HOW TO ENSURE YOUR DESIGNS ARE BEING PRODUCED ETHICALLY
The complexity of global fashion supply chains makes it incredibly hard to ensure your designs are being produced to the ethical standards you would expect. All fashion brands and retailers aim to minimize costs and maximize profit. Often, this means basing mass production overseas in countries such as Turkey, Malaysia, Romania, Bangladesh and India where labour costs are lower than the UK and investment has been made in efficient production units.
Ethical standards in the various clothes and textile manufacturing nations vary and media exposés of unethical practices have been rife since the late 1980s. Perhaps the most tragic disaster involving garment producers was the Bangladeshi Rana Plaza factory collapse of 2013, when 1,127 people were killed when the production complex they were working in collapsed.
Working conditions, pay, child labour, exploitation and health and safety violations are all concerns when sourcing from producers far from home. We looked at the issue in another post The ethical issues with complex fashion supply chains and how to avoid them. Whilst it’s difficult to know exactly how your designs are being produced without being at the production unit 24/7, there are steps you can take to find garment manufacturers you trust –
- Work from recommendation. If you are sourcing from a supplier that you cannot meet face-to-face, take advice from those who have, or who have worked with them before. This involves networking at trade events but as retailers can be cagey about disclosing their suppliers, your current social network is a good place to start. Sign up to the Ethical Fashion Forum’s network for support too.
- Be prepared to ask questions. Find out what the factory’s true manufacturing capacity is, how many workers they have, who else they supply and if they have a code of conduct in place. You might not get all the answers but at least you are asking the right things.
- Look for certification. Suppliers certified by an independent third party like the Fair Labor Association is a good place to start.
- Source from UK garment manufacturers. With established UK garment manufacturers you can visit the unit yourself and meet the people bringing your designs to life. At Plus Samples we have a wealth of experience working with ready-to-wear and bespoke designers and are happy to provide no-obligation quotes.
- Do your research. Use the internet to search for information about the manufacturer, the manager and the geographical area they are based. Try their local news as well as national.
If you have a new or established fashion brand, ignoring the ethics behind the operation is no longer an option for attracting conscious consumers. According to Mintel, 76% of consumers claim to care about the ethical and green credentials of their products. As a designer or retailer you are responsible for ensuring your customers have nothing to worry about when it comes to asking ‘who made my clothes?’