This week is Fashion Revolution Week; a yearly event to encourage brands to be more transparent about their supply chains and thereby help improve the lives of millions of workers.
You most likely know the brand behind the clothes you are wearing right now, and perhaps you even know the country of origin, but do you know who actually made it and under which circumstances?
If not, now is the right time to join the Fashion Revolution and millions of other consumers by asking your favourite brands #whomademyclothes on Instagram.
WHY IS FASHION REVOLUTION WEEK IMPORTANT?
It may be a small act to you, but demanding transparency means the world of difference to someone else. Sadly, exploitation of workers, modern day slave labour, poor working conditions, discrimination in the work place and incredibly low wages are still common place in the fashion industry - and not just in developing countries; it also happens on our home turf!
As a consumer you have lots of power to influence the decisions that fashion brands are making. They (we) all want to create something that you want to buy. By shining the spotlight on your favourite fashion brands on Instagram, you are forcing them to share where their products are made. And if they have any skeletons in the closet, this could be the nudge they need to actively improve the working conditions in their supply chains by focusing on other things than price.
At VILDNIS, we are always happy to answer any questions you may have about our makers. We have spent a lot of time with them, and we are confident that they are good people who treat their workers well. Transparency and honesty are some of our core values, and you can always find up to date information about our supply chain on our website.
It’s our dream, that one day ethical and eco-friendly fashion will be the norm, and that we can just go back to just calling it fashion.
MEET ONE OF THE MAKERS BEHIND VILDNIS’ COLLECTION - ANISH INDIA EXPORTS
We started working with AIE in November 2017 after I was introduced to the owner, Anish, by a mutual friend, and today they make a large part of our collection. Anish and I share a mutual passion for sustainability and innovation, and it was apparent from the get go that there was a great synergy between AIE and VILDNIS.
Most importantly, the factory was - and is - a great fit for us given their SA8000 certification and the fact that they are going through an independent Sedex audit once a year. It gave me confidence from the start that they are treating their workers well and fairly.
Within the AIE workforce are Anish’s father, his son and daughter, and approximately 250 workers.
The vast majority of these workers, the skilled work force, are paid the equivalent to a living wage (we have seen the salary sheets!), and the remaining unskilled/lowskilled workers are paid above the state minimum wage act as prescribed by the Indian government.
Caption: Some of the workers in the sampling room.
It is Anish’s vision to become entirely carbon neutral, and when I visited in February, AIE was in the process of moving into a new and bigger building with some very innovative inclusions.
Currently, their customers include both sustainable brands like VILDNIS and conventional fashion brands who haven’t started riding the sustainable wave yet. And by sustainable, I mean both ethical AND eco-friendly. The new factory will be dedicated to making sustainable fashion, and the two existing factories will continue with production of conventional (ethical) fashion.
Some of the things that have already moved in are AIE’s laser printers and their state-of-the-art nano bubble technology machines, the G2 and Eflow from Jeanologia, saving loads of water by using air to wash and finish garments. The design team is also in place in their new offices, using a new 3D software to create and virtually fit garments, something that will save both fabric, man hours and couriers in the future. Everything is geared towards saving water and minimising pollution. You won’t find any toxic chemicals here!
Once the set-up is complete at the new building, this is where our garments will be made. At present, though, they are made at one of AIE’s other premises, and the first thing that welcomes you as you enter is a big placard on the wall from Social Accountability International listing all the criteria for being a SA8000 certified factory including remuneration, health & safety etc. It is a daily reminder to the management, all employees and visitors about what constitutes a good work place.
At present, the SA8000 certification is up for renewal due to the move to new premises and, subject to the lock down ending in May, it is expected that the certification will be completed in September. Meanwhile, given that the factory has already been certified in the past, all SA8000 requirements are being followed.
To the untrained eye, the old factory may look slightly rundown. To someone who has done many factory audits over the years, this factory is among the best. The old saying ‘looks are not important, what matters is what’s inside’ rings very true in this case.
Caption: video from the production line
All of this combined is enough to make us happy and proud of the partnership we have with AIE, but there is more…
At the time of writing this India is on lock down until the 3rd of May due to the Covid-19 virus and the factory is closed. For a developing country like India, the consequences of both the virus and the lock down are devastating. Many factories will have to close permanently as there is no government funding to help businesses during the crisis, and what is worse; many workers in the fashion industry (and in general) will have lost their jobs and no monetary help is available to them either, meaning that they will struggle to buy food and ultimately survive. It is a tragedy of immense proportions.
Fortunately, AIE’s workers are in a good position; Anish has confirmed that they are all getting paid during the lock down and so far none of the workers have been laid off. If the lock down continues for several months, then this may of course change, but for now it is a happy story in the midst of many sad ones.
And this despite some of his western customers (not us) demanding discounts on their orders as they themselves struggle to save their businesses during lock down. The fact that Anish is looking after his workers at a challenging time like this, makes us doubly confident that we have chosen the right business partner, and we are keen to do everything we can to support him in return.
Thanks for reading this far. Now, get on Instagram and join the Fashion Revolution!
PS: Find out about our Portuguese supplier and the rest of our supply chain hereCaption main image: worker at AIE cutting fabric