Sustainable sourcing with European garment factories
The Centre for the Promotion of Imports (CBI) did a research in 2020 that showed how sustainability and transparency are growing trends in the EU apparel market (the report is a pdf file). And increasingly so with the millennial generation slowly becoming the generation with the most purchasing power.
Not sourcing from the continent of your target market will raise eyebrows without a doubt. And the person with that raised eyebrow starts wondering if your CSR policies are just a bunch of corporate PR bluewashing. And having doubts attached to your organic and eco-friendly customized hoodies won’t help you sell them quicker.
This is not to say that sustainable clothing manufacturers from Europe are the only ones that treat their workforce fairly. There are certificates that can prove that an apparel factory operates ethically, wherever it‘s from.
One caveat, some certifications allow for a brand to set the exact date and time of an audit, which defeats the purpose of auditing altogether. We believe that surprise audits are the only ones that bear ethical fruit.
Having said that, you could entrust your entire brand’s production to a certified farshoring garment producer. And you could be happy knowing just that.
However, what you do not know is whether or not that company’s workforce is actually the one making your clothes. What guarantee do you have it’s not subcontracting?
The haunt of hidden subcontractors
The common occurrence of subcontractors is one example of morally suspicious sourcing in the garment manufacturing process.
When sourcing from a far-away country, you as a brand owner will often face this scenario: you will unknowingly receive your goods made by subcontractors. And it’s a very likely scenario because you can’t control something that far away from you. And not only because of that.
Seasonality of the industry and “race to the bottom”
The clothing industry is a cruel one. And is very susceptible to high and low seasons. That’s why some manufacturers will take any amount of work in the low season, regardless of the fact that their own workforce couldn’t handle the entire order. And also out of fear of losing a big client to a competitor. For the same reason, clothing factories compete by offering lower manufacturing prices. Factory owners don’t trade their profit, they trade their workers’ wages and working conditions.
The ones most at fault here are mega-brands that continually abuse the competition between the manufacturers.
With that in mind, you can’t really know whether or not that partner handles 100% of your order. Even if your initial supplier has all the certificates and fantastic CSR policies. And being that far away, you‘ve no real chance of controlling the production process.
You can’t change what you can’t control
With lack of control can come a torrent of other problems which, having the ever-growing awareness among your existing and potential customers, can hurt your image badly.
Add to this the effect the #PayYourWorkers campaigns are having on your existing and potential customers. With #PayYourWorkers in full swing, people are becoming increasingly educated about the wrongdoings in our industry and the way it operates “under the hood”. And should they connect your brand with the grey side of the textile industry, you should brace yourself for some costly damage control PR.
In contrast to overseas manufacturers, you can visit the 2 FUSH˚ factories in Serbia whenever you’d like. For the Oraovica facility, we have a virtual tour you can go on right now. Here are their locations on Google Maps:
The one reason why this is so important: guilt culture
As depicted by the anthropologist Ruth Benedict, there are 2 predominant models of building a moral code in societies – the shame and guilt culture.
In shame cultures, what others expect of us defines our morality. What discourages us from behaving unethically is the fear of shame. The fear of disapproval, disgrace, and humiliation as a result of others finding out what we‘ve done. It‘s completely external.
In guilt cultures, ethical behaviour depends on how individuals understand how they ought to behave (doing what is right because it is right). In such a culture, people freely choose to behave according to their internalised moral principles.
Western societies are predominantly shaped by guilt culture. In other words, these societies would frown upon any unethical behaviour. And as a result, they wouldn‘t lean toward being connected with one in any capacity.
Such is buying clothes from brands that have morally suspicious sourcing methods. And if you really want to tap into the subconscious of a Western European, this is something to consider.
Europeans’ strong tendency to buy locally
This is true wherever you go in Europe. In fact, it’s a growing trend. Every country, every city, every neighbuorhood will have its own specific little product they’re proud of. And Europeans love it. They want locally-made things more and more.
And if that‘s not possible, they‘ll go for the next best thing. Now stop and think about your product, let’s say a t-shirt. Is the next best thing a t-shirt made in a potential sweatshop 8000 km away? Or is it a customized t-shirt made in a factory that‘s 2 hours of flight away or closer?
Correct, it’s the latter. This makes European clothing factories more and more popular.
When there’s nothing to hide, there’s room for a great story
With a sustainable and ethically-sourced product, your clothing is more than just a fashion item. It becomes your customers’ statement about important matters like the social and ecological state of the world.
Now you can connect it to happy people that made it in a way that was kind to Mother Earth. And this is often the case with European clothing factories.
Then add the upcycling incentives to your overall brand culture, and voilà – your entire clothing line becomes something people would stand behind. And would gladly pay more money to own it.
How can FUSH˚ help me tell my great story?
Aiming to become one of the best clothing manufacturers in Europe when it comes to transparency and manufacturing garments ethically, we can do the following:
- We can tell your story by letting you follow the entire production process of your product. In-person! We have 4 fully-furnished apartments on factory grounds in south-eastern Serbia able to accommodate up to 16 visitors
- We can provide your interns with proper industry experience. They too can follow the production process while not having to travel to the factory on a daily basis
- We brought the textile industry back to a rural region that was slowly losing population due to lacking working opportunities. Good story material
- We have a happy and experienced workforce operating the modern machinery that makes your brand stand out both aesthetically and ethically
- Most of our deliveries we ourselves using CNG-powered vehicles and therefore reducing your carbon footprint
- We strongly suggest dye sublimation printing as the colouring technique of synthetic materials in an effort to at least consume less water, when we’re already using materials that can’t biodegrade
- We use a wastewater treatment plant in order to nullify water pollution
- We have a vast portfolio of garments and fabrics. Enough for both European sports clothing brands and organic clothing brands to find sanctuary in FUSH˚.
FUSH˚ products and services
Visit our catalogue and view images of sportswear, promo wear, and fashion wear that we made over the years and were lucky enough not to sign an NDA for.
To see our environmental efforts, visit our sustainable clothing manufacturers page. And finally, learn how we can fulfil your expectations when it comes to making custom activewear for you on our activewear manufacturers page.
Keep in mind that our minimum order quantity (MOQ) is 500 pieces per design/colour in as many sizes as you need. One caveat is that we only work with companies that have VAT and EORI numbers.
Learn more about working with us – visit the what we do page.
Not everything is peachy in European clothing factories
European clothing factories are by no means a guarantee of a sustainable and ethically run business. This report from the Clean Clothes Campaign indicates that Europe is ripe with sweatshops, so please take all the prior information with a dinosaur-size grain of salt.
The rule of thumb is, if the manufacturer doesn’t want you to see their factory, or needs suspiciously long prior notice, be sure to pass on that opportunity. Even if it has certificates attesting to safety and working conditions in the textile industry. Rana Plaza factory was audited by TÜV Rheinland and deemed safe a few months before the catastrophe.
So if all that sweatshop horror show didn’t scare you away, below is the contact form we invite you to fill out. The more info about your potential order you give us, the better information we can give back.