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Van Aken: Philly's SA VA Fashion "most socially sustainable apparel company" in U.S.

Philadelphia clothing designer Sara Van Aken, president of SVA Holdings Corporation, remains resolute in offering high fashion at a low impact to the environment. In fact, Van Aken says her company is the most socially sustainable apparel company in the United States. The formula is working, as Van Aken hints that SA VA Fashion is poised to go regional in 2011, and she's already offering a selection of ready-to-wear for purchase online. SA VA's flagship retail store is located at 1700 Sansom Street, and every item sold in the store is created in a garment factory directly upstairs from the retail operation.

SVA offers four exclusive clothing lines: SA VA, which is available to the public at the SA VA retail shop, as well as three others: Van Aken Signature, Private Label and Custom Shirts. The Signature line specializes in celebrity chef uniforms, having designed for culinary luminaries such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Van Aken says hers is the only fashion company that's completely vertical. It's all made right on location. "Everything is done internally. We make patterns and manufacture in house, and sell at the same place."

While many other clothing companies outsource to manufacturers outside the US, where labor is cheap, Van Aken remains committed to hiring locally. Her goal is to create 22 jobs over the next three years. Currently there are 15 employees in the SVA garment shop in Center City. In an effort to provide community outreach, SVA runs a semi-annual clothing drive to benefit local groups Career Wardrobe and People's Emergency Center. SA VA's upcoming customer events include the Reflect, Rejuvenate, Reawaken series, featuring programs focused on health and wellness.

Van Aken reports that while she is not able to create the fabric on site, her source materials are always locally made, fair trade, sustainable, made in the U.S., recycled or organic. Van Aken terms her style slow fashion, with an eye to the entire life cycle of a garment, from how it's made, manufactured, shipped and sold, to its destination beyond the closet.

Source: Sara Van Aken, SVA Holdings Corp.
Sue Spolan
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