Fabric Sourcing & a Lesson in Patience

Fabric Swatches

Sorry guys, it’s a been a while, I know. It’s been an interesting few months and although I was originally just going to give you an update on where I’m at with developing the clothing brand, I’ve decided to also share some thoughts on how I’m mentally dealing with the challenges this new venture is throwing up.

It feels like not much has happened since my last update, but, on reflection, it has. Having finished the accelerator program at the end of last year, the past few months have been all about starting to implement what I’ve learnt. Alongside working on my business plan, defining the vision, mission, target market etc. the first key task was to start sourcing some fabric samples. Before I could do this though, I needed to deep dive into some research around certifications.

WHY CERTIFIED?

If you’ve been following from the beginning, you might remember that my initial idea was to create a collection that carried both an organic certification AND a fair trade certification. In practice, this means only working with suppliers that are independently audited to ensure they comply with specific standards relating to environmental and health concerns as well as safe and fair working conditions.

Of course, no certification system is immune to abuse, but some are more respected than others, and in an industry that’s known for its lack of transparency, annual audits do at least offer some level of external verification that these key concerns are being addressed.

One of the toughest challenges for consumers is that misleading marketing can make it so hard to determine what is actually a good choice and what isn’t.

Although I knew that choosing to go down this path would limit my options in terms of fabrics and production partners, it’s an essential element of the project for me. Not only to follow best practice in terms of sustainability, but also to be transparent and remove, as far as possible, any hesitations or questions around how the clothing has been made. I think one of the toughest challenges for consumers trying to buy more responsibly-made clothes is that misleading marketing and “greenwashing” can make it so hard to determine what is actually a good choice and what isn’t. (Tweet)

THE GLOBAL ORGANIC TEXTILE STANDARD (GOTS)

GOTS logoFor the organic certification, I already had in mind that I’d like to follow the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which is widely recognised as the gold standard for the sustainable processing of organic clothing and textiles. I was familiar with their strong commitment to both environmental and human health, but what I didn’t know until I started researching further, is that all GOTS certified entities are also required to meet extensive social criteria based on standards set by the International Labour Organisation. I’ll share more details about this in future posts, but ultimately this discovery led me to the conclusion that the GOTS certification alone was sufficient to address my aims.

Once that was decided, I then moved on to researching GOTS-certified fabric suppliers and have started to receive swatches from all over the world. With the help of a good friend who has a background in textile design, I’m beginning to narrow down which fabrics might work best for the pieces I’m considering – which isn’t a secret but I don’t have anything tangible to share at the moment aside from some very questionable sketches (so small that they prompted my husband to ask if I was designing a clothing range for beetles)!

At the moment, I’m focused on sourcing more fabric swatches and finalising initial designs so I can start creating first prototypes. I’ve also just started a Future Learn course on Fashion and Sustainability run by the London College of Fashion and Kering, which has been amazing for connecting with, and learning from, people from all sides of the globe and fashion industry.

A LESSON IN PATIENCE

From a personal perspective, it’s been a challenging time for sure. Progress has felt slow, and I’ve struggled with that. When I allow myself to think about what lies ahead, it’s so easy to become overwhelmed and start questioning it all. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself wondering if this is the right path for me, whether I have the tenacity and skill to ride out the inevitable waves of discomfort and uncertainty, and the patience to give it the time it needs. Patience. Turns out I don’t have much of that! But I’m learning. I’m slowly realising that it’s unrealistic to expect to progress with this at the same rate as I do with other familiar tasks, when I have so much to learn along the way.

Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know – Pema Chödrön

I’ve had to force myself to go back to the beginning and remember all of the reasons I wanted to do this in the first place. Not only did I anticipate coming up against these challenges, but they were also a large part of what attracted me to this venture. I wanted to face obstacles and learn how to overcome them, I wanted to grow my knowledge and grow as a person, but, of course, when you’re sitting in the midst of it all, it can be pretty tough to navigate. Be careful what you wish for eh?!

The quote from Pema Chödrön, “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know,” has popped into my head several times along the way and encouraged me to look for the lessons. Patience is definitely one of them. Another is an appreciation for the subtle wins. The less obvious things I’m achieving that I can’t just pick up and show someone. I specifically say subtle, because these intangible things I’m learning and achieving aren’t small. They’re hugely valuable to me, but they’re just not as easy to wrap words around as completing a business plan or launching a website.

Actually, one of the biggest challenges for me has been not having something tangible to show for my work so far. Aside from affecting my own personal sense of achievement, I’ve also realised how much other people’s perceptions of what I’m doing (or not doing in some cases) affects me too. Or, more accurately, my perception of other people’s perceptions!

And then, at other times, I’m full of optimism and motivation to keep going. And it always amazes me how quickly I can switch between the two mindsets. For now at least, I’m encouraged to push on and trust the process, see where the road takes me. To paraphrase Steve Jobs’ comments in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, “You’ll only connect the dots looking backwards, so follow your curiosity forward.”

Ciao for now,

Amy x

Enjoyed reading? Enter your details to receive my next post in your inbox: 

2 thoughts on “Fabric Sourcing & a Lesson in Patience

  1. Beetles don’t wear T-shirts… On a more serious note, besides GOTS are there other certifications we should look for when buying clothes? Will manufactures typically list the certification on the clothing tag/label like the do in food and cosmetics?

    Like

    1. haha to be fair the sketch is about 2cm by 2cm! In terms of certifications, there are LOADS. That’s another part of what makes it hard to make better choices and also what made it so challenging for me at the beginning to work out which one(s) I wanted to adhere to. Some have quite a narrow focus, like the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® which is concerned purely with consumer health and limits the use of harmful chemicals. Others like MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® or Cradle to Cradle, are more comprehensive like GOTS and address environmental criteria and worker safety in addition to chemical use. Even within those broader areas though, different certifications will place more or less emphasis on certain aspects, so there are a lot of overlaps but lots of differences too.

      There’s a great overview of the main certifications here: http://www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Sustainable-Angle-Certifications-web1.pdf. Ultimately, it’s a pretty personal choice and depends on which areas you feel are most important to you. And yes, generally brands are keen to advertise that they’re certified so you’ll usually find logos either on the tag or label but if not it’s worth checking on their website where it should definitely be mentioned if they are. It’s also worth keeping in mind that a brand may have some products that are certified but that doesn’t mean that their whole collection is. Hope that helps! x

      Like

Leave a Reply to amylwarman Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s