By Jo Salter, Founder of Where Does It Come From? (www.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk) created for ‘Green Aspirations’ (www.green-aspirations.co.uk)
At Where Does It Come From? we definitely have Green Aspirations! We have other aspirations too, all around offering ethical, traceable products made without detriment to people or planet and where the customer can actually find out how and where their product was made and who was involved in making it.
Why Offer Ethical Products?
Why not just buy clothes that are available on the high street? Well, it would be unfair to say that all clothing retailers and manufacturers are the same because some ARE trying to improve the ethical issues in their supply chain. However, in general, brands have worked tirelessly to fulfil the demand for Fast Fashion which is fuelled by the fashion industry. High street fashion prices have fallen by 10% between 2003 and 2007 and large fashion outlets are proud to tell us that they can turn around a design from catwalk to delivery in 4 weeks. It’s easy to buy, very cheap and when it is out of date you can chuck it in the bin. An article in ecobusiness.com published last week presents a possible future where buying clothes brand new is unattainable for most of us in ten years’ time, due to a scarcity of resourcesthat have been decimated by Fast Fashion!
Setting up business with a transparent supply chain….
It has taken two years from concept to launch – primarily due to the challenges in finding partners to work with who could really be sure of their product supply chain. We wanted complete clarity right from the cotton growing in the field through the spinning/dyeing/weaving process and into the garment production.
After much research, emailing, skyping and talking to people all over the world, and one promising partnership that didn’t work out, we found our first partner in Moral Fibre Fabrics (www.moralfibre-fabrics.com). Through Moral Fibre we are able to access the skills and experience of the Co-operative workers of Udyog Bharti. Many of these families have been working in fabric creation for generations and live simply, in rural environments. Having a sustained income makes a big difference to them. We have been able to create a channel – for us to get access to their lovely fabrics and for them to find a market. The skills they use, hand spinning, hand weaving and hand dying, are all environment friendly and have a very low carbon (hand or solar powered looms!) and water usage. Azo-free dyes are used so that harmful chemicals are avoided. Together we created our first range of traceable products – children’s clothes – which we launched in June 2014 (www.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk/shop).
Do People Actually Want Ethical Products?
The culture is changing. Finding out that cotton is the dirtiest crop in the world – cotton crops cover 2.5% of the worlds cultivated land but use 16% of the world’s pesticides – is a stark discovery. On top of that there’s the wastage caused by Fast Fashion – two million tonnes of clothes were chucked out last year in the UK and while some people donate to charity most of it ends up in the bin and from there to landfill sites. Even worse, customers are becoming aware of the price being paid for them to have cheap clothes – last year’s Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh killed 1129 people and only last week workers were injured in Cambodia when a garment factory floor collapsed. Most people, when they find out these facts, don’t want to buy products that contribute to this process.
The change is also happening because of the increase in global information. With email, the Internet, Facebook, Skype, Twitter etc. we can communicate with people all over the world. The scenes from the Rana Plaza factory collapse were beamed live into our living room. Difficult to ignore. But this global village we now live in gives huge opportunities – we can embrace the supply chain and all the people in it!
The Global Village
As part of our process we meet and chat to the people involved in making our clothes. They are happy to talk to us and that their input into the garments is no longer anonymous. When you buy from Where Does It Come From? you will find that your garment has a code. Entering that code into our website at www.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk will unlock the history of your garment and you can ‘meet’ some of the people involved in making it. Here is an example:
Here is Daksha, she is 21 and learned to spin at 6 years old. Her wages go into her family income but “I take out my pocket money from my salary and use it for my cell phone recharges, I buy myself some cosmetics!” Strong parallels to 21 year olds I know!
A different story comes from Saras. She is 60 and says “I enjoy this work because I can spin whenever I have time. I usually spin in the night as I have to look after my family in the day. I am from the Darbar community and women are not allowed to work outside their homes, so spinning has really helped me.” Not being allowed to work outside the home is a cultural difference that it may be hard to relate to but it is a key insight into how Saras lives.
I don’t know about you, but finding out how these people live makes me feel closer to them. Clothes are pretty personal – they touch our skin, they send out messages about who we are, they provide us warmth and comfort. Our clothes are the links between the garment workers of the world and ourselves.
Our Green Aspirations …
So our green aspirations are to bring products to our customers that are not only gorgeous, unique and high quality but also that are kind to people and the environment. We also aspire to help people build a closer relationship with their clothes – a real understanding of how each garment was created and a link to the people who touched them before you did.
Please visit www.wheredoesitcomefrom.co.uk to see our first products, a range of children’s clothes. Ladies scarves will be on sale in November 2014 and two new clothing ranges are currently being designed for launch in 2015. We are currently working towards Fairtrade accreditation and our next ranges of clothes will be certified Organic.