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Why Is Amour Vert the Buzziest Newcomer of 2014?

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Two defense industry workers meet in Abu Dhabi. They fall in love, move to San Francisco, and start an eco-friendly apparel line. If this were a romantic comedy, hilarity would ensue. But this stranger-than-fiction plot line is the true story behind SF's own Amour Vert.

Linda Balti and Christoph Frehsee launched their brand in 2011 with a dream of creating zero-waste eco-fashion that people would actually want to wear. Three years later, Balti has been invited to join the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and the duo has a stylish, sustainable boutique in Hayes Valley. Granted, there were a number of talked-about store openings in SF this year —The Kooples, Rag & Bone, Convert Man— but Amour Vert wins the Racked Award for Buzziest Newcomer for proving that a home-grown, eco-conscious retailer can apply its values to a brick-and-mortar store.

Though they started their business online, Frehsee and Balti decided to venture offline because they wanted to create a test lab where they could interact with customers and get direct feedback. They say it's been a valuable learning experience. While it may be informative for the company, it's a retail destination for shoppers. With all the positive press and celebrity buzz over the brand —Gwyneth Paltrow and Blake Lively are fans— shoppers are curious to see the fully-realized vision. The Hayes Valley boutique does not disappoint.

The Amour Vert team approached the store design with the same thoughtful, Earth-friendly process that they bring to clothing. The shop is the first retail space to employ the new 1224™ system by Burlingame's B+N Industries, which allows the look of the store to completely transform with as few pieces as possible. (That means there's less waste because they don't have to build new displays.) The one-of-a-kind lamps in the shop by Hinterland Design were created from driftwood collected along the Pacific Coast, and the focal point in the store is a heart-shaped living wall— a nod to the brand's name, which means "love green." It's a beautiful place to buy eco-conscious sportswear.

So what's next for Amour Vert? Balti and Frehsee would like to open stores in more cities. But the first —and the best— will always be right here in San Francisco.

· Amour Vert [Official Site]
· Amour Vert Opens in Hayes Valley With an Eco-Chic Party [Racked]
· Racked Awards 2014 [Racked[