuring recycled and fair trade fashion with a story.

By partnering with more than 80 vendors and 2,000 artisans from around the world, Hearts provides a collection of exclusive jewelry and accessories made from reclaimed materials by artists who are paid fair wages.

After falling in love with the truly unique designs in the Hearts collection, which range from modern ties crocheted by Indian artisans to statement necklaces made from undetonated bombs, Earth911 toured the brand’s offbeat headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz. for an even closer look. Take a walk inside with us to see what happens when style, sustainability and human welfare merge.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a bare wall in Hearts headquarters, thanks to colorful inspiration boards like this one representing themes for the brand’s spring collection. Photo: Jennifer Giacoppo/Earth911

Not your average office

Take one step inside the Hearts headquarters in sunny Arizona, and you’ll know it isn’t your typical office space. Smiling staffers work diligently amidst a scattered sea of recycled materials, prototype products and design sketches. Inspiration boards, cards and letters coat the walls, while a few well-placed mannequins show off the brand’s latest pieces.

A white board greets us at the door with the message, “Welcome to the Hearts family. Today is a good day.”

Looking at the Hearts online store, you’d never guess the brand only got its start last year. Or that the whole thing is run by the 12 cheerful people who greeted us so warmly, rather than an army of couture-clad fashionistas holed up somewhere on Madison Avenue.

“We really are a family here,” says Hearts President Michelle Petro-Gerster, whose two sisters, Stephanie and Jessica Petro, also work for the company.

Hearts is the brainchild of Integrate CEO Hart Cunningham and Petro-Gerster’s younger sister Stephanie and began as tool to help the environment and people in need – before fashion, and even profitability, came into the discussion.

“There was never a business plan,” Petro-Gerster says with a laugh. “It was really formed and created from the heart, and saying what feels right and what makes sense.”

NEXT: The Hearts family goes global