THE CASE OF THE FIRST WORLD SWEATSHOP

We live under the impression that when a piece of clothing is marked, “Made in Britain”, it was made in a garment factory in the UK that upholds good workplace ethics. The fact of the matter is that, sweatshops are not just common in the developing world. United Kingdom also has quite a few of these garment factories. With the strong, and very effective marketing of ´Made in the UK´ it is important for designers to realize that if the price of an item of clothing is very low – is it logical that it could be produced at this price in the UK and that minimum wages are being paid and that conditions for the workers are suitable?

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Having our sampling studio and production in Saigon we are often asked about fair working conditions. And we want to be asked, because it is something which is at the core of our beliefs.  Of course there are factories in Vietnam which do not have good standards, there are sweatshops just as there are in Bangladesh, or Cambodia, India or China. And as you will read below, also in the UK and certainly other Western countries. At Source Studio, we work with a select number of factories, currently 18, and a big part of our role is to select these factories as our production partners. Many of these´factories´ are smaller workshops with 25-100 workers and they have typically been set up by ex-line managers from the larger factories. We have worked closely with many of these workshops since their set-up, training in high quality production, standard operating procedures and controls and advising in general so that we could partner with them for parts of our production orders. These types of work shops typically work on low volume orders, as well as more complex styles and to a high quality level. Perhaps because the management are ex- line managers having worked their way up from being a seamstress in most cases, they value the working environment and create friendly and comfortable work places for their staff. Because we work in a transparent fashion, and because we are the eyes and ears for our clients, we consider it our role to ensure that production is carried out in not only fair working conditions, but good working conditions, with above average wages and with overtime paid to dedicated and hard working staff.  It means also that we do not compete with sweatshop prices – if a shirt, ordered in 50 units is quoted at $7 a piece, it is not likely under fair working conditions, be it in Vietnam or elsewhere.

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What is the situation in the UK?

Leicester is currently under investigation after reports found that more than a third of workers are being paid half the legal minimum wage requirement, working in unsafe conditions and/or without employment contracts. Leicester accounts for a third of Britain’s garment manufacturing output. Its clientele is composed of well-known high street brands.

According to reports, the fashion manufacturing industry is plagued by bad labour practices. Many factories are notorious for poor employment conditions and a blatant abuse of human rights. According to Debbie Coulter from the Ethical Training Initiative, it is shocking to learn how, in a country whose average wage is £3 per hour, there are still people paid as little as £1 per hour in sweatshops.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Anders Kristiansen of New Look has expressed qualms about using Leicester factories to support the rising demand for its products. It is a known epidemic in the industry and everyone is aware of it but no one is necessarily doing anything about it. Also chief executive Nick Breighton added that manufacturing the UK may be the fastest way to bring their line to consumers but Leicester’s bad reputation may just force them to look elsewhere to keep up with their inventory without sacrificing their reputation and corporate ethos.

References:

http://www.vogue.co.uk/article/sweatshops-exist-in-the-uk-leicester

Source Studio at the Textile Forum with the Centre for Fashion Enterprise

As SS18 wraps up, we step straight into Autumn Winter with The Textile Forum exhibition next week 11,12th of October, displaying the next season´s fabrics.

Textile Forum

Textile Forum

The Textile Forum is a seasonal event held in London´s Marylebone twice per year,  showcasing over 70 high end fabric suppliers and attracting London´s top designers to the event. 

This season the Textile Forum has joined forces with  the Centre for Fashion Enterprise(CFE), to create an area dedicated to high end manufacturing, thereby offering visitors both the fabric, and the production resources under one roof.

CFE Manufacturers Trade Show

CFE Manufacturers Trade Show

CFE is London’s pioneering fashion and FashTech business incubator whose purpose is to fast-track designers and entrepreneurs into successful businesses. Current businesses supported include Wales Bonner, Liam Hodges, Faustine Steinmetz, Roberts Wood and Alex Mullins. The Manufacturers Trade Show is a part of CFE’s Fashion Technology Emerging Futures (FTEF) project, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). According to UK Fashion & Textile Association more than 80 per cent of fashion businesses are ‘micro SMEs”. 

