What is sustainability?
Voice views sustainability as being conscious of the effects our company has on the environment, as well as our ethical practices in regards to labor and social issues.
Many individuals simply associate sustainability with the use of organic fabrics and don’t take into consideration the amount of waste that is left behind or the working conditions within the factories. We hope that since we do not use organic fabrics, we can show our consumers that there are other ways to be sustainable and ethical.
Voice’s approach to creating a better environment and increasing awareness of sustainability is through education and community involvement. We feel that by informing and interacting with our target market we can give a strong voice to the generation and better the quality of life for all.
Our objectives are to create knit wear sustainable designs while keeping it feminine and chic for the youth of the world. Through our designs we hope to educate our target customer in an effort to promote environmental change. Through them, we can help to make the world a better place…one VOICE at a time.
Our group was originally inspired by a bomber jacket and wanted to rework it into a knit fabric. We liked the idea of a young, edgy vibe for our line. We used bright colors to attract our target market and designed our pieces so that they can be layered on top of one another. Not only is our line young and hip but it also is designed to be sustainable. Our embellishments on select pieces will be made of scrap fabrics worked into flowers and accessories. Our goal is to educate a younger group of girls on how to be sustainable and socially responsible while at the same time still being able to be fashionable.
Research of Industry
When beginning this project, each team conducted research in regards to the sustainability movement. Although most consumers think of sustainability strictly in terms of organic fabrics, we discovered that there are many other ways to create an eco friendly line while still working with basic cotton. Companies such as KEEP & SHARE, Linda Loudermilk, Kate Fletcher and GreenBlue have all worked to develop brands that are known for thinking outside the box in regards to “going green”. We then looked more in depth at the specific ways these companies are changing the fashion industry. Labor issues are often a topic of concern and these companies are working to monitor their factories to ensure safe and fair labor conditions for their employees. Common labor issues that need to be addressed include, but are not limited to, unsafe work conditions affecting the physical well-being of workers, unfair wages, harassment in the workplace, lack of accountability, and excessive overtime hours. To combat these issues, workers need to be educated and aware of their rights as laborers. They need to know that they can be heard and compensated for wrongs done to them by their employers. Additionally, although the most common and usually first change a brand makes when deciding to become more sustainable, the material choices of a company often help to strengthen the “going green” movement. Companies such as Patagonia are even offering “footprint chronicles” of their products to show their consumers exactly where each part of the product came from. You can see the distance traveled, the carbon dioxide emissions, the waste generated, and the energy consumption. Another way that we found companies were becoming more sustainable was through consumer education. Consumers have a tendency to buy what they believe are “good clothes” based on price, quality, fashion, and longevity. They are lacking knowledge and awareness of what exactly sustainability means. Are consumers actually interested in changing?
- Sustainability… holds little to no meaning for consumers” (The Hartman Group)
- Over half (54%) of consumers claim any familiarity at all with the term “sustainability”
- Most of these consumers cannot define the sustainability appropriately
- 5% indicate that they know which companies support sustainability
- 12% indicate they know where to buy products from such companies
- 72% of U.S. consumers believe their purchases have significant impact on society
- 71% say they are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to pay a full 10% premium for sustainable products
Due to the large amount of waste that is produced within the factories we decided to incorporate these scraps into our designs.This waste fabric was used to create detailed embellishments and accessories. Our silhouettes were kept clean and simple, with very basic pattern pieces that allow them to lay close on the fabric which will reduce waste. To provide longer usage, we decided to use a neutral color palette garments that could be transitional between spring and fall. Also, to keep things looking new, we have a lot of different separates that can be layered and mixed and matched to create different looks.
Voice’s ties with Gildan have helped strengthen our goal in being sustainable. Gildan has strong ethical and sustainable business practices and they have been a great example for our brand to look to. In collaborating with Gildan, we are able to use their resources and FLA complaint facilities to ensure safe and ethical practices.
The Fair Labor Association has given us the tools to assess our practices and to make sure we are meeting the FLA standards. This has helped us not only become more sustainable, but also make sure that the factories we are working with have acceptable conditions.
Voice has devised a number of programs in order to educate our target market in regards to sustainability. On each garment the hang tangs will be made out of scrap fabric which will highlight a unique sustability fact such as “It is estimated that we throw away nearly one million tons of clothing per year, most of which goes to landfill. If the ever-increasing amounts of landfill concern you, you might want to think about using recycled materials for your fashion range“. In addition, numerous pieces of scrap material will be included for the consumers to embellish their garments when they begin to wear out. The voice website will showcase a number of demonstrations to show consumers different options for embellishments. The website will also contain more sustainable facts to continue educating our young, impressionable consumer.
Along with demonstrations online, Scraptastic workshops will be held around the country – led by Voice designers – to educate our consumers about what they can do to help the sustainable movement. Scraptastic workshops will also include creative ways to use scrap fabric and different items around the house to create accessories such as clutches and belts, as well as embellishing old garments. The workshops will begin with an overview of Voice’s mission statement and a Q & A to open up discussion about sustainability. After this introduction the girls will be able to work with the designers to embellish garments with their old clothes. Attendees are advised to bring old garments that they can cut up and reuse. Our clothing drives will provide clothing to be used in Scraptastic workshops held in underprivileged communities.
