A peaceful stance is all about preserving the earth and finding personal happiness. The owners think you should live your life fully with purpose and embrace the things that make you who you are…We feel the same way.
By Holly J. Coley
Photographed by Melissa Surprise
In Highland, NY, to the side of a residential property there’s a small, unassuming structure resembling a cottage from the outside. It’s called the BoardRoom, but it’s like no boardroom you’ve ever seen.
It could easily be one of those ultra-swank ski lodges. You know the type-one part tavern-themed boutique one part contemporary living space. Made from shipping pallets, it’s rustic but sleek, with snowboards mounted on the wall and skateboards repurposed as coat racks and light fixtures. And yes, there’s an actual bar inside, complete with beer on tap—if you’re there on the right night. Quite fittingly, it’s the headquarters for the entrepreneurs behind A Peaceful Stance, an eco-conscious clothing company. And like their meeting spot, they’re not what you’d call conventional business owners.
They could be mistaken for brothers with the way they joke and play off one another. But they’re not siblings, just friends who have known each other for a long time and share the philosophy of doing what you love and caring for the earth. There’s three of them: Jason Valentino, Jeff Paine and Rory Becker. Each one personable, grounded and with a palpable loyalty to the others and the brand.
“We are so synergistically intertwined,” says Rory, who has volunteered to speak first on how his business partners and he met. “I’ve known Jeff since he was born…Jay’s father did construction on my house.”
The three have always been part of each other’s lives in some way, shape or form. They all grew up in Highland, living, as Jason says, “a couple football fields from one another.” Their families have known each other for decades, and while the men ran in different circles growing up, they never severed ties. “We’re very like-minded,” Rory explains. So it makes sense that in 2010, when Jeff approached Jason about starting a clothing company, he was all ears.
It was something they had discussed before, only now Jeff had taken it a step further by designing an article of clothing and placing it on the market. More importantly, it was gaining some traction. Jason still remembers the conversation they had about it.
“He called me and said, ‘I started this thing, but I think I need some help from the business side of things. Do you have any interest in partnering with me?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but do you mind if we make it earth conscious?”
The idea of preserving the environment has always spoken to Jason, and the opportunity to do something that could further that cause was enough for him to get on board. “I felt like we could be one more voice to try to help turn the mind-set of folks around,” he says about creating a brand that would encourage people to question what they wear and how it impacts the planet.
If you’re having difficulty understanding how a fashion line can affect the earth, here are some not-so-fun facts to think on:
According to Forbes, the fashion industry is the second biggest industrial polluter. Seventy million barrels of oil are used to make polyester, a fiber that is not biodegradable. Traditional cotton farming is responsible for 25 percent of insecticides released globally. It’s estimated that 17 to 20 percent of industrial water pollution comes from the dyeing and treatment of textiles. So yes, fashion lines do affect the planet, for better or worse.
A Peaceful Stance is all about better- ing, and since its inception, inspiring positive change has been part of its business model. Specializing in active lifestyle apparel and accessories, the brand show- cases tops, tanks, tees, sweatpants and hoodies. Clothing features classic earth tones and graphics that range from delicate and subtle to bold and intricate. All items, from the APS Sweat Pant ($55) to the Leaf Peace Tee ($26), are made from sustainable earth-friendly fabrics, such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, eco-fleece and hemp. Inks are water based. Even accessories, like the Skate Deck Keychain Bottle Openers ($15), are made with the environment in mind. Created from repurposed skateboards, each opener is made by hand and one of a kind.
For the first two years, Jeff and Jason worked to get the line off the ground. “It was a trial by error,” Jeff says, recalling the challenge to find earth-friendly distributors who could also provide quality materials. “There were times that we didn’t have the resources that we have now or the people we have now to answer some of our questions.”
Despite challenges, the pair pressed on, welcoming Rory to the fold in 2012. Also passionate about the environment and an active lifestyle, he has championed the brand from the start. “I was their largest buyer,” he says proudly. Jason adds, “Yeah, it was the one thing that made Jeff and me nervous. I was like, ‘Dude, that’s half of our sales!’” The men explode in laughter.
With their team complete, they began expanding, getting involved in community events where they could not only share their line but show support to other local businesses.
“We model our business very much after that board right there,” says Rory, motioning to a custom snowboard that features a variety of tree rings. “It’s one circle after another, getting wider and wider. We say we’re growing organically, like tree rings grow. Each year the base gets a little bit wider and we reach a little more people and get [them] a little more involved in environmental issues.”
“It’s one circle after another, getting wider and wider. We say we’re growing organically, like tree rings grow. Each year the base gets a little bit wider and we reach a little more people and get [them] a little more involved in environmental issues.” —RORY BECKER
In 2014 they hosted Peace, Love and Noodles, an art show that featured Jeff’s Polaroid photography and the group’s new fall/winter collection. Last year they partnered with Wallkill View Farm to present the Earth Conscious Cooperative Workshop. Talks were given throughout the day on earth conservation and eco friendly practices. A portion of clothing sales and farm sales were given to Wild Earth, a Hudson Valley non-for-profit that offers nature-based programs to the public. Each year A Peaceful Stance gives 5 percent of their proceeds to initiatives with similar missions, such as POW (Protect Our Winters), Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and Sparrow’s Nest. For them, talking the talk is nothing if you can’t back it up with some real action.
Even as the number of eco-conscious brands grow, A Peaceful Stance sticks out from the rest. They won’t admit this, but they’re endearingly humble, each refusing to take sole credit for a single idea or advancement. They work together as a singular unit, though they concede to personal strengths that benefit the team. Jeff has a background in graphic design, while Jay has a background in construction, which comes in handy when building commissioned pieces like wine racks and furniture. Rory, who admittedly doesn’t sleep much, is always coming up with new ways to build the brand. “We try to push each other in the right direction, and we know that if you’re standing in the same spot you’re not growing,” Rory explains. They range in age and life experience, which gives them each a unique perspective that influences designs and the projects they take on. They’re committed to stepping outside of their comfort zones while also staying mindful of sticking to their values.
And what are the values of A Peaceful Stance? Along with preserving the earth, it’s about finding personal happiness. “The concept behind [the company] is that people should live their life fully with purpose and embrace the things that make them who they are,” explains Jason.
It’s a message that resonates with people, and with the relaxed style and comfort- ability of the clothing, pieces sell out fast. While it’s challenging to make affordable quality clothing that’s also green, if keeping narrower margins gives more people access to the line and philosophy, they’re fine with that. “We want to continue to grow the brand and reach a greater mass of people,” says Jeff.
Jason continues, “If we can break even or even lose a few hundred bucks this year but impact another couple of thousand people, over time our customer base will grow to the point where we’re getting more orders and so we can take advantage of economies of scale…It’s very much a long-term approach.”
“It’s an ebb and flow,” Rory says. “That’s the way life is. It’s balance.”
They’re currently working on a new collection of fitness-inspired looks, which they’re calling the Eco Barbell Club. They will also be bringing back the Earth Conscious Cooperative in April and will be participating in the Hudson Valley Craft Beer Fest this fall and other events in the area. If you can’t wait till then to grab their clothing, shop them now at www.apeacefulstance.com. To learn more about the brand and upcoming events, follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.