If you keep up with the latest manufacturing trends in fashion, there is a definite movement to demand more responsibility in how clothing is produced. Traditionally the second largest polluter, fashion companies are slowly shifting the Fashion Titanic in another direction in an effort to incorporate more sustainable fabrics, demand safe and fair working conditions, and source from companies committed to reducing the toxic impact on our planet. Unfortunately, these things take time, as this effort has to grass root at the very bottom of the supply chain and while many factories are taking on the challenge, many are not.
One of the advantages of being a small fashion startup is the ability to implement these strategies across the board, especially in a vertical manufacturing facility. Since we only contract fabric to be produced at a small number of mills, we actively seek out those mills that have our shared values. Some are family owned businesses and are committed to milling fabrics with closed loop systems that recapture the toxic waste or use processes with low impact. Since everything at ADALÉI is made under one roof here in Raleigh, North Carolina, we have complete control over the process, ensuring fair working conditions and wages, a commitment to reduced fabric waste, and the ability to produce on demand. Fabric is not cut until order are placed, ensuring excess inventory isn't liquidated, flooding the market with additional clothing waste.
If a design is not selling, the responsibility lies with the designer to edit the fit, listening to what the customer wants, and then produce based on those changes.
This is opposite to the traditional fashion model of a company stocking stores with what they expect you to like. Designs that are slow to move become liquidated to discount stores or worse, eventually dumped into emerging markets overseas. This actually has a negative effect on those local economies and the artisanal sewers and craftsman (craftswomen) are now competing with cheap and cheaply made goods. No different from what we have created here in the US. The long tentacles of fashion can have a devastating impact across the globe with the accumulation of so much unwanted clothing.
The excitement in this new wave of sustainability is that every effort is a positive and contributing effort. Sustainability and business values can have many faces and start at the fabric/fiber mill or can be a part of your fabric choices and most easily be incorporated into your manufacturing culture. Companies should applaud each other's efforts, although they may not all look alike.
For example, most of our jersey contains a small amount of spandex, which will not eventually decompose like the tencel, modal, or wool, but that is a place of compromise in our values, as the stretch allows for comfort and ease in movement. This small allowance is offset by the fact we try to partner with fiber and fabric mills that are committed to the most stringent environmental standards and our lean, vertical manufacturing has the highest values. In addition ALL of our fabrics are washed in cold water and never use a dryer. The use of a washer and especially dryer at home after the sale is a larger energy consumer and polluter than the creation of the fabric itself. We are proud that two designs from this mill are zero waste.
Another value would be partnering with a US mill, that may not have the high standards of environmental control in comparison to mills in Europe, however we are supporting our local economy and keeping jobs from moving overseas. When we do choose to import a fiber or fabric because either it isn't available in the States or the quality is exceptional, we only place orders through our NY reps, ensuring someone in our own country is provided a job and gets a portion of every order.
In contrast another company may choose an organic cotton free from pesticides and toxins, but their compromise is the large amount of water used to grow the cotton. Unfortunately for now it is not perfect and can be very challenging to find supply chain partners committed to the effort of vertical sustainability. But the ultimate goal is for all sourcing across all channels to be a part of this effort and available to companies large and small. The important issue is that every designer, fashion company, and manufacturer start demanding (or providing) this for the greater supply chain. There are many different roads to sustainability and they don't have to look the same. It's just important that we pick one (or more) to be a part of the greater effort of reducing the global impact of fashion on our environment.