SHOPPING WITH PURPOSE

This Eco-Conscious Market Is Changing the Way People Shop

The Asch Building has everything, from home goods and clothing to fresh coffee and community classes.

By Geneva Diaz

The Asch Building in the Heights has everything, from home goods and clothing to fresh coffee and community classes. 

Image: Geneva Diaz

The road towards living a more eco-conscious and sustainable life can seem daunting and — to state what we’re all thinking — expensive. When you start the journey, shopping for everyday essentials like soap and toothpaste becomes a balancing act as you try to find ethically made products that won’t break the bank and will allow you to keep the green in your checking account at a sustainable level. 

Houston native Destiny Ellis, founder and owner of Asch Building.

Image: Courtesy photo 

With a growing interest in “conscious consumption” and a push for more ethically made products, businesses like Asch Building, located in the Heights, are filling that demand. Houston native Destiny Ellis, founder and owner of Asch Building, has created a way to make shopping for anything a breeze. 

The market is a threefold department store under one roof, with open doors between each store to allow shoppers to flow freely between each space. The shops include a European-style food market and coffee shop; a clothing atelier featuring ethically made garments from South Africa as well as the shop's brand, Asch 146; and a home goods and gift shop complete with a zero-waste refill station. Aside from the market, the property has an eclectic rock garden patio surrounded by art, an onsite ceramic studio, a greenhouse, and an apiary where they harvest honey for the coffee shop. 

Asch Building's refill station, located in the home goods store.

Image: Geneva Diaz

“I created a space where I could take my obsessive compulsive tendencies of wanting to know where things we buy are coming from and how the people that are making them are being treated, and put it into an entire lifestyle,” Ellis tells Houstonia.

As a former business consultant specializing in ethical-sustainable supply chains within American-made men's fashion, Ellis saw a gap in ethical and sustainable manufactured products in Houston. While living in South Africa for three months, and wanting to open an atelier, she started interviewing female designers in the area that use sustainable and ethical business practices. 

The shops include a clothing atelier featuring ethically made garments from South Africa as well as the shop's brand, Asch 146.

“I went to their manufacturing studio, made sure that they were doing what they said they were doing, because the ethics and standards are part of the entire reason this exists,” says Ellis. “The atelier is what kind of started the whole thing. We’re the only North American representation for any of those female designers based in South Africa, and the only place in Houston that manufactures clothing right in front of you.”

All products in the market have to follow at least one of five core values from Asch’s mission: diverse ownership, locally produced, made from a charitable organization or nonprofit, environmentally conscious, and economic empowerment with a focus on developing countries. And to make it easy on the shopper, Ellis created what are called “Asch Tags,” consisting of numbers one through seven that are then highlighted and correspond to one or all of the mission-driven fundamentals. 

Ellis created what are called “Asch Tags,” consisting of numbers one through seven that are then highlighted and correspond to one or all of the mission-driven fundamentals. 

Image: Geneva Diaz

“You can very easily still choose the way that you shop,” Ellis says. “If you want to shop only for diversely owned companies, you look for your number on the tag that’s associated with how you want to shop. If you only want to shop environmentally conscious brands, look for number five on the tag. It makes those things that you’re constantly googling when you go out and shop easier because I’ve done all the research so you don’t have to.”

Ellis’ family also partake in different facets of the business, with her mom making bath and body products, her brother making leather goods, her step-dad as the architect and property owner, and her sister having a ceramic studio onsite.

The namesake “Asch Building,” notes Ellis, pays homage to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 in New York City, which ended the lives of 146 garment workers. Today, Houston’s Asch Building serves as a forward-thinking memorial for those lives lost, a space committed to improving work standards and the ethics of the supply chain. 

Asch hosts classes for the public weekly that teach what Destiny calls “lost arts.” Ceramic classes for two can be taken with Destiny’s sister in her on-site ceramic studio.

“The reason that I named it Asch Building is to open up a conversation of where your things are being made, and who are the people making them,” Ellis says. “Because there’s no reason that a t-shirt was ever supposed to cost five dollars. That was a fast fashion concept and there’s a human cost to everything you’re paying for.”

Another reason Ellis founded the shop was to get people out of the house and to bring a sense of community back to the neighborhood. As such, Asch hosts classes for the public weekly that teach what she calls “lost arts,” classes that consist of things like learning how to mend your own clothes, papermaking, ceramics, macrame, and candle making. 

“Sustainability is not a feature, but an outlook. A belief that a ripe future is ahead for our collective species. A future only possible by the progress we achieve today to become caretakers of our global community,” Ellis muses. “We believe our neighbors across the oceans are as important as those just blocks away. We believe that every resource is a privilege and that our contribution should always outpace our consumption. We are global citizens.”

 To find out more about Asch Building and upcoming “happenings,” visit their website.

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