As our team is reminded time & time again - the industry we're in is called SLOW fashion for a reason! Our Director of Guatemalan Production, Melissa, just spent 2 weeks with our Guatemala team & shared story after story about the necessity of pauses in the production process. Our latest shipment from our Ethiopia team is now 2 months late with news of more delays.
So why is production so slow & why would we continue to choose to have our collections made this way?
I'm going to let you take a quick peek behind the scenes at what makes production slow & why we continue on:
1.) Production is slow because we recognize that we're working with people, not machines.
When we switch fabric colors from one season to the next, our seamstresses approach every product as if they've never made it before. This past transition to beginning to work on our Fall/Winter Collection, the seamstresses kept asking for photos of the products so they could know what the finished piece looked like. It took some convincing for them to believe that they were making the samples that we'd be photographing for them to refer to! The same Fold Over Clutch, with the same fabric pattern, but in natural grays, black, & a pop of emerald (Fall/Winter Spoiler Alert!) felt 100% new.
While this added a couple of days to the season shift that we weren't expecting, our team patiently gave the seamstresses the time & encouragement they needed to make the new samples.
You see, one of our seamstresses used to work in a garment factory & we can only assume that she has flashbacks to her time there with the impossible workload expectations that were put upon her when she sees something that feels new & scary. Our other seamstress never had the opportunity to learn how to read & memorizes all of the sewing steps. With such a limited education, it's really incredible how very much they are able to accomplish!
Because we know the stories of our seamstresses, we can adjust & accommodate to their individual needs during production - which you can imagine is a slow process across each of the different groups of women we partner with across Guatemala.
2.) Production is slow because we're working with finicky processes that are affected by the climate.
Our team has a love / hate relationship with botanical dyes! Right when our expert dyer got the Fall/Winter Collection colors nailed down perfectly, the rainy season began a bit earlier than expected & the process had to be started all over again. A longer dry time due to the incessant humidity & cloud coverage means a different ratio of bark or flowers is needed because it completely changes the final color.
Because our weavers work from their homes - which is a huge advantage for the women as they can care for their children while earning an income - there isn't climate control. The Guatemalan rainy season is HUMID & wow! humidity can really slow down the hand weaving process as the threads become almost sticky.
3.) Production is slow because our teams don't cut corners.
We could purchase thread at a local Guatemalan market instead of partnering with a local co-op of women to hand spin & hand botanically dye thread. The colors would be WAY more predictable & we'd be able to re-order the same colors in the middle of a season not to mention we'd be paying half the price. But that would mean that we wouldn't know what chemicals were in the dyes used, how the excess dye was disposed of, or how the workers were treated. We don't cut corners!
We could have replaced the higher quality, long-lasting metal zippers in our Ethiopia Collection with plastic ones when the metal zippers we ordered got stuck in Thailand. But that would mean that you would get less wear out of your handbag. We don't cut corners!
We could choose not to line our Guatemalan handbags & clutches with hand-woven Guatemalan fabric & purchase it pre-made in the markets. But that would mean that we don't know if those weaving the fabric were paid a fair wage under positive working conditions. We don't cut corners!
We could purchase pre-made tassels to add to our bags. But that would mean that we would have excess leather waste (we're working to get to zero waste over the next few seasons - hello leather earrings...!) & we wouldn't be able to offer an additional part-time job to one of our seamstress's daughter who is working on saving enough money to continue her education. We don't cut corners!
What do you think? Do you agree with us that it's worth it to be part of the Slow Fashion movement? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!