When we buy our clothes, what do we look for? Colour, quality, material, shape, detail, and price are the first things that spring to mind.
Typically, the last thing we think when we pick pieces are questions like ‘Who made this? How was this made? Where did this actually come from?’
The story of how some high street stores make their clothes can often be something the shopper tries to push to the back of their mind.
We’ve all heard the horror stories – the sweatshop factories in Asia where workers are pushed hard hours for less than minimum wage to make mainstream fashion items. But how much do we actually know about the rest of fashion production?
Brothers We Stand is encouraging not only customers – but also the entire fashion industry – to take on this discussion.
Founded by Jonathan Mitchell, the online website curates ethical, sustainable and socially friendly menswear. Think ASOS for the pro-planet, pro-fashion male.
Gathering global brands, alongside their own backbone collection, Brothers We Stand sells stylish men’s pieces which are all typically made from recyclable items and environmentally sustainable energy sources like wind farms.
Brothers We Stand also place emphasis on social responsibility, and buying from brands that have fair working conditions.
Mitchell explains that historically there’s been a disregard for the people who make our clothes. “The general issue in the fashion industry is that everything is outsourced. Brands don’t have their own factories and they outsource, and in a sense, pass the responsibility on to whoever owns the factory. And then all sorts of things happen in the factories.
“Brands essentially lose control over their supply chains; they don’t select the factories carefully enough. It seems like quite a big portion of the managers just do it to make money. They tread all over the workers, making them work long hours into the night, [assign them] really harsh deadlines and pay them horrible wages. It is really awful.”
Brothers We Stand stock and support brands like Rella who have bought their own production factory and hand picked their employees, in an effort to maintain control over the supply chain.
Mitchell assures that brands must meet strict criteria to make it onto the site and the criteria can be summed up as: design, quality, and game changing ethics.
“Every product will have a different game changing aspect to it. Some of them will be how the workers are treated. For example, we sell these bags that are made in La Paz in Bolivia from small artisan, family based groups that are really respected and treated well. That’s game changing from when things are made in a big factory and people don’t really know what’s going on. Every product has got to have good design and quality – it has to be well made.”
Ecological and sustainable alternatives to creating fashion are slowly but surely making their presence known on our high streets and in our online boutiques.
Some designers are using bamboo as material alternatives, meanwhile scientists are developing bacteria dye to colour our clothes.
Head of communications at Brothers We Stand, Ashley Finlayson, explains that every item sold on the website displays a footprint: information explaining the social and environmental effects of producing it.
She says this encourages not only consumers, but also other brands to take on the same initiative.
Large brands like Alexander McQueen and Puma have begun to adopt sustainable production techniques, but the fashion industry as a whole still have a long way to go to make a significant positive impact on our planet.
Finlayson says Brothers We Stand take advantage of social media to communicate their message. “A big focus for us has been getting the word out. It’s really been social media that’s been fueling our growth. It’s great because you can connect to so many people, doing so many different things. We are in this whole future fashion movement. Fashion is really changing, so for us, it’s really about being apart of a bigger conversation, and social media lets us do that.”
As for the future of Brothers We Stand, the team hopes to expand to physical spaces such as high street pop up shops, and work with software like electronic sizing (eSizing), allowing online customers to pick their clothing size through garment measurements captured by webcam.
As they continue to expand, they hope to communicate to the rest of the fashion industry that it is really quite simple to consider people and the planet when creating their products.
Images courtesy of: Brothers We Stand