The tags inside the clothes you’re wearing right now might say ‘Made in Bangladesh’ or ‘Made in China’ but have you ever stopped to wonder where your clothes really come from? How they were made, the distances they have traveled, and the lives they have impacted before they reached your wardrobe? To trace the journeys of our garments and answer exactly these questions, we need to have a closer look at the clothing supply chain.
What is a clothing supply chain?
When most people think of the production of a garment, they imagine a factory where clothes are sewn by garment workers - but this is only one stage of the typical clothing supply chain. The term supply chain refers to the entire journey a product takes before it reaches the customer. Each stage (often called tier) can be imagined like a link; combined, these links make up the supply chain. In the fashion industry, the links include the following:
→ Garment Design:
Sustainability starts at the design stage, which is where decisions about fabrics, silhouettes, trims, and finishes are made. Fast fashion brands usually design clothes that are inspired by current trends and are only meant to last a short time. Sustainably-minded brands are designing clothes with the goal to minimize their environmental and social impact.
→ Textile Production:
The production of textiles encompasses the complex process of growing or creating the raw fiber, spinning it into yarn, and weaving or knitting it into a fabric, as well as dyeing and finishing.
→ Clothing Production:
The clothing production phase involves the cutting, sewing, and finishing of a garment.
Once the clothes are finished, they still need to be transported to retailers and consumers globally.
Why are transparent supply chains important?
Fueled by fast fashion brands, the last 20 years have seen an increased demand for high speed, high volume, and cheap consumption, resulting in supply chains that are far from transparent and ethical. To increase profits, many fashion brands source their products from low-wage countries without considering where the materials come from, or how the garment workers are treated.
The textile production stage is a source of major environmental pollution because of the associated greenhouse gas emissions and contamination of air and water. Unfortunately, forced labor and child labor are also common. At the clothing production stage, millions of garment workers are affected negatively, facing poverty, danger, and even death while making clothes. Other issues at this stage of the supply chain include but are not limited to sexual harassment, discrimination, and structural racism. And let’s not forget about the incredible amount of waste and emissions generated through shipping and packaging at the distribution stage.
What does it mean for you?
The lack of transparency in the fashion industry is a huge problem; it means that brands can’t be held accountable for their actions and practices, and the voices of those who are suffering while making our clothes remain unheard.
Transparent supply chains allow you, the consumer, to make informed purchasing decisions. Understanding the amount of labor and resources needed across all stages of the clothing supply chain can also help you appreciate your clothes and the people who made them.
Our commitment to transparency
At The Slow Label, we don’t follow trends but aim to create timeless, high-quality garments you will love and wear for a long time. We also only work with suppliers who have proven to comply with our high environmental and social standards. Our team uses our Supplier Code of Conduct to assess new and existing facilities. Since April 2021, all suppliers, contractors and subcontractors in tier 1 (garment assembly) and tier 2 (mainly fabric mills) have to complete our assessment. Our main suppliers and manufacturers have already started the process and we are hoping to assess all known suppliers by the end of this year. You can read more about our suppliers and manufacturers here.
Sources:Good on You - What on Earth is A Clothing Supply Chain
The Good Trade - Ethical Supply Chains