Becoming a sustainable business has been on most companies’ to-do lists. Some take a long way and implement systems for a more eco-friendly and worker-friendly environment. Some take the easy way by means of greenwashing and inaccurate reporting. In this article, you’ll learn how to recognise sustainable clothing manufacturers.
When you think about how to find sustainable and ethical clothing manufacturers, request the following three things from any potential supplier you get in contact with:
- Certificates for the fabrics/trims/accessories (GOTS, GRS*, OEKO-TEX)
- International standards and social responsibility certificates (ISO, SA8000, SMETA, BSCI)
- Factory visits
Ethical clothing manufacturers
It goes without saying that to be a sustainable brand, you should only work with ethical clothing manufacturers. At the very least, there must be no child labour or forced labour at your potential supplier’s factory/factories.
The suppliers should be able to prove:
- That they pay a living wage
- That the workers’ health and safety are not in danger at any point during their shifts
Their ethical approach should branch out from the people to the environment. A clothing factory you are assessing should only release wastewater that has passed through a treatment plant. That way, it exits the factory as clean technical water. If they use dangerous chemicals, they must prove that they are storing them safely.
Why do sustainability-related certificates for fabrics matter?
If the manufacturers you found advertise themselves as sustainable, they should use certified fabrics, trimmings, dyes, and sublimation inks. Most common ones are OEKO-TEX 100, GOTS, and GRS*.
We’ll cover them all in detail in a few scrolls from here.
The best clothing manufacturers would be able to show you that they have international standards and/or social accountability certificates.
However, if they do have it all but they are reluctant to show you their factories, stay away. There’s something suspicious going on so we’d advise you to stay away from them.
That’s not the case with FUSH˚ you can visit our two factories in Serbia whenever you’d like. AND we hold the ISO standard certificates (9001, 14001, and 45001). You can see all three of them here.
Learn how FUSH˚ achieves sustainability as a clothing manufacturer – read this short pdf infographic.
If you already like what you’ve read and want to request a quote, please keep in mind that our minimum order quantity (MOQ) is 500 pieces per design and/or colour in any size.
Also, you would have to have a registered company with valid VAT and EORI numbers if we are to cooperate.
Learn more about working with us, visit the what we do page.
How do I find a sustainable clothing manufacturer?
If you can’t get to a sustainable clothing manufacturer through your network, you can do so in the following two ways:
- Conduct Google search
- Join sustainable fashion networks
Google search is as good a start as any because this search engine shows increasingly relevant search results with each algorithm update. That’s why there’s a great chance you’ll find sustainable manufacturers this way. Keep an eye on the results with the bolded “Ad” next to the URL – those are sponsored results, often of inferior quality to organic results.
There are good sustainable network websites out there too. The two that we find interesting are Manufy and Common Objective. Manufacturer profiles on there are often quite informative, especially in terms of sustainability.
You can also find manufacturer info about decent working conditions, animal-friendly practices, energy and water efficiency, chemical management, pollution reduction, recycling & waste and more. Of course, certified manufacturers will have their certificates uploaded on their profiles.
Key sustainability certificates for fabrics
The sustainability of any clothing brand begins with its supply chain. Therefore, to be considered one, you must work with sustainable clothing manufacturers.
The three key certificates for fabrics are:
- OEKO-TEX 100
If you find a clothing factory that has OEKO-TEX 100 certificates for their yarns, trimmings and accessories, dyes, and dye sublimation inks, you’re on the right track.
This certificate ensures that no toxic chemicals are present in the final product. Learn more about the OEKO-TEX Standard 100.
FUSH˚ regularly buys OEKO-TEX-certified yarns, fabrics and inks. If OEKO-TEX certification is your principal sustainability concern, send us an enquiry now.
Certificates that guarantee fabrics are organic/recycled
The least you can do as a clothing brand is offer your customers clothes that your manufacturers made from recycled/organic yarns or materials. Global Recycled Standard (GRS) and Global Organic Standard (GOTS) are the most common certificates that prove the origin of fibres is recycled or organic.
GOTS – organic cotton certificate
If require sustainable cotton clothing, you should insist that the factories at least have a GOTS certificate for the yarns they use. This certificate proves that manufacturers actually use organic cotton yarns and/or fabrics. This is paramount for products like sustainable streetwear should be organic cotton-only (especially custom hoodies and
*GRS – recycled fabrics certificate
The clothing factory should be able to provide you with GRS certificates for the polyester materials they are either sourcing or making. If they‘re making fabrics, they should use GRS-certified yarns. Otherwise, they’re less likely to make clothes from recycled polyester fabrics.
The GRS certificate ensures that the yarn, and as a result, the fabric comes from recycled plastic. This certificate is critical if you’re looking for activewear manufacturers.
