Responsible Global Fashion LLC

Responsible Global Fashion LLC provides consulting services and continuing education resources around responsible designing, sourcing, production, and distribution of fashion merchandise within the global fashion industries.

Filtering by Tag: Cambodia

Putting a Face to Fashion: Cambodia

I have been reading a lot about Cambodia’s apparel industry lately, both positive and negative. On the positive side are the continued growth in its exports of apparel (7.6% in 2015) and the rise in pay of apparel workers (the average take-home pay of Cambodia’s garment workers rose to US$175/month). On the negative side are the continued challenges of sourcing in Cambodia (labor issues, strikes, lack of infrastructure) and the fact that even with the rise in pay for garment workers, the ILO still considers this pay very low. I struggled to find information or transparency about Cambodia’s apparel supply chain, despite the fact that many fashion brands work with suppliers/factories in Cambodia (e.g., H&M, Levis Strauss & Co, Gap). The closest I came was Nike’s interactive map of suppliers that shows the names and addresses of the five factories in Cambodia that produce apparel for Nike. Therefore, I was excited to learn about the fashion brand, Tonlé, which provides more complete transparency of their operations in Cambodia. 

Tonlé is a fashion brand of women’s apparel and accessories headquartered in Phnom Penh. Not only can you go online and meet the team of workers in Phnom Penh, you can see photographs of the team sewing, knitting, screen-printing, and hand weaving products. In addition, Tonlé merchandise combines two strategies for zero-waste fashion: “creative pattern making that uses 100% of a given material, and generating garments from remnant materials.” Designers and production team members work side-by-side to create merchandise that results in only 2-3% waste fabric (which by any account is amazing!). However, they were not satisfied -- they then take this waste fabric to create recycled paper. It is all here in their video.

I love it when I can put a face to fashion – Tonlé is a great example!

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Ethical Fashion Initiative: Not Charity, Just Work

I had the great pleasure of hearing Simone Cipriani, Founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, speak at a recent conference of the International Textile and Apparel Association. Mr. Cipriani shared the goals, business model, and implementation strategies of this amazing program of the International Trade Center (a joint agency of the United Nations and World Trade Organization).  Created in 2009, the Ethical Fashion Initiative focuses on connecting micro-artisans/producers from developing countries (e.g., Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Haiti, and Cambodia) with international fashion brands in creating sustainable and ethically produced merchandise sold throughout the world. Current fashion brand partners include Chan Luu (jewelry from Kenya), Osklen (jewelry from Haiti), Karen Walker (eyewear pouches from Kenya), Isetan (bags designed in collaboration with Italian fashion brand, Marni, and produced in Kenya), and MIMCO (variety of accessories from Kenya), among others. To support the work of both the micro-artisans/producers and the fashion brands, business support infrastructures have been created around centralized production hubs for assembly, quality assurance, and shipping; thus allowing artisans from multiple communities to be involved with production. 
The RISE model used by the Ethical Fashion Initiative appears simple in design (a characteristic of all great design) but ambitious in its implementation. RISE stands for Respect – Invest – Sustain – Empower. As noted on their website:
•    Respect – Respect is about valuing the people we work with and their culture. We consistently carry out a baseline study for each community and create a map to track the entire supply chain.
•    Invest – Business plays a key role in supporting sustainable development. The Invest stage monitors trade-related activities and all investments brought to the community, such as capacity building.
•    Sustain – Fair labour conditions and environmental awareness are key to sustaining dignified lives. The Sustain stage monitors the fair labour and environmental practices and standards applied throughout the supply chain.
•    Empower – The social and economic impact assessments are conducted at pre-determined intervals. The assessments follow the rigorous impact assessment methodology of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.
Mr. Cipriani shared not only his enthusiasm for ethically produced fashion merchandise but also the stories of the impact this initiative has had on the lives of the many artisans who have been involved. As a wonderful example of supply chain transparency (if you’ve read my other blogs, you’ll see a pattern of my talking about great examples of supply chain transparency), the Ethical Fashion Initiative website includes videos of artisans and their fashion brand partners.  All are uplifting and inspiring! I urge you to check out their website and learn more about the important role of micro-artisans/producers in the global fashion value/supply chain!

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