“The two shows will provide designers with an unrivalled opportunity to source quality fabric and garment manufacturing under one roof,” says Linda Laderman, co founder of Textile Forum, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. 

“The vision for our Manufacturers Trade Show is to connect fashion businesses with high end production units with a view to developing long lasting relationships. There is a strong synergy with visitors attending Textile Forum so we are delighted to relocate and provide our exhibitors with a two day event,” says Judith Tolley, head of CFE. 

Source Studio will be exhibiting in the manufacturers section and is launching this season a new department – Denims. 

 

This season we are happy to announce the launch of DENIMS! 

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As usual, we will offer a complete service:

-       fabric sourcing and dye to match

-       fabric testing

-       wash effects like stone, bleach, wrinkle

-       sampling from tech packs or samples

-       production MOQ 30 units/style

 

 

We invite you to visit us @ The Textile Forum to see samples of denim clothing as well as fabrics available for your designs. We are in the manufacturers section in collaboration with The Centre for Fashion Enterprise. 

Invitation : Fabric Library - Soft opening – Aug 9th

Dear designers,
 

As a part of the sampling & manufacturing service here at Source Studiowe source fabrics for the designer

 

We are excited to announce that we are now opening a fabric library in London and invite you to join us for the soft opening.

 

A Taster : this collection will display a broad range of fabrics, ranging from wovens to knits and from silks and cottons to synthetics.  We invite designers to take the fabric cards with them, so turn up early to see the full variety!

 

Join us for a glass of wine and search through the types of fabrics available this Wednesday 9th of August from 4pm – 8pm. 

Feel free to drop in at your leisure.

 

Counter Sourcing : Do also bring us any swatches of fabrics you wish us to counter source, we will send these to our team in China and send a parcel back to you in 2 weeks.

 

Please note we only source fabrics as a part of the sampling & manufacturing, not as a stand-alone service.

 

I also want to take this opportunity to let you know that we have added denims to our product offering – samples and swatches will be available on Wednesday.

 

Please RSVP if you intend to come to give us an idea of numbers. If you can´t make it Wednesday, feel free to request a visit another day. The library will be fully complete with new AW18 selections from October 16th.

 

Production abroad or at home?

Finding the right manufacturing partner for your business is essential and can mean the difference between success or failure.

Designer Showrooms BFC London

Designer Showrooms BFC London

When you start a creative business, one of the last things on your mind is logistics. Your head is too full of colours, designs, mood boards and ideas to spare much room for the less exciting stuff. But, as everyone knows deep down, the boring bits are what keeps a business thriving. And when it comes to clothes, nailing your production process might not be the most glamorous task, but it’s certainly the most vital.

Here at Source Studio we produce everything in Vietnam. However, this is not the best solution for all designers. If you are in the very early stages, say seasons 1-3, your volumes are likely low. You probably do not have much experience yet in managing production, or the sampling process and you probably cannot buy full rolls of fabric and are relying on retailers locally to supply you. 

At this stage it makes sense to produce close to home. Any price advantage you would have from producing abroad is likely eroded by time consumed in learning to work with a new supplier abroad. Plus, if you only really need 80m of fabric but are having to buy 120m, even if the fabric is cheaper and the production is cheaper, the fabric wastage probably means that you did not actually make any savings and hence your RRP is unaffected.

However, if you are producing already 30+ units per style, perhaps you are using one fabric for 2 pieces, let’s say a skirt and a blouse, then you are likely using your 120m of fabric. And in this case it is time to compare costs. Would you benefit from moving your production at this stage? You should be looking for a saving of 20-30%. And that can make a big difference on your market positioning, or your margin!

Source Studio Sampling & Production

The factors to consider are:

Would lower prices to my customers help grow my business?

Would I benefit from more fabric variety being available to me?

