Fibre Athletics creates versatile apparel that is built for a variety of activities and adventures. Our materials are ethically sourced and sustainably crafted from 100% organic fabrics and recycled materials. Certified by Chicago Fair Trade, we produce in the United State to ensure workers earn a livable wage. With each sale, we support environmental and poverty alleviation projects around the world.
I was a new recruit in production with a background in design and little knowledge of material manufacturing and sourcing. Add in the aspirations to promote sustainable materials, ethical production, and stateside development for purposes of minimizing environmental impact, and I was a total rookie. I had new shoes on for my first time at bat and wish someone had been there to teach me to tie my laces.
Researching Competition and Sources
My first piece of advice is to thoroughly know your target customer, research your competitors, and pinpoint the price those customers are willing to pay for similar goods that you are choosing to produce sustainably.
When beginning your search for fabric, have a product already in mind and a Cost of Goods worksheet handy. COG templates can be made manually or found online and tweaked to suit your needs. Some costs you may not know, but you can estimate them for the time being. As you’re sourcing, fill in the costs of the chosen fabric (accounting for the yardage needed) into your worksheet. We found these guidelines useful:
If your COG falls within the ballpark of your competitors’ price range, you’re off to a good start. If it’s much higher, consider another fabric or see if you can negotiate the price down with your mill, manufacturer, or jobber. Here are some useful tips we found through the Maker’s Row Blog on how to navigate minimum order quantities and negotiate reasonable prices:
Types of Recognition
In addition to using Maker’s Row to answer your questions, (hand holding can save you valuable time and money while curbing your daily urge to run for the hills), become familiar with several key sustainable and ethical certifications, platforms, and summits that are pertinent to your concept.
Develop contacts in the industry who are already abiding by sustainable processes and environmental certifications. If no single conclusion comes of your search, don’t consider it wasted time. I guarantee you will have learned something you didn’t know beforehand and you inadvertently networked with others practicing sustainability (and possibly future contacts to wear your new line).
Here’s a quick list of reputable certifications and sources worth considering:
CERTIFIED ORGANIC: Organic cotton material is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically engineered seeds. Third-party certification organizations verify the growing process.
G.O.T.S. (Global Organic Textile Standards): This crucial certification for products and manufacturers is the leading worldwide textile processing standard for organic fibers.
RECYCLED or rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate): This material comes from plastic that has previously been used for packaging, such as plastic bottles. The plastic is sorted, cleaned, and transformed for reuse as food and beverage containers or polyester fibers.
OEKO-TEX: An independent toxic testing and certification system with various standards for textile products at all stages of production.
BLUE SIGN: Blue Sign unites the entire textile manufacturing supply chain to reduce its ecological footprint. It analyzes all input streams – including raw materials and chemical components. Manufacturers and brands can obtain certification, but Blue Sign is an expensive label for a startup with low minimum orders to possess and may not be a financially achievable to pay for or source from.
LOW-IMPACT DYES: Dyes with higher-than-average absorption rate require less water during the rinse process and produce less runoff into the water. Contamination is further minimized because low-impact dyes do not contain heavy metals (such as chrome, copper, or zinc) nor do they require toxic chemical mordants to fix them to fiber.
CHITOSANTE: This is an environmentally-friendly fabric treatment made from natural biomass that creates sweat-wicking, breathable, fast-drying, and pill-resistant fabric.
FAIR TRADE: These standards ensure that garment workers are equipped with safe labor conditions, a voice in the workplace, adequate earnings, and gender-equal treatment.
Keeping Up with the Industry
Find and attend raw material, wholesale, and retail trade shows and events to gain insight on new developments in the field of sustainable design. If you can’t physically attend any shows, look them up, see who’s participating, and research those companies. Find out who’s doing what and where, and try approaching relevant industry leaders. Be willing to ask questions even if they feel amateur. Be prepared for rejection, no response, great wisdom, contact referrals, or practical tips. Anything is possible.
Remember that fashion can be fast-paced and demanding. If sustainability is important to you, give yourself time to understand your options and produce the best product possible.
Eco-Friendly Production Partners
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