The Devil is in the Details
- A behind the scenes look into the production process of fair trade fashion -
When talking about fair trade fashion words, the most common words said are ethical standards, empowerment, artisans, sustainable, etc.… which are all fair (pun intended) and good, however do we really know what these words even mean? Do we really understand what fair trade fashion is? All the extra steps and time people take when creating the garments we wear? The answer is no, we really do not. We know that fair trade fashion supports and empowers workers through fair wages and ethical working standards, but let's get real, we are not sure what all this encompasses. Hopefully, we are about to change that. This blog will give you a step-by-step look at the creation/production process in making a large order (5,000 to be exact), of fair trade aprons Liz Alig made from recycled men’s button down shirts.
1. Shirt Sorting
The first step in creating these aprons was sorting the men’s dress shirts that would be used as fabric from the Goodwill Outlet (who knew there was a Goodwill Outlet?!). The shirts were sold in bulk to us at twenty cents per pound in huge, wrapped boxes. The company we were selling these aprons to wanted specific colors of shirts to be used for the aprons, so this meant we had to sort through thousands of shirts to find these certain colors. Two of the cooperatives we were using to make the shirts already had access to men’s dress shirts, so we only had to provide shirts for the third cooperative. It took sorting through 15,000 shirts to find around 7,000 shirts that could be used to be the aprons.
Sorting 15,000 shirts= 8 hours
2. Shirts created in Haiti, Ghana, And Honduras
The sorted shirts are then sent to several of the cooperatives we work with in countries like Nou Hope in Haiti, Global Mamas in Ghana, and Mi Esperenza in Honduras. Dilcia (photo below) is one of the women from Honduras who helps cut the shirts into pattern pieces for the aprons, which requires three shirts to make. Now the women who make them do not just pull three random shirts from a large pile; no, they take extra time in selecting corresponding colors (similar blues) and patterns (plaid with plaid) for the apron design. If this was a fast fashion company, this extra step would not be needed since they would have a consistent choice of fabrics that were mass produced, instead of recycled.
Making 5,000 aprons=2.5 months (1,800 hours)
3. Sewing, Trimming, Tagging, and Folding
After the aprons were completed, they were sent back to our studio. Around 2,000 of the aprons still needed a Liz Alig tag that stated which woman and country made it, so this meant we had to hand sew all of these tags on. Once the sewing was complete, we had to trim any extra thread that was out of place as well as unraveling. Before the aprons could be packaged and shipped out, we had to place yet another Liz Alig tag on them that included a description of the company. Finally, the aprons could be placed in the package and put in a box to be shipped to the company.
Sewing and trimming= 200 hours
100 aprons folded and tagged = 1 hour
5,000/100= 50 hours of folding and tagging
TOTAL PRODUCTION HOURS: 2,058
As you can see there is so much more that goes into fair trade than we know. Hopefully, after reading this blog you grow an even deeper appreciation for all of the small, beautiful details, and extra time fair trade workers put into your garments. It is these details that make fair trade fashion worth every penny, especially when it means so much to those who create it.