As part of Fashion Revolution Week 2018, we interviewed one of our newest designers—Vildnis. Read the interview to get to know this ‘uncompromising’ brand, especially the lengths they go to, to ensure they know ‘who made my clothes’.
As a new brand working with the Gather&See team, we'd love to get to know you better. If we were to ask you 'Who made my Clothes?', who would we hear about making up the manufacturing team at Vildnis?
When we first launched the brand, we made a conscious decision to keep the production in one place, which means we can visit the factories more often. We chose Portugal partly because it is an EU country (and thus we can be sure that the factories adhere to EU labour laws and pay fair wages) and partly because we can transport the goods by road, keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible.
After a false start with a couple of factories that ran very late on deliveries (pushing our orders to the end of the queue due to us being a small brand) we are today working with just one factory in Portugal—a small family-run and Sedex certified business. I visit them every 3-4 months. Alongside this, we have just begun working with a factory in New Delhi, India. They are interested in sustainability and can offer us a variety of eco-friendly materials as well as processes. They also hold both Sedex and SA8000 certification, which gives us peace of mind in terms of working conditions. I have met with them a couple of times and love their passion for changing the working practises in the fashion industry. Given we are unable to ship the goods from this supplier by road, we are offsetting the carbon emissions instead.
You position yourself as an organisation with a triple bottom line - reporting on social and environmental targets as well as profit. Talk us through the social targets you're working towards and how you're achieving them.
Our main social targets is to ensure that everyone who is involved in producing our products is treated fair and well (including both humans and animals). When it comes to the workers, our goals include full visibility of the supply chain, ensuring good working conditions, and living wages. Short-term, we are concentrating on the manufacturing and warehousing link. Next will be the dye houses.
Regarding treating of animals in the supply chain, we have so far steered clear of any animal fibres. We are however introducing leather jackets made from recycled leather on our website (from another brand), and are looking at using recycled merino wool yarns in the future. We must make sure that the wool is certified non-mulesing (mulesing is the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech of a sheep to prevent flystrike).
You talk about the challenges of having full visibility of a supply chain, particularly when manufacturers outsource production. How do you overcome these challenges to ensure you know the conditions that your producers are working in?
A lot of factories outsource their production the minute they get busy. There is nothing wrong with outsourcing as such—it gives work to more people—but it is important to make sure that the outsourcers offer their workers the same working conditions and wages as the factory you employed to do the job. We have an ethical code of conduct that we ask the suppliers to sign, and every factory is audited. As a rule, we do not allow outsourcers and the factories we work with have guaranteed us that everything is produced in house. In the few instances where product has been outsourced, we have insisted on auditing the subcontractors as well. The best way of overcoming these issues is by partnering up with factories who feel equally strong about making a change and who shares the same values, and I am very proud of our current partners.
Every day is different at Vildnis! We are a very small business and there is always lots to do. A typical day for me involves contact with customers, suppliers in both countries, our UK warehouse and retailers interested in stocking our product. I am involved in everything: social media, design, production, sales, accounting, photoshoots etc. There is never a dull moment and I love it! Running your own business and feeling passionate about its cause is very satisfying.
What five words would you use to describe Vildnis?
Stylish, ethical, eco-friendly, uncompromising and unique