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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