Keep in mind that polyester, even when recycled, isn’t a proper sustainable option because it will eventually end up in a landfill or a body of water. All you do is prolong this eventuality by a maximum of around ten years.
It takes centuries for plastic to decompose. Not to mention the issue of microplastics.
If you are to use polyester, we advise you to incentivise your customers to send you back their used clothes. Take it upon yourself to store that textile waste safely.
We have all three certificates for yarns, trimmings and accessories we use.
The next issue to tackle is sustainability when colouring (dyeing or printing) the garments.
Is sublimation printing really that green?
Sublimation printing definitely is an eco-friendly way to apply colour to your clothes. But since it works well only with polyester, it’s not something to associate with a lot of ecological fanfare.
However, the two main reasons for it being eco-friendly are:
- The process uses next to no water (all it takes to transfer a design to a t-shirt this way is around 5 ml of water-based ink)
- It is energy-efficient (two machines that run this process – dye sublimation printers and heat transfer calenders use very little power to work. Our calenders average energy consumption is 5kw, significantly lower than an average household energy consumption)
Compared to traditional dyeing methods, you’ll save around 100 litres of water for one t-shirt and achieve a much better colour fastness!
Sadly, natural fibres don’t work well with dye sublimation. Dyeing cotton and similar yarns and fabrics are much trickier to do in an eco-friendly way. So if you want to stick with dye-sublimation, ask for recycled polyester fabrics that are the most durable.
So, if you want to go for sustainable t-shirt printing, do so carefully. Make sure to use recycled yarns and create garments that can be worn for a long time. Also, promote upcycling by giving discounts for returned goods and motivate your customers to use products such as PlanetCare.
PlanetCare is a microplastic filter that connects to both your washing machine and the drain outlet to ensure you’ve released as few microplastics as possible into nature.
FUSH˚ and dye sublimation printing go hand in hand
We were one of the few companies in the world that got to test an Epson dye-sub printer before its official release. We’re talking about the first printer that prints fluorescent colours – Epson SureColor SC-F9400H.
If you want to do dye sublimation 100% sustainably, avoid large areas of white colours in your designs. That’s because the white ink for dye sublimation printers doesn’t exist yet. The only way to get that white colour on your garments is through bleaching the base fabric. And that’s one water-consuming process, heavily dependent on chemicals.
Learn more about this printing process on the sublimation clothing page.
Follow the emerging trends in fabric dyeing
Keep an eye on sustainable (but still costly) dyeing technologies presented by companies like DyeCoo and ColorZen.
Puma with their Design To Fade project has been doing something towards achieving this goal when it comes to non-synthetic clothes. That too can inspire you.
Also, follow the work of companies like AlgiKnit, GreenDyes, and Wearaware to find sustainable ways of making and dyeing clothes.
Basically, when it comes to innovation in the fashion industry, keep your eyes peeled.
At the moment, the only really sustainable dyeing option we can provide you with is dye sublimation printing.
On the bright side, we have dye-sublimation printers that use fluorescent inks. Applying fluorescent colours by the means of dye sublimation wasn‘t possible until January 2020. So that‘s some good news.
Sustainable clothing factories
Eco-friendly fashion brands from Europe should rely on eco-friendly clothing suppliers from Europe.
With that in mind, you‘d be happy to find that FUSH˚ has two factories in Serbia. One in Belgrade and one in Oraovica. There‘s something sustainable about each of those clothing factories. Both can manufacture on-demand clothing, which is one very sustainable trend in the industry you should follow.
Don’t forget that clothes with the Made-in-Europe label have a better selling potential. That’s why working with us as custom clothing manufacturers will further help your brand to stand out positively.
The sustainable clothing factory in Oraovica
Sustainable practices at the Oraovica plant are:
- Wastewater treatment plant
- Solar power
- OEKO-TEX and GRS/GOTS-certified yarns
- OEKO-TEX-certified inks, trimmings & accessories
- Mandatory LED lighting throughout the facility
You can now take a virtual tour of this factory and see its various departments.
The wastewater treatment plant at FUSH˚
Because our Oraovica apparel factory stands in a remote location, it’s out of the local sewage network. Before our arrival, the only solution for wastewater was a giant cesspool and a weak sewage pipe network.
We didn’t want to continue that harmful practice that has a great potential of contaminating the groundwater. That’s why we decided to make a wastewater treatment plant.
Introducing RotoClear 40 PE
We’ve chosen the Slovenian company ROTO and their model RotoClear 40 PE as our wastewater treatment plant. The abbreviation PE stands for Population Equivalent – it refers to household-24/7-use.
With our current production and number of staff, this machine operates at its optimum.
Going one step further – using the good bacteria
We’ve taken additional precautionary measures by using a product for the increased decomposition of organic waste called Bistrol. It is a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic saprophytic bacteria that breaks down proteins, cellulose, fats and oils.
