Tag: production

BEHIND THE SEAMS: ORGANIC GARMENT PRODUCTION IN NORTH INDIA

In North India we visited the production partner of the newest brand in our agency portfolio, POPUPSHOP.  We took the train from Delhi to Agra station from where it was about an hour drive to the Kishor factory

Kishor exports is a family business founded in 1979 when Mr. Satish Agarwal and Mrs.Sneh Lata Agarwal, left the USA to settle down in India. Today their company is run by their son Mr. Deepak Agarwal, who showed us around the factory and proudly told us everything about the Kishor company. 

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Having lived in the US, the Kishor family realisess how important it is to have certifications. Even though it brings along a lot of adminitrative work and costs. 

‘Our company is certified by GOTS (for global organic textile standards) / FAIR TRADE (by flo-cert) & SA-8000.

‘More importnatly we are a manufacturer & exporters of organic cotton clothing in India and we have been exporting to Europe since 1979. Our factory is a modern and sophisticated factory.’ 

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Interesting is that Agra isn’t necessarily known for being a garment factoy area, there is actually more shoe manufacturing.

This means it isn’t the easiest to find a lot of skilled tailors, like in other areas in India for example. 

‘But we think it is important to bring econimic benefits to this area, as well as fair and safe working conditions. Most of the tailors working in the factory have been with us for a long time’. 

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Mr. Deepak explains us that he and the company have a strong social comittment to serve the society. Therefore they are for example supporting the organization ‘TEARS’, a local Institute & Hostel for Mentally handicapped Children

He took us to the big school building where we met the teachers and the children. Mr. Deepak pasionately told us about the work of Tears and how important it is to support this beautiful initiative. 

‘Love, care and protection are what these mentally handicapped children need as their toys, to bring back in to their lives the childhood joys.’ 

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‘Another institute supported by Kishor is SEAM (Skills for Employment in Apparel Manufacturing), which is operated and supported by Kishor for skill enhancement & upliftment of women who are living in rural areas near to us.’ 

‘Here we give training to women from rural areas near by our factory and try to make them skilled workers for Apparel Manufacturing and later on we offer them a job opportunity in our company.

In this institute we provide good infrastructure, stitching machines &equipments, accommodation / hostel facility, meals and trained faculties.’

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BEHIND THE SEAMS: ORGANIC GARMENT MANUFACTURING IN DELHI

Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills is a pioneer in organic garment manufacturing in India and is People Tree’s production partner for a large part of the knitted organic cotton pieces in their collections.

When we were in India Mr. Sanjay showed us around the two multiple stories Rajlakshmi factories he manages in Delhi.  We were guided through the production process floor by floor, as at both premises every floor houses a different department. 

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First a bit of history: Rajlakshmi Cotton Mills is a family business, which was founded in 1932 in Calcutta. In those days Rajlakshmi was specialised in making yarns and selling fabrics and later on developed into a company that produces high quality textiles, from fashion to bed linen. The company is located in Calcutta and in Delhi. 

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Mr. Sanjay explains us that in 2000 the owners of the company realised that running an ethical business and taking care of the environment is also good for business.

‘People want to know where the clothes they buy have been made and they don’t want to feel guilty’.

The last 15 years the company started to work backwards in the supply chain to make every step in the production process as fair and sustainable as possible. Rajlakshmi became the first Indian factory with a Fair Trade certification and is also organic certified.

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Mr. Sanjay tells us that the factory receives mainly production request from ‘smaller’ companies.

‘The costs for an organic and fair product are higher so making an organic product is not so high on the agenda of the bigger brands. But we realised this before we started to go in the organic business as we knew we would be more expensive and we would have a slow growth. It takes time for companies to pick up on this. But the environment has been exploited very badly and we believe the day will come where everybody will say enough is enough.’ 

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Although Rajlakshmi is mainly working with the ‘smaller’ brands at the moment, the size, facilities and neat organiation would suggest oherwise. Mr. Sanjay prefers quality over quantity though and chooses his partners carefully. 

At Rajlakshmi we work together with brands who share the same vision, like People Tree. Story telling is important, I believe that people who know about what’s going on behind the scenes of the fashion industry won’t run away from their responsibility.’

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When we ask Mr. Sanjay about how he feels about certifications he explains that an organic certificate can’t guarantee everything.

‘It is also about trust, having an ethical mind and humanising a company. One of the things I try to teach the people in the factory is not the be scared and to be honest about how their work is going. I believe that you can solve 9 out of 10 problems by being transparent. In our culture we are taught that saying no is a bad thing. But people will respect each other and take care of each other more when you are transparent.’

