From cotton fields in India, to an office in New Zealand, Samantha Jones can track her clothing every step of the way.
The founder of ethical clothing brand Little Yellow Bird believes consumers want to know where their clothes come from, although many also want them cheap.
“In some countries 12-year-old kids are making your clothing for less than a dollar a day – that’s not a nice feeling,” Jones said.
“I don’t think anyone wants that to exist, but it’s just that consumers’ dilemma of wanting things to be made ethically, but also wanting things cheap, and you can’t really get both, so it is a decision.”
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Three years ago, when Jones was part of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, she had no choice over clothing.
When she left to take a job in the corporate sector, she found there was nothing available in the fair trade or organic market for business attire.
It was at that point she decided to launch her own clothing line.
Starting with women’s business shirts, the company expanded to men’s shirts, then quickly turned into a uniform company.
Little Yellow Bird now has 50 New Zealand clients including Wellington Zoo, SAFE, and the Wellington Chocolate Factory.
Jones just secured a contract to make the uniforms for employees working at sustainable building products department stores across the US.
All her clothing was manufactured in India by people who had good working conditions, she said.
“We not only care about the factories that manufacture the clothing, but also all of the different steps in the process, right back to the cotton farmers.
“Before we even started working in India, I worked in our original factory for a month to get it started, and to make sure we were happy with the conditions.”
Jones would not buy an item of clothing without looking at the tag to see where it was made, she said.
While some established fashion brands were taking a positive stance on ethical working conditions, many had ethical policies on their websites which revealed very little, she said.
“If you actually read their policy it will say things like, ‘We can’t tell you where our factories are because it’s commercial in confidence’ and ‘We can’t track where our cotton comes from because it’s too difficult’ and ‘We don’t employ anyone under the age of 14’, but then they present themselves as a really great brand, and those three things, to me, are deal-breakers.
“We are aiming to publish our factory list later this year, but if a customer comes and asks me, I can tell them, and I do.”
Consumer demands for ethical clothing were the only way fashion giants would change, she said.