Fair Labor Association
Complaince with the FLA ensures that Voice is transparent in it’s production efforts and that our views regarding fair labor parallel that of the FLA. The FLA’s goal is to improve factory conditions worldwide. By using the tools and codes of conduct that the FLA have developed, Voice is working to ensure safe and fair treatment in our factories and company as a whole.
Tools that we have used thus far are the Labor and Environmental Compliance Questionnaire as well as the Factory Compliance Readiness Tool. As a company we filled out the Labor and Environmental Compliance Questionnaire and received results regarding our code of conduct, factory relations, and environmental protection. The results (provided below) revealed that although we had many of the necessary components to be a Fair Labor compliant company we need to improve on issues such as creating a more comprehensive code of conduct and factory sourcing.
THIS TOOL WAS USED TO AUDIT OUR COMPANY VOICE FUTURE FLA AUDITS WILL LOOK AT SUPPLIERS AND FACTORIES. This tool is a simulation of a tool that FLA is currently developing.
Risk Level of Business Model:
(score4.0-5.0) Your company sources from a limited number of factories, focuses on a few product groups and has direct relationships to its suppliers. This allows greater control over working conditions in its supply chain.
Labor and Environmental Standards/Compliance Information:
(Score4.0-4.9) Your company has adopted a code, but it is not really comprehensive: a few code elements to ensure fair working conditions and environment protection are still missing.
(Score5.0) Your company has adopted a comprehensive labor and environmental compliance code.
Communication of the Code:
(Score4.0-5.0) Your company communicates the code to the suppliers and requires them to comply with it. Your company also supports the supplier in providing training activities within the factory to enforce the code/policy implementation.
Level of Risk Control:
(Score2.71-3.9) Your company only has minimum procedures to allow it to maintain control over its supply chain. Direct contact with factories and/or agents need to be intensified.
Social Compliance Audit:
(Score2.51-2.7) Some of your company ‘s suppliers have received social compliance audits and the company knows of the results, yet it was not involved in conducting and following up on these audits. Your company is, however, ready to get more involved in social compliance audits.
(Score2.71-3.0) Some of your company ‘s suppliers have received social compliance audits. Some or all of these audits have detected violations of labor and/or environmental standards and your company knows the results, yet it was not involved in conducting and following up on these audits. Furthermore, the company is not ready to get more involved in audit activities.
(Score3.1-3.2) Some of the company ‘s suppliers have received social compliance audits. Some o r all of these audits have detected violations of labor and/or environmental standards. Although your company knows of the results, it was not involved in conducting and following up on these audits. Your company is, however, ready to get more involved in social compliance audits.
(Score3.21-3.5) Some of the company‘s suppliers have received social compliance audits. Some or all of these audits have detected violations of labor and/or environmental standards. And although the company was not involved in conducting the audits, it tries to follow up on audit results. However your company is not ready to get more involved in audit activities.
(Score3.6-3.8) Some of the company ‘s suppliers have received social compliance audits. Some or all of these audits have detected violations of labor and/or environmental standards. And although the company was not involved in conducting the audits , it tries to follow up on audit results. Meanwhile your company is ready to get more involved in audit activities.
(Score3.81-3.9) Some of the company ‘s suppliers have received social compliance audits, in which the company was directly involved. However so far no violations were detected, which might be a sign of insufficient audit quality.
In our journey through this project we learned an enormous amount. Since we had never worked at this level in the product development stage, our interaction with IPC, Gildan, and the Fair Labor Association was all very new. We focused our research on sustainability and how to successfully complete the production process in the most professional manner.
This required us to rework our patternmaking techniques to fit that of knitwear, learn the proper way to compile a spec pack and make a format that was both unique to our team but informative enough to translate to the IPC factory in Honduras. This project forced us to look at our production process from a different standpoint then we had ever before. In working with Gildan, we were unsure of what resources were available to us. In previous projects, it was our job to find our own materials and notions, but in this project we had specific range of resources and had to creatively work them to our advantage. Questions were brought up regarding what zipper weight would be appropriate for what blend fleece, and if scrap fabric from the factory would be available for us to rework into our garments.
The idea of sustainability and ethical labor policies was something that had been touched on in our previous education but not in depth. In meeting and conferencing with FLA representatives we wanted to learn what is required of complaint companies and how to ensure that they are continually living up to the standards that they claim. We took surveys for our company and gained knowledge on actually how many issues come into play in becoming an ethical company, such as employee breaks and environmental safety. In working with an FLA complaint company such as Gildan we were interested to see what ways that they were ethical and sustainable. We asked questions such as; what Gildan does with their product waste and what they are doing to help the communities in their factory environment.
Moving Forward: Long Term Aspirations for Voice and the Industry
In the future we hope to have more companies join the FLa and be aware and educated on the importance of being sustainable. Because our line is targeted towards a younger generation of girls we hope to get them more involved in ecofriendly fashion. Voice continues to strive for eliminating waste and finding new ways to produce a line not just beneficial to our company but also to the earth.
Katie Broderick, Samantha Grandy,
Allison Thompson, Taylor Carr, Marion Hashim