Can my quality of construction improve?

Can my delivery times be improved?

Often the answers to the above are yes. In the west we are no longer experts in clothes manufacturing and most larger brands will produce abroad for all of the above reasons. However, production abroad has traditionally been limited to companies able to produce over 500 units of each style.

At Source Studio we have spent the last 6 years working with factories in Vietnam to create a network of high quality suppliers who are happy to work with low volumes. Why? Because we represent many designers at the same time and therefore negotiate with our partner factories. It is easier for them to work via Source Studio because we have been doing so together for years, they know that we prep designers so that the process is as simplified as possible, we source the fabric and trims and we help make sure each product is in perfect condition. It is a win-win for the designer who benefits from the lower prices and higher quality and for the factory who can take on more orders, without the “headaches” of teaching a designer how to work with them, how to present information and stick to necessary timeframes in the production process.

We usually work with designers producing volumes of 30-200 units per style. Have a look at our website Source Studio or send us an email to know more about our services, processes and timeframes and how it can help your business.

What are the RESPONSIBLE FABRIC choices AVAILABLE to today's designers? (Part 3)

So what fabrics are the most responsible choice?

Linen, Hemp - Natural Materials

Cotton, whilst a natural fiber, is one of the most environmentally intensive materials we have. First, cotton needs a lot of pesticides and fertilizer to grow. It’s one of the world’s most pesticide-intensive crops. Second, cotton consumes a lot of water. It takes around 700 gallons of water to make enough cotton for one t-shirt. That’s roughly equivalent to 40 showers-worth. Third, most cotton is grown using genetically modified seeds. GM crops present a host of environmental issues, including soil and water pollution and threats to biodiversity. Because cotton is the second-most common material in our clothes after polyester, these environmental issues are significant due to the scale at which we cultivate cotton.

Linen, hemp, are significantly less polluting. Linen and hemp in particular are highly sustainable materials that don’t need pesticides or fertilizers to grow and require little water.

Linen, Cotton, Wool - Natural Materials

Linen, Cotton, Wool - Natural Materials

Pass on cashmere in favor of wool or alpaca. In Mongolia, one of the world’s top producers of cashmere, overeating goats are severely altering the ecosystem. When goats graze, they pull grasses from the root, whereas sheep and alpaca only eat the grass at the surface, preserving the root system. Due in large part to overgrazing for cashmere production, 90% of the land in Mongolia is experiencing some form of this transition to desert land. So whilst cashmere is not inherently unsustainable, production in these unprecedented volumes is.

Silk is a natural fiber with low environmental impact in terms of pollution, there are however some ethical issues in it´s production as the silk worm dies when the silk is extracted.

Semi-synthetic Materials

Semi-synthetic Materials

Lyocell, sold as the branded fabric #Tencel®, is a highly sustainable material. Tencel’s wood source is most commonly eucalyptus, which grows quickly without irrigation and doesn’t need chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Furthermore, eucalyptus can grow on marginal land that isn’t ideal for farming, which means its production doesn’t compete with the production of food. Tencel is produced through a closed loop system, in which virtually all of the chemicals are captured and reused, rather than being emitted into the environment as pollutants.

Given that over 70 million trees are cut down annually to make wood-based fibers (30% of which come from endangered/ancient forests), eucalyptus-based Tencel is a much more sustainable option than wood-based rayon or modal.

In summary, when it comes to materials, taking a moderate approach is key. There is no perfectly sustainable material. The goal is to be more aware of the impact of our choices so we can make informed decisions.

What are the RESPONSIBLE FABRIC choices AVAILABLE to today's designers? (Part 2)

There is often a deal of confusion as to which fabrics are available for producing your collection and their correct names as well as what the composition is and their environmental impact. Here we give you a summary of the 3 main fabric types - natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic.

Synthetic Materials

Synthetic Materials

SYNTHETIC MATERIALS, like polyesternylon and acrylic are man made fabrics.