That way, the wastewater leaves the RotoClean collectors entirely safe for the environment.
This wastewater treatment plant is officially certified by PIA, an accredited and notified testing body for certification of wastewater treatment products.
Here’s the pdf file with the certificate as additional proof.
*The easiest way to open pdf files is to set Chrome as the application that opens them.
Also, the entire factory uses LED lighting only. This is true for the Belgrade factory too.
In September 2021, we installed 100 kW of solar panels on the roofs of our factory. Our energy consumption never exceeds 80 kW/h, so we can expand production and still rely on solar power. On top of that, we’ve installed hybrid inverters that will allow us to use solar batteries in the future and store all the excess energy.
Since power outages can be a concern in the textile industry, with us, there will be no delays due to loss of power.
OEKO-TEX and GRS/GOTS-Certified Yarns
We buy all our 100% recycled polyester yarns from a reputable Taiwanese company called Far Eastern New Century. They are both GRS and OEKO-TEX certified (links to certificates are pdf files).
We buy organic cotton yarns with GOTS certificates from a reputable Turkish company UZ Pamuk AS. Here is their official GOTS-certified supplier profile.
For all of you interested in making sportswear, you’ll most probably end up using fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles.
We use OEKO-TEX-certified inks for our dye-sublimation printers to ensure the entire product stays certified.
We strongly suggest you go for dye sublimation as a dyeing method for your sustainable clothing line. Not only because of OEKO-TEX but because manufacturers would use less water in the fabric colouring process.
The sustainable garment factory in Belgrade
The Belgrade factory buzzword is upcycling. This is where we achieve that extra step as sustainable clothing manufacturers. Of course, it too has only LED lighting throughout the production area.
As we do most of the fabric cutting here, we create a lot of potential textile waste. So, instead of going straight into the landfill, all our “textile extras” end up at two places:
NURDOR is a national association of parents of children battling cancer. Its members are parents, doctors, medical staff, legal advisors, and volunteers.
Our trimmings are a regular part of NURDOR’s Love and Hope camps – events where mums get to express themselves through art. Mums use our textile cut-offs to make lovely handcrafted goodies like necklaces and wristbands. It is a small contribution, but because it is for a great cause, it is one that is very dear.
Necklaces and wristbands made at the NURDOR Love and Hope camp. FUSH˚ fabric trimmings are the material that was used to make these works of art.
Iron Sport is a Serbian sporting equipment manufacturer – an expert in making boxing gear.
And they need a constant supply of our textile cut-offs in order to make fillings for their boxing bags. In fact, we can make a lot more “textile extras”, and Iron Sport would still upcycle them in no time. Thanks for helping us maintain our sustainable clothing manufacturer status, Iron Sport!
Visit our clothing factories
We believe that the best way to ensure a clothing manufacturer does its business sustainably is to see it for yourself.
That is why we encourage both existing and potential clients to visit us. In fact, we have built the apartments right on the factory grounds in Oraovica to facilitate the visits.
Below is a contact form where you can ask us anything we didn’t answer on this page. Keep in mind that the more detailed the enquiry makes the more precise price and lead time estimate.
There are three key sustainable features of a clothing manufacturer:
1. They’re certified
2. You can visit them any time
3. They’re helping their community
The easiest thing is to go through their certifications. The most sustainable manufacturers would have any of the following:
• GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)
• BCI (Better Cotton)
• RWS (Responsible Wool Standard)
• GRS (Global Recycled Standard)
• ISO 14001:2015
Each of these certificates guarantees that the supplier CAN manufacture clothes sustainably. Whether they do is a thing of inspection. Having said that, a sustainable manufacturer must allow you to visit them with little to no prior notice. That way, you can know whether or not they’re continuing the practices that have earned them their certificates.
Additionally, a truly sustainable business would do whatever it can to improve its community. Ask your potential supplier about their community projects.
It’s a type of fashion manufacturing that:
1. Ensures that the clothing factory workers have a healthy and safe working environment
2. The clothing factory compensates its workers enough for them to lead a dignified life
3. Working hours are within legal limits
4. No toxic chemicals are used in any stage of production (especially during dyeing)
5. Materials that the factory uses are vegan, natural and/or organic
6. Water is used sparingly and in a closed-loop system
7. Renewable energy is the main energy source for the factory
Request a quote from us
To get the best possible price and lead time estimate, please include the number of designs and pieces per design, fabric choice, sizes, and printing options.
- FUSH˚ Addresses:
- Velizara Stankovića 67
Belgrade, Serbia (view in Google Maps)
- Oraovačka BB
Oraovica, Serbia (view in Google Maps)
- Velizara Stankovića 67
- Phone: +381 11 359 10 48
- Email: email@example.com