ETHICALLY PRODUCED CLOTHING – who makes our products?
Understanding each part of the supply chain is vital to our business, and it’s important to be extremely mindful when it comes to choosing fabrics to work with, down to the manufacturing of each item and how the factory treat staff. As a small conscious brand I have chosen to only work with and produce items through factories that conform to ethical, fair trade and sustainable standards.
A lot of research went in to finding my factory in India. They are sensitive to environmental issues and pride themselves on their products being made according to socially and ecologically responsible business practices. They want to change the way business is done internationally and their product sourcing is part of the change.
Whereby a lot of factories produce organic cotton products as just a sideline, my factory only deal in organic and fair trade cotton, including blends of organic cotton with other eco fibres. They support small organic farmers by sourcing via The Chetna Project and have done so since it launched in 2004, helping these farmers improve their livelihoods through the integration of organic and Fair Trade principles. Farmers produce 100 percent organic and Fairtrade Certified cotton without child labour, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers or GMOs.
Farmers have a direct role in decision-making throughout the production and selling processes. They are represented in two cooperatives: the Chetna Organic Farmers’ Association and the Chetna Organic Agriculture Producer Company which ensure project goals are met and benefits reach workers directly.
Garments manufactured from Chetna cotton are completely traceable to the farmers’ fields, where they are extensively trained in quality control and certification standards.
Fair trade is neither charity nor assistance, it is a professional link between producer and buyer that is based on respect and fair business practice. The producer receives a fair price for his products which allows him to pay fair wages, thus giving workers the possibility of providing for their families with dignity. My factory’s workers rely on their jobs to better their living conditions, particularly concerning health, education and housing and they take this responsibility seriously hence why they were most definitely the factory for my business.
We have developed a mutually beneficial agreement, whereas they have lowered my minimum production quantities in order for me to grow my business without over committing. This is a very rare occurrence in this industry which I’m extremely grateful for and shows their commitment to changing the way clothes are made. Whereas larger high street chains can commit to huge quantities, they are also known for hard discount tactics in order to produce mass cheap items, and in return push the industry to produce more and more cheap fabrics and turn a blind eye to under paid workers.
Another factory I produce in is based in Turkey, and even though not made from organic cotton, the cotton used to produce my t-shirts carries the OEKO-TEX certificate certifying that it has been tested for harmful substances. This factory is also a small family run business with fair working practices.
What all this boils down to is consumer choice. Nobody can be forced to buy ethical and sustainable products, and we are totally aware that price tags have a lot to do with this choice. It is impossible to compete with big fast fashion brands, as they pay pennies for labour, mainly outsourcing to developing nations and using fabrics that leave a trail of destruction in their wake. It’s also worth knowing that the top 10 fashion brands made 18 billion dollars in profit in 2018. While the women at the bottom of this chain (80% or garment workers are female) earn on average £4 a day, big fat cat directors are sailing around in their super yachts funded from profits from modern slavery.
Of course it is more expensive to produce ethical materials, and for organic cotton there are very strict federal guidelines for materials to be certified organic, from pesticide use to labour rights, which all need to be taken into account. With less toxic shortcuts comes more time and effort that goes into the planting, growing, harvesting, spinning, dyeing, and cutting for sustainable materials.
With standard materials all the chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers do help to keep the cost down for farmers producing these fabrics, but with this comes high risk to not only the environment but also to their health.
We see ourselves as a fair priced brand, we support fair trade, farmers and factories that use these ethical methods, and therefore pay these workers fairly but also in return charge our customers fairly, meaning there aren’t huge mark ups or big margins applied to our prices. Producing ethical and affordable quality products.