Synthetics are created through an industrial manufacturing process in which petroleum, a fossil fuel, is extracted from the earth and mechanically transformed into fibers for clothing. The resulting fiber, although soft and even silky, is actually a plastic. In fact, polyester is made of the same exact material used to make plastic bottles: polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. These fabrics have environmental issues linked directly to the production of fossil fuels which emits carbon dioxide which is harming our ozone layer and thereby contributing to the Greenhouse effect. Another environmental issue is that these ´plastic´ fabrics do not decompose.

Polyester is the most common material in our clothes – it gives a wrinkle free and elegant hang to fabric. Many fabrics are composed of natural fibers mixed with polyester to achieve the benefits of both of these types of fabrics – breathability but wrinkle free.

Semi-Synthetic Materials

Semi-Synthetic Materials

SEMI-SYNTHETIC MATERIALS have a natural source, but require processing to transform that natural source into a fiber that can be used for clothing.

These include rayon (aka viscose), modallyocell (aka Tencel®) and bamboo. These fabrics are primarily made from wood which has environmental issues due to deforestation. Heavy chemicals are also required to transform hard wood into a soft fiber and these are released into the atmosphere.

So what fabrics are the most responsible choice? 

To be continued

What are the RESPONSIBLE FABRIC choices AVAILABLE to today's designers? (Part 1)

There is often a deal of confusion as to which fabrics are available for producing your collection and their correct names as well as what the composition is and their environmental impact. Here we give you a summary of the 3 main fabric types - natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic.

NATURAL MATERIALS are of course natural fibers we find in nature. 
One category of natural materials is plant based materials. 
These include cottonlinenhemp and raffia. They can be organic and farmed in a cooperative, or they can be grown using chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

The other category under natural materials is animal-based materials which are wool (from sheep), silk (from silk worms), cashmere (from goats).

Natural Materials
Plant Based - Natural Materials

Plant Based - Natural Materials

Whilst these fabric types are often the preferred materials used for their breathability, there are ethical issues in their production. Plant based materials often use pesticides and fertilizers which damage our planet. Animals are often not treated ethically – most companies for example have stopped using angora wool which comes from angora rabbits due to their being caged and mishandle for the use solely of their wool.

To be continued

Review Craig Green at LFWM 5th Anniversary

Review CRAIG GREEN #SS18 #show at #LFWM #5th anniversary.

This was such an exciting show, the atmosphere was on fire as we sat in the dark for 20 minutes with eerie music building up the tension. The darling of #London fashions' collection is incredibly unique - the multi color #styles at the end of the show are 'tunneled' - pieces of #fabric stitched together to get the #colours and #patterns and then stitched at regular intervals with rope hand threaded through.

Craig Green SS18

VIETNAM as ASIA'S NEXT BIG SUCCESSFUL STORY

At Source Studio we are often asked why we chose #Vietnam as our #manufacturing base.

Here the #Business of #Fashion lays down some of the reasons we chose to focus on Vietnam for our fashion production:
Like South Korea, Taiwan and China before it, Vietnam is piecing together the right mix of ingredients for rapid, sustained growth.

Vietnam Manufacturing

Vietnam Manufacturing

Vietnam’s workforce is not just young but skilled. In global rankings, 15-year- olds in Vietnam beat those in America and Britain in maths and science. That pays dividends in its factories. At Saitex, a high-end denim manufacturer, workers must handle complex machinery—from lasers to nano-bubble washers—all to produce the worn jeans so popular in the West.

Vietnam is reaping benefits from trade deals. It is set to be the biggest beneficiary of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a free-trade pact with the EU is in the works for 2017.

Vietnam already has a strong, often underappreciated, record. Since 1990 its growth has averaged nearly 6% a year per person, second only to China.

A relatively young population adds to Vietnam’s appeal. Whereas China’s median age is 36, Vietnam’s is 30.7.

Investors have also taken heart from the stability of Vietnam’s long-term planning.

Like China, it has used five-year plans as rough blueprints for development.

More information