Where Does It Come From? 2020: Where Does It Come From? is a social enterprise, incorporated as a Limited company in the UK in May 2013. Our strapline is ‘Kind Clothes that Tell Tales’ because we focus on building transparent supply chains that ensure the most positive impacts for planet, maker and customer. We do this by creating partnerships with co-operatives, social enterprises and artisan groups that support eco-friendly practices and support marginalised communities. Each item we create comes with a code on the label so the customer can explore its story, finding out about the people and the processes involved. We believe this helps connect people to what they buy and inspires their future choices too.
Our Eco/Ethical Goal
To inspire people and businesses away from a damaging and unjust clothing and textile industry by offering support, guidance and a truly ethical and transparent alternative.
We do this by:
- Supporting businesses and organisations in switching their supply chains to more ethical and transparent productions through consultancy, specification and production management.
- Inspiring consumers to more ethical shopping and living choices through our retail product ranges, blogs and events.
- Supporting livelihoods for marginalised and vulnerable workers via our supply chain social enterprise producers.
- Choosing planet friendly fibres, materials and processes for productions and also selecting eco alternatives to run our business, including power, technology and web hosting.
2020 – A unique year
The whole world was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic which caused a huge death toll as well as lock downs, upheaval and job losses. Many businesses were affected leading to temporary or permanent closure, with those that survived having to re-evaluate their plans for the year. The pandemic also led to a change in customer behaviour and had huge knock on effects for artisans and garment makers, with many larger brands refusing to pay for orders already underway, in some cases delivered, leading to an increase in poverty. It was a challenging year for most and we are grateful to have survived as a brand. Thank you to all who supported us through this.
Products and Channels
Working with Businesses
Plans for 2020 included increasing our impact through working directly with businesses. Many organisations are now much more aware of sustainability and ethics, so supporting them to deliver products, corporate gifts and even staff clothing with a minimal negative effect on people and planet has to be a big win all round.
At the start of the year we were in talks with some large organisations including a food delivery brand and a grocery chain – these were both focussed on switching out plastic bags for re-usable, sustainable, cloth versions. We were also in initial conversations on other clothing related projects such as T shirts.
Unfortunately when the pandemic hit all this work abruptly ceased as these organisations had to re-focus their efforts. Our suppliers were also in lockdown so could not work for several months and freight services were haphazard and, for some products, non-workable.
From May we concentrated on the very necessary face mask product in partnership with our friends at Khadi London CIC and set up a UK production capacity. When our social enterprise suppliers were able to start working and shipping to us again, our product manager Lucy Kerry trained them in the design and quality assurance required and we switched production to Gram Sewa Mandal, a rural co-operative in Maharashtra, India. We then fulfilled wholesale orders for face masks, for Ecovibe, Essential Trading and East of England Co-op.
As lockdowns eased towards the end of the summer we were able to pick up some new contracts for production and created drawstring printed product bags for Love Heartwood and Kind 2, as well as some hemp pouches for CBD oil brand The Hemp Way. We also supplied some of our handwoven scarves wholesale to giftbox brand From Suffolk With Love.
2021 will see us focused on rebuilding our sales pipeline with businesses.
Sales via our own website and via our resellers were similarly hit by the pandemic. The majority of our sales over the summer were face masks with only small demand for other products. Due to media coverage for our face masks we were able to reach new customers.
The Christmas sales were better than expected, helped by our new range of handwoven throws and cushion covers. As in previous years scarves were a popular choice as a Christmas gift.
Very few live customer events took place in 2020 – just one, at Suffolk Yoga in Ipswich. We took part in a number of pre-Christmas online markets to raise our visibility.
We are strongly focused on positive impacts for the environment and for the people involved in our supply chains. We know that by selecting organic or native fibres, by working with fair trade producers and by using processes with low carbon and water impacts we are making a real difference. One of our goals for 2021 is to share more information about our positive impacts, collecting data for each production and interviewing makers/producers/farmers where possible. To further this goal we had a summer student assess our face mask collaboration project against the UN Sustainable Development Goals, working directly with the social enterprise involved to find out about the environmental and worker benefits enabled by the project. This is now complete and will be published very soon. Here is a sample of the information contained in the report.
Campaigning and Influencing
The year started with a trip to India where our Founder/CEO Jo Salter was invited to speak at an international conference in Jaipur. This was a wonderful opportunity to meet with existing connections and to make new ones, as well as publicise the work of Where Does It Come From? (and Khadi London who we were also representing). Find out more in our article Fabric and Fine Wine – Making Khadi Connections.
As Lockdown started in March we re-visited our plans to hold our annual Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution event, moving from the existing plans to hold a multi-centre, global series of events, to creating an online, week long global conference. This was hard work but a very rewarding experience for the first part of lock down, with 62 speakers taking part (thank you!). Ticket sales included a donation to Fashion Revolutions charities. Speakers included activists, brands, makers, organic farmer organisations, politicians and more. Read our article Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution 2020 – The Highs and Lows of running a Global Conference Online to find out more.
The brand and our founder were featured in a number of publications this year, including MyGreenpod magazine (distributed with the Guardian Newspaper) – twice!, Ethical Rebel Magazine, East Anglian Daily Times and the Ipswich Star (several times) as well as in articles published on the Eco-Age and GoodonYou websites – both well known ethical fashion resources. Jo was also invited onto BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio Suffolk, Ipswich Community Radio and Rendlesham Community Radio to talk about ethics and sustainability in the clothing industry. You can find out more in the Media section of our website.
Recognition for our Work
We were delighted that Where Does It Come From? was included in Social Enterprise UK’s roll of honour for 2020 and for our founder Jo Salter to be listed as one of the 100 WISE (Women in Social Enterprise) ‘showing Covid who’e boss’ this year selected by NatWest and the Pioneers Post.
Where Does It Come From? was also selected by NatWest to join it’s accelerator programme which started in April and is ongoing. This provides masterclasses and a mentorship programme which is very helpful in learning skills, gaining custom advice and also networking.
As part of the NatWest programme we were introduced to Vikki Kirby of Vibrato consulting, who wrote our ‘Covid pivot story’!
What will 2021 Hold for Where Does It Come From?
Key focus areas for the year ahead include:
- Building and growing our Business Customer pipeline for consultancy and productions
- Creating a new website – ours is tired and out of date!
- Hopefully bringing in a new team member under the UK Government Kickstart Programme
- Focusing on measuring and sharing the positive impacts that we make for our social enterprise partners and the environment
- Supporting all our customers with events, knowledge and beautiful products!
Please do stick with us and keep in touch through our social media, email list (sign up below!) and our Facebook group.