Becoming a sustainable business has been on most companies’ to do list. Some are taking the long way and implementing systems for a more eco-friendly and worker-friendly environment and some are taking the easy way by the means of greenwashing and inaccurate reporting. In this article, you’ll learn how to recognise sustainable clothing manufacturers.
How to Find Ethical Clothing Manufacturers
When you think about how to find sustainable and ethical clothing manufacturers, request the following 3 things from any potential supplier you get in contact with:
- Certificates for the fabrics (OEKO-TEX, GOTS, GRS)
- Social responsibility certificates (SA8000, SMETA, BSCI)
- Factory visits
It goes without saying that to be really sustainable, factories you work with must be ethical clothing manufacturers. Don’t forget, sustainable fashion = ethical fashion. There must be no child labour or forced labour at your potential suppliers’ factory/factories.
If the manufacturers you found advertise themselves as sustianable, the least they should have are certificates for the fabrics, haberdashery, dyes, and sublimation inks they use. Most common ones are OEKO-TEX 100, OEKO-TEX 1000, GOTS, and GRS. We’ll cover them all in detail a few scrolls from here.
The best ones would be able to show you that they have social accountability certificates.
But even if they do have it all, if they are reluctant to show you their factories, stay away. There’s something very suspicious going on. Having said that, you can visit our two factories in Serbia whenever you’d like.
To learn how sustainability is achieved at FUSH, read this short and sweet pdf infographic.
You would probably want to learn about our minimum order quantity (MOQ). It’s 150 pieces per design and/or colour in any size.
Find Sustainable & Ethical Clothing Manufacturers – Starting from Scratch
A good start as any is Google search. This search engine has been showing more and more relevant search results with each algorithm update which means there’s a great chance you’ll find ethical manufacturers this way.
There are good database websites out there too. The one we find really interesting is the platform called Common Objective. Manufacturer profiles on there can be pretty information-packed, especially in terms of sustainability. You can find manufacturer info pertaining to decent working conditions, animal friendly practices, energy and water efficiency, chemical management, polution reduction, recycling & waste and more. Certified manufacturers will have their certificates uploaded on their profiles.
OEKO-TEX-Certified Yarns, Fabrics, and Inks – Pillars of Sustainable Clothing Manufacturers
The sustainability of any clothing brand begins with its supply chain. Therefore, in order for you to have a sustainable clothing brand, you must work with sustainable clothing manufacturers. They would definitively use materials that contain no toxic chemicals. OEKO-TEX certificates are solid proof of that.
If you find a clothing factory that has OEKO-TEX certificates for their yarns, haberdashery (sewing notions in US English), dyes, and dye sublimation inks, you’re on the right tracks.
Having this certificate ensures that no toxic chemicals are present in the final product. Learn more about the OEKO-TEX Standard 100.
FUSH has this certificate for all of the above. If OEKO-TEX certification is your principal sustainability concern, feel free to send us an enquiry now.
Certificates that Guarantee Recycled and Organic Fabrics
The clothing factory should be able to provide you with GRS certificates for the fabrics they are either sourcing or making. If they‘re taking care of fabric production, they should have GRS-certified yarns. Otherwise, they’re not organic clothing manufacturers.
The GRS certificate ensures that the yarn, and as a result, the fabric is made from recycled plastic. This is very important if you’re looking for activewear manufacturers. That’s because they will use more polyester fabrics than other suppliers.
Organic Cotton Fabrics
In the same vein, you should insist that the factories you plan to work with have GOTS certificates. These certificates are proof that they actually use organic cotton yarns and/or fabrics. This is paramount if you are to work with sustainable custom hoodie manufacturers.
We as sustainable clothing manufactures have all 3 certificates when it comes to the yarns and haberdashery we use. More about that further down the reading path.
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!
Plus, a garment colour won‘t fade away as quickly as it does with the traditional water-chugging dyeing method.
Sadly, natural fibres don’t work well with dye sublimation. Dyeing cotton and similar yarns and fabrics is much trickier to do in an eco-friendly way.
So, if you want to go for sustainable t-shirt printing, do so carefully. Make sure to use recycled yarns and make sure to create garments that can be worn for a long time. Also, promote upcycling by giving discounts for returned goods. Or motivate your customers to use products such as PlanetCare.
FUSH and dye sublimation printing go hand in hand.
In fact, 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’s able to print fluorescent colours – Epson SureColor SC-F9400H.
If you really 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 so you can’t transfer it from paper to clothing. 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
Puma with their Design To Fade project has been doing something towards achieving this goal when it comes to non-synthetic clothes. That can inspire you.
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 the 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 2 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 in itself is a very sustainable trend in the industry you should follow.
Don’t forget that clothes with the Made in Europe label have a greater selling potential. Also, working with us as custom clothing manufacturers will further help your brand to stand out in a positive way.
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
- Mandatory LED ligthing throughout the facility
Wastewater Treatment Plant at FUSH
Our Oraovica apparel factory is located in a rural area and it‘s not connected to the sewage system. Before our arrival, the only solution for wastewater was a big cesspool accompanied by 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 opted for a wastewater treatment plant.
Introducing RotoClear 40 PE
For this technology, we’ve put our trust into the Slovenian company ROTO and their model RotoClear 40 PE. The abbreviation PE stands for Population Equivalent and it refers to household-24/7-use.
With our current production and number of staff, this machine can easily operate 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 completely safe for the environment.
This wastewater treatment plant is officially certified by PIA, an accredited and notified testing body for the certification of wastewater treatment products.
Here’s the pdf file with the certificate for all of you in need of further 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’ve 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.
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). Consequently, so are the fabrics we manufacture.
For all of you interested in making sportswear, you’ll most probably end up using fabrics made from recycled plastic bottles.
To make sure the entire product stays certified, we use OEKO-TEX-certified inks for our dye-sublimation printers.
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 less water would be used in the fabric colouring process.
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 most of the fabric cutting is done here, a lot of potential textile waste is created. So, instead of going straight into the landfill, all our “textile extras” end up at 2 places:
NURDOR is a national association of parents of children battling cancer made up from parents, doctors, medical staff, legal advisors, and volunteers.
Our textile trimmings are a regular part of NURDOR’s Love and Hope camps. That’s where mums get to express themselves through art. Mums use our textile cut-offs to make lovely handcrafted goodies like necklaces and wristbands. This is a small contribution but a very dear one because it is for a great cause.
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 that is specialised in making boxing gear.
And they need a constant supply of our textile cut-offs in order to make fillings for their boxing bags. Basically, we can make a lot more “textile extras” and they would still be upcycled by Iron Sport in no time. Thanks for helping us maintain our sustainable clothing manufacturers 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.
Even though now is not the best time for visits due to the pandemic, we usually encourage our clients to visit us. Both the existing ones and the potential ones.
Especially since we’ve equipped 4 apartments to welcome up to 16 visitors. Those apartments are built right on the factory grounds in Oraovica.
As far as manufacturing services are concerned, here’s what we offer:
Below is a contact form where you can ask us anything we didn’t answer on this page. We’ll answer ASAP. Keep in mind that the more detailed the enquiry makes for the more precise price and lead time estimate.