5 Reasons Fashion Brands (Not Their Suppliers) Need To Be More Responsible

source my garment

Specializing in ethical fashion, Source My Garment is an apparel manufacturing agency that functions as a bridge between North American designers and manufacturers to overseas factories. Established by Dee Cokar and aided by a global team of associates, Source My Garment provides designers with a range of supportive consultation and production services.

The site reads: “We help take your designs from concept to market, and help keep the wheels turning. Think of us as the go-between that gets things done, and the professional hedge against being overwhelmed, stressed-out, missing deadlines and being potentially unprofitable.”

Some of the services include ethical manufacturing consultations, sourcing, mentoring and more.

You never know what will happen when you start a conversation with someone and I found it so interesting when I had this one with Source My Garment’s founder Dee Cokar. While the reason for the call was to see what they did as a business became instead an enlightening look at some of the misconceptions people have about factories and production, certifications and of course, factory “dating.”

See what Cokar had to say below.

What is a factory vs. production house?

Dee Cokar: “Factory” gives the perception that everything is made by machines and automated, whereas “production house” gives the perception that products are made by people, which is a more accurate depiction of the garment manufacturing process. Just because products are made in offshore factories doesn’t mean that they are lower value. All the products that are made in offshore factories that I work with are handled with the utmost care. As a result, several companies and people handle a single product during the manufacturing process so everyone contributes to the outcome. We try to encourage the use of the phrase “production house” to de-mystify the general thought process that products made offshore are of less value. We want people to know that quantity doesn’t mean lower value.

You had mentioned to me that when one is manufacturing, it’s more like “dating a factory” tell me more about that.

DC: What it comes down to is creating a partnership with the factory that you are going into business with and to me it is a similar formula to dating someone for the first time.

1. You vet the person to make sure that they are credible. You do the same thing when you are looking to partner with a factory; you do your homework and make sure they have the same values.

2. You need to call and text this person to get to know them; you’re engaging in conversation. The same thing applies with factories, you need to be in constant communication whether that be via Skype, email or phone call. You need to get to know them and they need to get to know you.

3. You need to take this person out to dinner. This could be the same as visiting the factory and solidifying the digital relationship you have created. You both need to meet face to face to truly connect. You can learn a lot just by sharing a meal with the owner.

4. You need to give them attention and care. The same goes for the first time you start dating someone. When new relationships begin you need to treat them with care and the same goes for dealing with factories. You need to be sensitive of your feelings and the factories feelings because this is a partnership. The key take away is that you get to learn from each other.

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Do you think certifications squeeze factories too much?

Yes, I do think that certifications squeeze factories too much and they don’t take the culture of the people into account. It’s not uncommon for people to be paid under the table to pass inspections. Most companies don’t take the time to go to the factories themselves or at least sit in with inspectors when they are doing their due diligence. The certification process is not inclusive in production costs therefore, someone is held responsible to foot the bill and it tends to fall upon the responsibility of the factory. This is unfortunate because this is an added cost on top of the multiple costs that factory owners have to deal with on a daily basis. The costs associated with running a factory include expensive purchases and machinery upgrades, procuring materials, water and electricity payments, worker wages, building maintenance and rent. These are a few of the many costs that factory owners manage on a daily basis.

In order to fix this problem, companies need to be present with the factories throughout the certification process to ensure that it is being done properly and to truly understand various issues. Additionally, companies need to start taking responsibility and begin to fund the certification process as per their request.

Why aren’t larger companies paying into a fund for certifications so that factories don’t have to pay?

A main contributor to why companies aren’t paying into a fund for certification is that consumers want dirt-cheap prices and no one wants to pay for it. Sadly, consumers don’t care about the manufacturing process and if it’s done responsibly when they purchase something. It becomes a problem after the fact when a crisis arises and then consumers are saying that something should have been done to prevent this; certification.

We are all human and we are driven by materialistic needs and by our egos.

This article shows an added layer of pain heaped onto the manufacturing facilities. “Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has directed its member factories to institute worker insurance or face export embargoes.”

This is just another cost that the factory has to pay for.

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Do all these costs just make manufacturing facilities HAVE to be sneaky just to exist?

Unfortunately, people are not being reasonable and realistic about their expectations, which ultimately forces manufacturing facilities to find ways to exist. We need to realize that these are peoples lives and this is all they know, so the more restrictions and monetary stresses we place upon factories we are impacting factory workers lives, their work and their overall quality of life. Consumers need to realize that they need to buy fewer quantities product of higher quality and pay more.

All images: Source My Garment