Finding an ethical factory - my reasons behind it, how I chose it and my experience whilst choosing it.
I feel that this will really give you an insight and an understanding into what Discover Boutique’s story is and the family behind my brand.
For those of you who don’t really know what ‘ETHICAL’ means, I will give my view on what I perceive ethical to be. There is no 100% accurate answer to what ethical is, everyone has their own view, but there sure is enough things, ways and practices people can change and adapt to.
As some of you know and some of you may not know I worked on yachts before going strong and starting my own business. I will not go into details on this post about all that yachting stuff, otherwise this post would be a book, I’ll save that for the next one. Anyway…… I realised what my dream was whilst working on yachts and spent 3 years researching and teaching myself everything to be able to make this dream actually happen.
I’m sure many of you heard of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, a horrific event that shocked the world, and one that definitely opened up my eyes to sweat shops and made me question what is ethical? I also read a book about a lady who went undercover in Morocco to find and tell stories about the people that work in sweat shops, and their day to day experiences inside the factories.
I had spoken to hundreds, and I mean hundreds of clothing manufacturers all over the world. Trying to get my head around everything, what I should ask them, what the processes are and what I want from them etc.
‘I knew for certain that I wanted to work with an ethical factory!’
Lets fast forward a bit ……. I narrowed the country down to Bali, I narrowed the factories down to 6. All ethical factories, that had proven to me over email that they were ethical (I don’t know how much you can prove to someone over email what you are, but I believed them regardless).
I carried on speaking to these factories for 2 years, to what I thought was building a good raport with the people I am going to be working with.
2 years later my boyfriend and I really needed a holiday after our long stint on yachts and I thought hey wouldn’t it be a great idea if we went to Bali then I could go and visit the factories I have been speaking to. This trip was booked soon after, Bali was going to happen in 5 months time. I emailed the factories I had been speaking to, told them I was going to visit and that I wanted to be shown around the factories and meet the staff; and who would have guessed
‘3 factories said I would not be allowed to visit their factories ’
What a surprise! I wonder why they didn’t want me to visit? Probably because the main reason I was talking to them in the first place was because they said they were ethical, and they obviously were not!
So that brings the list down to 3 factories. I started to panic at this stage because if 3 have already said no, who’s to say that the others are any good when I actually visit them. I thought, I am going to need more options. I got on the computer and researched and researched (I’m sure you other clothing business owners know how HARD it is to find a decent clothing manufacturer on the internet), I eventually found 2 more that I could go and see. Yay great, let’s start now again with 5 ethical factories, one of these has to be the one for me.
I got picked up from my villa in Bali on day 2 from an agent, to view a factory he works with and a fabric store he uses.
I was so excited, I had all my questions planned for the factory manager, I was ready.
We visited the fabric store first and it was really great, huge store full of all the different kinds of fabrics you could imagine. I wanted to use 100% Rayon and 100% cotton so you can imagine the amount of samples I could choose from, I was in heaven.
Then came the factory. We pulled up and it was actually behind a gate inside a house that had been knocked through and made into a factory on the bottom floor. I walked in and got a really weird vibe, the factory manager was really really nice, maybe too nice. He kept me in his office for far too long and If I hadn’t of asked him to go into the actual factory I don’t think he even would have shown me. I walked through the door and got hit by the overwhelming heat that was locked inside, there were about 50 people cramped up in there with no ventilation. There were no photos anywhere of group activities that I was assured staff participated in on days off, I also think the manager forgot to lie to me about his ethical ways because he proceeded to tell me the horrifying amount of hours that the staff do day in day out and how they don’t have enough space for everyone.
‘I thought If this factory was ethical then I just can’t do this, there’s no way I am doing this!’
Two days later I had an appointment with another factory manager. I walked inside his office, and asked him the questions I needed to. I then proceeded to ask if I now go and see the factory and he said, ‘oh no you can’t see the factory, the factory actually isn’t located here’. As you can tell I was totally shocked as I was promised this from the start, I then asked about where the samples were made and the full production and he said the full production depending on what garment you are making are made in different factories around Bali and the samples are made here in house. Great, I thought at least I can see where a part of the clothes are made. But no, I still was not allowed to go and have a look. He actually got very stern with me by this point and I knew that he along with the other factory were lying to me about being ethical.
The third one I went to visit was definitely better than the previously two, and it definitely had some ethical practices in place, but still it didn’t give me that heart-warming feeling that I was hoping to get when I found the right one.
I then made an appointment with a small family run factory, this was one of the ones I found rather last minute, so I didn’t have many expectations for it.
But this one turned out to be the best, there were many rooms for the different processes of a garment factory, fans were located in various areas, the windows were open and it was lovely and breezy. All staff had all Balinese holidays off work, worked normal 9-5 hours, had an hour and a half lunch break every day and weekends off. They all get paid a fair wage all whilst minimising their impact on the environment.
I had finally found my ethical factory.