Hi Superstar! Welcome aboard the Good Ship Disarray and thanks for taking the time to learn more about where we stand on 'the business' of prioritizing people and the planet over profit. Today, as part of Fashion Revolution Week 2021, we'd like to chat about how we source the fabrics we use in our small independent fashion brand.
If you are new the the Fashion Revolution movement then here's a brief summary from the founders;
"Fashion Revolution was founded in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, Fashion Revolution has become the world’s largest fashion activism movement, mobilizing citizens, industry and policymakers through our research, education and advocacy work.
We are a global movement of people who make the fashion industry work. We are the people who wear clothes. And we are the people who make them.
We are designers, academics, writers, business leaders, policymakers, brands, retailers, marketers, producers, makers, workers and fashion lovers. We are the industry and we are the public. We are world citizens. We are Fashion Revolution'' - Fashion Revolution April 2021
In support of Fashion Revolution Week and in the spirit of offering full transparency in our supply chain, we're happy to share our inside info with you! Our Spandex and sequin fabric is all up-cycled factory surplus and seconds fabrics!
However, this in no way means that it's poor quality. Instead, it means that as asmall independent business, we are able to work with expensive, specialist and designer fabrics which we would otherwise not have the buying power to purchase by ourselves, due to huge minimum order requirements.
Each season the surplus sections of fabrics from fabric mills in South Korea and China are collected and bagged up in bulk to be sold by weight to our main fabric merchant, and to other local, family-run market stalls in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The small off-cuts and end of roll pieces which usually measure from 90cm to a few meters long, are too small to be re-used by mass manufacturers and designer brands and so become a by-product of their business. it takes hundreds of hours to source and meticulously check and sort each off-cut of fabric and to remove any imperfections.
However, the benefit is that we can offer a vast range of bonkers prints and materials in super limited-edition combinations keeping them quirky and unique. It’s a great way to reduce waste and add new value to the materials.
Our independent tailors, hand-cut all the garments piece by piece, to be as economical as possible with our materials. Plus, we’ve developed a number of designs to ensure that we utilise every inch of the cloth we source. Items such as our Bum bags, bikini tops & hair bows are individually hand made using the smallest pieces possible, in a mega-mix of colours.
After that, we pay it forward by donating the smallest scraps to kindergartens and local crafts-people in Hanoi. In addition, our right hand gal on Hanoi, Super Hanh, uses her favourite off-cuts to create incredible dolls outfits which are based on our designs! Anything that is considered unusable for such purposes, is bagged up and gifted to a local lady who uses them to stuff her homemade pet beds.
For the traditional textiles we use, we go straight to the source. Traveling by motorbike to the remote mountain markets of North Vietnam. We've successfully maintained some brilliant fair-trade business relationships, and after 8 years of adventures we've formed some deep friendships too.
As a Vietnamese speaker, textiles graduate and market trader, herself, The Captain is able cut out the middle men and confidently trade directly and fairly with the local makers to ensure they receive payments for their products at a rate which reflects the true value of their skills.
Unfortunately, many buyers travel from developed cities to bulk buy textiles from rural farming community families, living below the poverty line. Playing on their poverty, these buyers exploit the minority ethnic groups by dramatically underpaying them for their exquisite craft-work.
Sadly, the textiles are very often torn apart to make backpacks, handbags, and cheap quality western style clothing and most of which are binned within a year as they are speed manufactured, using low grade straps and fasteners. These tourist targeted products, break easily because they are just not fit for purpose and sadly the stunning traditional textiles which tempted the buyer in the first place, are subsequently lost forever.
For us, every thread tells a tale and every textile should be treated in a way which maintains or increases its true value and its life span. We're so proud to have persevered with learning the local language. Well, just enough to know when an exchange really is a mutually good deal for everyone involved.
Trips to source textiles have always been one of the highlights of our journey in Disarray and we will always hold great respect for the highly skilled women who hand-embroider and individually bead, the very precious and limited range of traditional Vietnamese garments we sell today.
For the most part, we source damaged garments which we then repair by hand and customize to create stunning little capes. Such treasures are mainly retailed at our face to face events because each hand-crafted, wearable work of art holds so many stories worth sharing and it just feels right to pass on the history of each unique piece to its new owner.
Thanks for learning more and please holla with any questions in the comments and together, let's be the change we want to see 💚