Today is the start of Fashion Revolution week in which brands are encouraged by the global Fashion Revolution movement to be transparent about their supply chain in order to drive change in the fashion industry.
The movement was born in 2013, out of the devastating tragedy in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh, where 1138 garment factory workers lost their lives when the building collapsed.
Up until then, images from garment factories were seldom seen in the press; and we consumers rarely considered the people who made our clothes, their working conditions and how much they were paid. Indeed, many people I have talked with think that their clothes are made entirely by machines. It may be the way things are going in the future, but we are not quite there yet! :-)
By putting faces to the fashion supply chain with #imadeyourclothes pictures, Fashion Revolution continues to draw attention to the real humans behind every single garment…. including that £3 T-shirt on offer from discount high street fashion retailers*
So, who did make your clothes?
If you are wearing VILDNIS, chances are that they were sewn together by one of the lovely Portuguese women from the green Braga region in northern Portugal.
Until recently, this is where all of our products were made. When we first launched, we agreed to manufacture in one country only, enabling us to visit the factories more frequently and nurture the relationships. The choice fell on Portugal which, with its EU labour laws and minimum wages exceeding living wages, gave us peace of mind that the workers were being treated well. We also like their reputation for great quality, along with the relatively short distance to the UK, enabling us to transport the goods by road and keep our carbon footprint as low as possible.
Below is a photo of some of the workers at a small Sedex certified family run business in Portugal. The place is filled with really nice people with such lovely smiles. They are a bit shy though, so this is the best we could catch on camera!
Caption: seamstresses at the Portuguese factory
Initially, we worked with three such small family run businesses in the Braga region and were very happy with the set-up. However, our small start-up quantities challenged the viability of the business model for a sustainable supply chain and we are currently unable to place sufficient orders until such time as the brand is better established.
While a big blow to us, we felt incredibly blessed when a friend introduced us to a manufacturer from India approximately 6 months ago.
Not only is our Indian manufacturer happy to accommodate our limited quantities, they are also as passionate as us about sustainability and can offer us a variety of eco-friendly materials as well as processes. As an example, they have invested in the E-flow technology from Jeanologia to reduce water and energy consumption.
From a social perspective, we love that they are both Sedex and SA8000 certified, meaning that we can rest assured that everything is ok when it comes to working conditions etc. I have met with them a couple of times already and love that we share a common purpose in changing the practises in the fashion industry. And while I may not be able to visit them as often as our Portuguese friends, the frequent conversations on whatsapp help to shorten the distance and strengthen our relationship.
In the spirit of Fashion Revolution Week, I would like to introduce you to the actual – and wonderful - people who made part of our new collection, the workers at the Indian factory :-)
Caption: the garment technician team, constructing the garments and making patterns
Caption: the sewing team
Caption: another part of the sewing team
Caption: the finish team who checks all garments, trim off loose ends and pack the garments.
Caption: another part of the finish team
One of the things that invigorates me most about working in this industry is the numerous contacts I make around the world. I love and enjoy sharing in different cultures, and I believe that we all make an equally important contribution to the industry – and to the world.
Unfortunately, not all brands share this view and there are still – in 2018 – an awful lot of factories around like the one in Rana Plaza, who treat their workers very poorly and pay them next to nothing. We, at VILDNIS, aim to change this – and this is also why we wholeheartedly support the Fashion Revolution.
Please ask your favourite brands this week #whomademyclothes ?
*As a quick ‘back of the envelope’ calculation, take that £3 T-shirt. Let’s remove the VAT at 20% and assume a retailer’s profit margin of 40%. This gives a cost price = £3 -20% = £2.40 – 40% = £1.44.
That £1.44 has to cover at least 11 stages: raw material, spinning of the yarns, knitting of the fabric, dyeing of the fabric, trims, labels, cutting, sewing, ironing, finishing & packaging and freight.
With each stage involving humans that need to be paid and businesses that need to make a profit, at the end of the day, there is not much there for the individual workers involved in making that £3 T-shirt.