FAIRNESS – If you look up the word fairness in the good old dictionary, you get the following answer: Fairness, the [noun]: "decent behaviour; just, honest attitude toward other people." That's the theory. Unfortunately, the situation in the textile industry is different: forced and child labour, inhumane working hours (16-18 hours are not uncommon, for more information: Clean Clothes), catastrophic safety standards and a starvation wage are commonplace. So you can bury your head in the sand in view of these conditions and come up with phrases like: "I can't change anything anyway" or roll up your sleeves and address the issue! Fair trade is the motto. Since you have landed on this page, we dare to suggest that you belong to the second sort: YES, we're happy to make your acquaintance.
Together we can change the world!
So, since you can tell a lot when the day is long and you're surely very interested to find out what we do differently from the others and what fair trade means, you'll get the facts here: FAIR means the following to us: In the past we produced in a Fairtrade & GOTS certified factory in India (older collections) and today we produce under fair trade conditions locally at our premises in Germany and other countries in Europe. Both variants have their bright and dark sides. There is no one PERFECT variant, this has been taught to us over the last few years.
Production in India:
Reasons for that: a large part of the population of India lives in great poverty. Since India is the second largest cotton-growing country, it makes sense to produce directly there and improve the situation of workers and smallholders. Fair trade enables above-average cotton prices and thus the cotton farmers who produce for us have the chance to send their children to school. After all, education is an important step on the way out of poverty.
On behalf of GOTS and Fairtrade, independent inspectors check at regular intervals on site whether social standards are adhered to. Fairtrade is primarily concerned with the cultivation of organic cotton, and GOTS is responsible for the subsequent production steps.
Fairtrade ensures that farmers can sell their cotton at a fixed minimum price so that they can meet the costs of sustainable cultivation. This minimum price depends on the quality of the fibres and is about 44-64 cents per kilogram in India. If it happens that the local market price is above the Fairtrade minimum price, the higher price must be paid. The organic cotton farmers also benefit from a Fairtrade premium of 5 cents per kilogram, which comes directly from the buyers of the organic cotton and is paid out via Fairtrade to the producer cooperatives. Producer cooperatives are mostly small family farms or democratically run organisations of organic cotton farmers. The special feature of this bonus is that it is invested in community projects such as the construction of a school or a well.
On request, farmers can also pre-finance their harvest, in which case they receive 60% of the contract price paid in advance. The Fairtrade standards mainly refer to the cultivation of organic cotton. In addition, Fairtrade requires companies in the downstream supply chain (printing works, dyeing works, ready-made clothing, etc.) to provide proof of compliance with the ILO fundamental rights at work. Fairtrade is also in the process of developing new standards that will affect the entire supply chain. They are expected to be introduced in 2016. Learn more about it here. Fairtrade certification is therefore not yet fully developed with regard to the supply chain for organic cotton production.
This is where the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) comes in.
GOTS is a worldwide standard for the processing of textiles made from biologically produced natural fibres. They cover the entire production and supply chain of natural fibres: yarn production, weaving, textile processing, clothing, packaging, labelling, export, import and distribution. GOTS lays down strict requirements for health issues (e.g. health compatibility for consumers), environmental issues (e.g. waste water treatment) and social standards (e.g. working conditions for seamstresses). Both Fairtrade and GOTS follow the ILO fundamental rights at work with regard to their social standards:
Free choice of employment: forced labour and slavery are forbidden!
Freedom of association and collective bargaining: employees may join and form a trade union. They have a right to negotiate the terms of their employment contracts.
Safe and hygienic working conditions: a safe and hygienic working environment is mandatory. This includes working in factories with adequate protective clothing and training in health and safety.
Prohibition of child labour: children and adolescents must have completed the required school education before they can start working full-time. The minimum entry age is 15 years. Young people are not allowed to work at night or under dangerous conditions.
Minimum wage: the wage should be at least high enough to meet basic needs. In addition, it must not be lower than the national minimum wage.
Regulated working hours: you don't slave away day and night in fair trade clothes. The maximum working time shall not exceed that laid down in the national laws in force. Apart from that, the workers have at least one day off per week. No more than 48 hours may be worked per working week. Overtime is voluntary, but must not exceed 12 hours a week and must be paid higher.
No discrimination: origin, gender, religion, skin colour, political inclination, nationality and position in society must not play a role in the treatment of employees – regardless of whether it concerns new recruits, salaries, promotions, pensions or other aspects of the employment relationship.
Regular employment: the employment relationship is based on the national legal basis. Non-compliant contractual clauses are prohibited.
Prohibition of rough or inhuman treatment: any form of inhuman treatment in the workplace – be it violence, sexual harassment or threats – is strictly prohibited. Of course, there are other good initiatives that guarantee fair trade conditions.
One example is the Fair Trade pioneers of Gepa, whose seal of the same name identifies products that meet the criteria of Fair Trade.
To think about:
In order to achieve good quality and punctual delivery, you have to be on site during the entire production process and swing the... errr whip! Maybe this isn't the best thing to write on the fair trade page, but we want to tell you the unvarnished truth. Without constantly pushing the producers, the summer collection would probably only be available in winter and the quality would not be what we as sustainable consumers would imagine.
In Kolkata (India) there is exactly one producer who produces according to Fairtrade and GOTS guidelines. A seamstress in the Fairtrade factory earns about 150 € per month. In a conventional factory he/she would only get 100 €, which means less money with more work, more stress and lousy safety standards. Now the fair producer has about 350 seamstresses under contract. In a megacity like Kolkata, however, there are tens of thousands of seamstresses who would like a job in the Fairtrade company. This sometimes leads to a tussle over the better paid and more comfortable job. If you had to experience it live, you might have some doubts about whether everything you do is right. Even if the workers in a fair textile production get more money, they are still poor people. We shouldn't fool ourselves! Fair trade is the best thing we can do in the here and now for our fellow human beings, but certainly not the mother of all solutions. The economic relationships in the world are too complex for this. One solution might be the equilibrium project... but I digress.
The fact is that we don't like the whip-swinging so much and that's why we don't produce any more in India at the moment. But you can still find products from our older collections in our online shop – Made in India.
Germany and Europe
Reasons for that: We have expanded our production in Istanbul and Croatia and guarantee that it will be to our taste there: fair & sustainable. Compared to other garment factories in Eastern Europe and the provinces of Turkey, our production sites are among the best in terms of labour standards. Since there are usually only very large Fairtrade producers in Asia, a small label with a small production volume often has a bad hand in finding a producer at all and being taken seriously.
In Europe, production can be described as a "meeting at eye level" – our producers are small companies like us. Thus we mutually benefit from each other. In production in Germany and Europe, there are usually few rejects, as the people working there are well trained. As a sustainable company, this naturally also plays a major role for us.
Of course, the CO2 footprint is also much smaller than the one we left in India. As the distances are "relatively" short: cotton production in Turkey and Greece, manufacturing in Croatia, Turkey or the Swabian Alb and finally sales throughout Germany. Another advantage is the shorter distance to the producers: when things go wrong, you're right on the spot. Local business is a great thing. We have had great experiences with production in Germany in terms of quality, reliability and capability. However, this also has its price, which is not easy for a small company to raise. However, we are convinced that not only the people in production, but also you as a consumer can benefit from this fair trade.
Trade fairs on the subject of fair trade: