Wednesday, November 29, 2017

SOAPBOX // Column // Cotton Mafia

With her Dutch roots complaining is in her genes. Every month she writes a little piece about things that keeps her busy. Things that make her wanna scream “Nooooooooooo”

While I am preparing to close up the studio and finishing up all work to end the year I am daydreaming about this year’s holiday destination. Christmas and New Year’s are the perfect time of the year to travel if you are a small business owner like me and I love traveling to Asia, it is warm, the food is delicious, the people are welcoming and it is rich of culture, that gives me a great boost of inspiration.

Black Friday mayhem
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming and going I have been shocked to see the immense craziness involved with buying. Consumerism is something I am guilty of as well, but I do not like spending money on unnecessary things. I consider the source before buying anything new and it frustrated me how non-transparent brands and their products are. I want to buy something honest but the past year, building up a fabric production for the studio, I learned the cotton industry is shady business.

Cheap countries
Last year I visit Cambodia and traveled around the country. Going from one place to another I noticed an enormous amount of trucks passing our car coming from the other side. I asked my guide where these trucks stashed with woman and children was coming from. “From the Chinese clothing factory.” he said. And I watched these trucks pass us for half an hour. I started counting half way through and counted over 60 trucks. Carrying people, at least 30 people per truck. My guide told me about the Chinese companies relocating into Cambodia and subcontract for large fashion brands like Zara, H&M. After witnessing this I felt physically ill. The amount of people necessary to make cheap clothes in the poorest and most desperate corners of the world.

The Certified Cotton fairy tale
Most companies I work for are certified. Source their cotton from American cotton fields but the problem with cotton and therefore the fashion industry is that there is so much money involved. getting certified is simply applying and paying for the certificate. From there it is easy to outsource to cheaper factories, leading towards higher profit and low prices for consumers that love to shop in mass production shops like Ikea, Action or Primark.

When I started Little Smilemakers Shop my mission was to produce eco conscious fabric. Sourced, manufactured and printed in proper conditions. While starting up the production I noticed how naive I was, asking questions always led me to a dead end: “We can not tell you where the cotton knit manufacturer is located”. While hiring a print factory they told us they were certified, but they outsourced the printing. When I asked OEKOTEX and GOTS, two leading certifying companies, how this could then still be a certified, checked and approved process they told me they had never heard of this issue before. Leading me to believe these certifications don’t mean anything. Companies pay for the certificate. The main factory is checked and approved but all sub contractors are off the grid. I am a critical one, I don’t want to step into something so very shady and support this exploitation.

The conscious mindset
Because I am traveling to Asia again, not for the cheap prices, I wanted to get this off my chest. Whenever I travel I see the impact the, mostly Western consumerism has on these beautiful countries. With Zara in the news, factory workers sewing in labels crying for help, this is such a relevant topic directly related to my own business. I hope for the next year things within the textile industry will get more transparent leading to honest work. I hope there will be more awareness and saving money won’t be a priority over humanity much longer. Check your labels, buy local and if you don’t need it, don’t buy it. Especially in the upcoming weeks leading to Christmas. Care a little.