An Update: Visiting the factory that will be producing our "Treehouse" collection
If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook you'll probably already know that we've been super busy producing our own in house GOTS certified Spring/Summer 2023 collection for kids aged 2-8 years. Every time I write that or say that, I still get excited.
It has been over a year in the making and after a long search involving some trial and error, we finally found an amazing partner factory.
In this blog post, I want to summarize my impressions of a recent factory visit to tell you all about the factory that we will be partnering with for the end-to-end garment-making process, the people who make our clothes and the environment in which they're made. So here it is: the long awaited update that I wrote while driving back from the factory. Because of super spotty signal - it never got uploaded and then annoyingly disappeared never to be seen again! Argh! I really need to start saving my posts vs having to re-write them:)
………………………………………………………………………… First a bit of history … The factory/company I visited is called Aadhava Apparel. It is owned by 2 colleagues and friends who met working for another garment maker 25 years ago. They set this company up around 20 years ago in Coimbatore, India and have made it their mission to build the most sustainable and ethical clothing manufacturing facility there is. I'm trying to summarize succinctly here as I know most of our readers know this story already but I found them by working through GOTS' database as a starting point, sending out a list of questions and beginning to interact with a number of certified manufacturers. So, why them? Well, Aadhava Apparel stood out straight away. They were transparent from the beginning, shared information, certifications and even more importantly answered my never ending questions. They really were very responsive and dug deeper than all of the other companies I was speaking to.
What’s important…. During my visit it was clear to me that for them this is not just a job but a life’s calling. As evidenced by a very thorough walk through of the solar panels on the roof and various demos of the associated power tracking app that is used to measure their output or, the detailed water wastage process walkthrough and tank inspection (where I was hastily eaten alive by mosquitos) I received at every building - I am not dealing with mere business owners here - but people who consider their impact on the environment at every turn.
The facts…. The company sits across 3 sites - 2 of them rented, 1 owned ; with HQ and the flat knit facility being a modern 12,000 SF building built 2 years ago during the pandemic and equipped with administrative offices, a factory floor, Fabric testing facility (I’ll explain what that is In a separate post) Quality control and packaging.
This site was really something special - I described the solar panels but this place collected rainwater from the roof, recycled it for use in the production line and for groundwater upkeep. The gardens around the building were planted with banana trees, there were spacious dining areas for employees and ongoing work to build separate sampling facilities and a CAD pattern cutting room. I noticed that the factory floor was well lit using Energy efficient LED lighting with many sources of natural lights also. I’m a sucker for good lighting so this was nice to see.
The other sites... The other 2 sites we visited were approximately a 20 minute drive away. One site houses the printing facilities and embroidery machinery and the other the knit factory (which deserves its own post). While not as high spec as HQ, these buildings were spacious and clean with health and safety markings, worker rights reminders and appropriate spacing maintained throughout.
At the printing facility I visited the on-site water treatment unit and learned all about how the water is cleaned and recycled. The liquid waste from printing collects in a tank where GOTs certified agents are used to separate pure water and waste or sludge. The sludge is pumped to one tank and the water to another. The sludge dries and is collected by a special scheme that reuses it 100% for cement making. The water is pumped back into the facility to be reused.
All workers have to be a minimum age of 18 years at the time of employment. The factory employs around 40 people at this site and around 100 more across 2 additional sites. Workers are paid a living wage in accordance with GOTs requirements which places their salary significantly above the minimum wage set by the government and paid to other textile workers in the region. The factory pays out for ESI (health insurance) for both the workers and their families and contributes to a pension scheme for all workers. Mothers are paid 7 months maternity leave. All workers receive 15 days vacation, 13 public holidays and 8 paid sick days a year. Workers work 8 hour days (max) 6 days a week and receive 1 tea break in the morning, lunch and 1 tea break in the afternoon totally 1 hour of rest time. Of note is that this company employs only locals from the surrounding villages of whom 20% are women. These women previously did not have the opportunity to work as childcare prevented them from being able to make it in to the nearest city where almost all factories are located. The location of this factory within walking distance to the villages allows more women to come in to the workplace while more easily being able to split their time between work and home.
Workers are unionized and form weekly committees to discuss any concerns. Each site upon entry had posters labelling both in English, Hindi and the local language worker rights and reminding workers of avenues for complaint should these rights be challenged. Workers also receive yearly eye checks and glasses fitting on site - given the nature of the work eye health is very important.
I really enjoyed not only meeting everybody who will be making our clothing but also learning so much about a process I knew very little of previously. Even just learning how a factory is set up and managed has been a lesson in administration and process efficiency. I also feel like I’m inspired at every turn- for example after seeing the knit factory I’m now full of ideas for a merino wool line for winter 2024!