Collaboration & transparency: sharing about our supply chain
Our natural & sage stripe handloom fabric sourced from Khaloom. This 100% cotton fabric is made with 30% recycled yarn.
This week marks the annual Fashion Revolution Week, a global campaign for a more transparent, sustainable, equitable, and ethical fashion industry for all. This event is held the week of April 24th every year in remembrance of the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured many more. The people in the Rana Plaza factory were making clothing for many of the largest global fashion brands we all know and wear.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory was not an isolated event, but a result of the endless pursuit of faster, cheaper fashion: fashion companies in wealthier nations continuously move their production to countries with fewer labor laws (minimum wage, safety standards, etc.) and environmental protections, thus leading to cheaper production costs.
Click the image above to visit fashionrevolution.org to learn more about the campaign.
What does this mean for us?
As consumers we can hold the brands we shop from accountable by asking them, “Who made my clothes?” and choosing to shop with brands that are transparent and have good employment and environmental practices.
80% of our clothing is made by 18 – 24-year-old women, usually from poor rural backgrounds who have migrated to cities for work. This hits home for us because this is the demographic of women we employ at Swahlee. Swahlee exists to keep young women out of exploitative work situations and provide a safe, living wage alternative for economic empowerment.
As part of the fashion industry, at Swahlee we want to be transparent about our production practices. We share regularly about the women we employ. For Fashion Revolution Week this year, we want to share more in depth about our supply chain and highlight who we source our fabric from and why.
Our supply chain
The fast fashion industry is notoriously opaque about its supply chains. Rather than hide our suppliers, we want to celebrate the good work they do. If this means we send more business their way, then all the better! Paying fair wages and engaging in good environmental practices is more expensive than most brands want to pay. With most fashion brands looking to produce their garments as cheaply as possible, customers who are a right fit for ethical, sustainable suppliers can be hard to come by – especially now during the global pandemic. We believe that by collaborating and sharing, we can better promote ethical, sustainable fashion. Our goal is to see transformation of this entire industry.
Founded in nature
We’re shared before about the huge environmental impact of the fashion industry. At Swahlee we know it doesn’t have to be this way. As we created the Capsule Collection we sought to be creative and intentional about using all-natural fabrics that are environmentally sustainable.
The fabrics for our Capsule Collection were selected with the goals of promoting traditional crafts and a circular textile economy. We believe that with purposeful choices and planning, those in the fashion industry can become much better stewards of the environment.
We use beautiful handloom fabric because its creation is people-intensive, leading to more jobs and the preservation of traditional craftmanship. The perfect imperfection of these fabrics is evidence of the human hands behind every weave.
The fabrics for Swahlee’s very first collection were sourced from Freeset. Freeset is a WFTO certified company that exists to offer employment to people who’ve been marginalized by society. Freeset has strategically placed their facilities in communities written off by society because they believe these communities deserve to live a life of freedom. You can read more about the creation of these beautiful handwoven fabrics here. We actually ordered more of these fabrics than we needed for our first collection. Practicing what we preach we have repurposed several of these fabrics for our Capsule Collection.
Handloom at Khaloom: a culturally ingrained and zero emission technique
During the development of our Capsule, we learned about Khaloom, a Bangalore, India based textile design and production house that offers hand woven fabrics from recycled yarns. Khaloom up-cycles waste into a high-end product using a culturally ingrained and zero emission technique. We love that Khaloom combines the preservation of the handloom tradition with upcycling and repurposing textile waste into new yarns and fabrics! We’re excited to feature three fabrics from Khaloom in the Capsule. These fabrics are 100% cotton and made with 30% recycled yarns.
We love linen because it is a naturally sustainable fabric. It needs no pesticides and very little fertilizer or even irrigation. For the linen in our wide leg trousers, we turned to Herbal Fab, a GOTS certified company based in Ahmedabad, India. With a vision of conserving the environment for future generations, Herbal Fab’s mission is to produce and provide sustainable textiles. The natural linen in our Wide Leg Trousers is sourced from HerbalFab.
Anu on a sourcing trip to the surplus market in Delhi
The fashion industry produces a massive amount of waste. It is estimated that an average of 35% of materials in garment production are wasted before a product even reaches the consumer. To make use of this excess fabric, we scoured the famous surplus markets of India to repurpose deadstock rolls of high-quality linens and linen-cottons. While staying true to our commitment to natural, high-quality fabrics, we’re glad we’re able to make use of pre-existing fabrics and minimize waste.
Upcycled cotton saris
All across India women are gorgeously draped in this traditional attire as they go about their day to day lives. From the courtrooms to the classrooms, from the markets to the kitchens, in bustling cities to rural villages, the Indian sari cuts a classic, iconic, colorful silhouette.
We’ve taken previously worn saris found in our local market and given them new life, so a new batch of women can live in and enjoy their exquisite softness and one-of-a-kind designs. Each of our pieces crafted from upcycled cotton saris are completely unique. No two are exactly alike.
We love the cyclical nature of taking something pre-owned by one woman and turning it into something new and beautiful for another woman to appreciate and enjoy.
The Swahlee team during Fashion Revolution 2021
The people behind it all
Behind it all, whether it is a garment from Swahlee or the fabric used to make the garment, are people. People like you and me with hopes and worries, budgets and dreams, family and friends, health crises and milestone celebrations. They live with us on the same planet, a planet we want to care for well for future generations. As a business, we take seriously our role to create more than we consume, to steward rather than exploit. We hope you’ll join us!