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One of the brands we produce for is a Fair Trade USA member, meaning a 5% premium is paid on everything they buy from our factory. A committee, which is operated by workers decides where these premiums are spend on.

A few examples of what the premiums have been spent on so far are induction plates + utensils and monthly health kits.

If the premiums are spend in a good way this is also good for the business.  I used to receive about 10 applications a day from workers who coudn’t come to work because they needed to get cooking gas.’

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Rajlakshmi was the first company in metropolitan area of Delhi to offer this Fair Trade premium.

Rajlakshmi works together with Chetna Organic to ensure Fair Trade is practiced throughout the supply chain right down to the cotton farmers. Chetna Organic works with marginalised farmers from Maharashtra, Odessa and Andhra Pradesh towards improving their livelihoods and making farming a sustainable occupation.

Together with the Chetna project, Rajlakshmi has helped to set up many vocational training centres for women in rural farming villages. This educational training and support enables women become more financially secure.

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In addition to this Rajlakshmi has sponsored organic vegetable gardens in local schools, as well as contributing to more advanced school facilities such as science laboratories.

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BEHIND THE SEAMS: HIGH QUALITY ORGANIC COTTON KNITS MADE IN NEPAL

To see where the knitwear of the Studio JUX collections is made we visited their production partner in Kathmandu, where the kind manager Mr. Ram Singh showed us around the two factories. We spent the entire day with Tzering (the production manager of Studio JUX in Nepal) and Mr. Ram Singh, who patiently explained us everything we wanted to know about the production of knitted garments, organic cotton and the people working in the knitting factories. 

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All of those super soft organic cotton machine knits for the Studio JUX collections are made in the first factory we visited. We started on the ground floor with step 1; the knitting of the panels. The factory works with high tech knitting machines as well as hand knitting machines to knit the different panels of the garments. There are schedules for power network usage in Nepal, where certain areas can access the power network within certain time frames only. Therefore the factories need quite a bit of emergency power, which is provided more and more by solar panels in stead of batteries. Most of the factories we visited in Nepal and India are investing in sustainable energy. 

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When the panels are knitted on the high tech knitting machines only the yarns and patterns are manually put into the machines, whereas the hand knitting machines (mostly for the smaller orders and because they don’t need electricity!) are fully operated by people who move the machine from left to right and back again to knit the designed pattern. 

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For the next step we continued our way up to the first floor where the panels are linked together, a very precise job and this is where you see the amazing quality of the knitted Studio JUX pieces. It looks much nicer and creates a stronger product when the knitted panels are linked together and not sewn together.

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The next steps are the finishings by hand, the washing, ironing, and a thorough quality check of the product. The raw material wouldn’t actually need any washing because there aren’t any chemicals used. ‘The products are only washed because so many hands touch the product on it’s way to the end of the production chain.’ Mr. Ram Singh explains.

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The yarn which is used to produce those soft organic cotton fine knits in the Studio JUX collections is GOTS certified.

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We also spotted the beautiful jacquard knits for the FW16 delivery ready to be shipped. Mr. Ram Singh tells us about the amount of work and material that goes into producing a cardigan like this – for the fishbone cardigan in the Studio JUX FW16 collection 8kg per piece is needed!

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Mr. Ram Singh and his business partner run a second factory and this is where the hand knitted items of Studio JUX are made. We met a group of women gathered on the ground and chatting whilst hand knitting the more chunky styles. Often these hand knitted styles are made at the women’s homes. In this case the women pick up the material and design at the factory and finish the work at home so they can take care of their family at the same time. 

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It was great to visit the knitting factories in Kathmandu and to see the manufacturing process of knitted garments, learn more about organic cotton processing and chat about what makes a great quality knitted garment.

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Interesting fact is that for the manufacturing of a garment made of organic cotton a longer lead time is required. Why? Because the organic cotton is always last in line at the spinning mills where the raw material is spun into yarns, and these yarns are needed to produce the rest of the product. Organic cotton is last in line because unfortunately these are still always the least amounts that need to be processed and the bigger amounts of conventional cotton go first. Let’s call it growth pain, as we’re buying into more organic cotton we are slowly moving forward in line…..  

DESIGNER JITSKE ABOUT PRODUCING IN NEPAL AFTER THE EARTHQUAKE

While working on the SS16 collection, Nepal and the Studio JUX factory in Kathmandu was hit by a devastating earthquake. Designer Jitske Lundgren flew to Nepal shortly after she heard the news last April. “The first few weeks we were only doing relief work and provided people with basic necessities such as tents and food. After that we slowly started the production in the factory again and did half a day of production, half a day of relief work.”