Well, who would've thought the word "COVID" would become part of our daily vocab? It has become such a domino virus impacting everybody on a worldwide scale.
For those of you who are unaware, my little brand baby is based in Melbourne, Australia. We have been through different stages of lockdown continuously since March. Our makers are based in China; it has been a tough time for them too, as they experienced forced closures.
Our factory's tight-knit teams were lucky enough to keep their jobs and wait it out, but upon re-opening they had to make up for the loss of business, external order cancellations and the hike in prices from all of the steps in their own supply chain (think fabric, dye, printing, trims and more). Everybody trying to make up for lost business and stay afloat.
The items I had been developing and perfecting with my Chinese team for months were now costing more than double the price of the original quote pre-COVID. I was left to make a very difficult decision; to either abandon my makers for a more financially viable alternative, or cop a further loss of business profit for 2020.
We've been in communication a lot during these times. Nobody wants to give up on their team members when adversity strikes; my makers have their own families and employees to support. This is one of the great things about working with a small-scale maker and being a small-scale business; relationships are a lot closer with all team members.
On the back of a lot of pensive pros and cons lists, I sent some formal questions to my makers to formally check in on them and their staff and this really helped me make the decision to stand by them through this tough time, despite the financial risks. I wanted to share this + a few formalities that may help educate you on the integrity of our garments and processes.
Meg: IS THE FACTORY CERTIFIED? IF SO, WITH WHAT CERTIFICATION?
Factory: Yes, we have a BSCI certificate.
BSCI means” Business Social Compliance Initiative”, which is the most important certificate for the compliance apparel industry. The Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) is a leading supply chain management system that supports companies to drive social compliance and improvements within the factories and farms in their global supply chains.
Members involved in BSCI are retail, trade, and manufacturing companies actively participating in the auditing and integration of suppliers into the BSCI qualification and auditing program. To maintain this certificate we have factory audits twice a year.
Pictured above - The sample room where I spend most of my time with the head pattern maker.
M: IS EVERYONE PAID AWARD WAGES?
F: Yes, we pride ourselves on paying all workers above award/industry standard wages in China. This helps ensure our teams' loyalty to working for our company and creating great rapport among staff.
M: WHAT ARE YOUR WEEKLY WORKING HOURS?
F: Monday - Friday 9-5PM.
Occasionally staff work Saturdays for a half day.
Sundays are for resting and family in China.
We often have a cooked lunch together for one hour per day in our lunch dining room. This is prepared and cooked for us by our factory chef.
Pictured above - The kitchen / dining space where everyone can share a cooked lunch if they'd like to. They always have hot Chinese tea and black coffee brewing.
M: LOWEST AGE OF A WORKER? OLDEST AGE?
F: The youngest worker we employ is 25 years old. The oldest is 65 years old (he never wants to retire).
M: % OF STAFF WHO HAVE WORKED WITH YOU FOR GREATER THAN 2 YEARS?
F: Over 75% off our staff have worked with us for over 2 years.
M: YEARS IN THE BUSINESS?
F: We have been in the garment manufacturing business for over 20 years.
M: HAS / HOW HAS COVID 19 AFFECTED YOU?
F: The pricing and availability of fabrics, trims and bulk orders has severely impacted us. Some of our biggest clients are European, American and Australian with many tentative orders being cancelled.
We prioritise the health and well being of our staff and are doing our best to keep everybody happy and employed whilst maintaining safe social distancing.
M: HAS / HOW HAS COVID 19 AFFECTED YOUR SUPPLIERS?
F: Many fabrics, trims, printing, dyeing and freight suppliers have closed/forced to rise their pricing. This is due to multiple cancellations of orders as a result of a lack of funding and impossible logistical reasons.
Many timelines could not be met for suppliers, manufacturers, brands and wholesalers so the entire supply chain has been effected.
This has caused lack of cash flow, income stability and lack of ability to plan and prepare for the future.
We keep supporting one another the best we can.
Pictured above - A photo the factory owner Wallace sent me. He has been growing these sunflowers outside his office window.
Summer is arriving in China. He says to me it is time for everything to grow again and the opportunity for a new beginning.
This made me smile.
2020 became more about adaptation, relationships, trust and loyalty as a business and researching and implementing coping mechanisms of how to be a stable human being running a business in 2020 - more than I could ever imagine.
I usually spend at least 2 months of the year in China working alongside our makers; developing the perfect fits, sourcing the perfect trims and ensuring our standards of quality and responsibility are adhered to. When not in the factory, everything is agreed upon and celebrated over yum cha and plenty of red wine cheer-sing.
Pictured above - My humble team in China and myself last Winter 2019.
It has been a much lengthier process this year and delays have occurred from fabric suppliers through to postage and freight services on both ends and of course customs. Who says slowing down isn't good though?
On the lighter, more positive side, working remotely has facilitated time to try, wear, wash, perfect, change and really eliminate anything that was too costly, not comfortable, and if myself and my friends weren't wanting to wear it at least 80% of our waking hours then it got culled too.
Without my feet on the ground there, the development process has involved back and forth-ing with my factory. This was a little tricky as the communication and translation/time difference and time effectiveness is not so good via email and the lack of tactility. The 2 hour time difference is trickier to manage than you think!
Pictured above - The most frequently typed sentence in my work email inbox.
I hope the above gives you a bit of an insight into 2020 for us, our brand, and most importantly our makers. Also to help you understand why we are releasing only 3 perfect products at a time.
We are offering the new 3 piece collection online for you to pre-order on August the 9th.
This helps pay for these products and our makers as cash flow is tight. This also helps us gauge how many units of each style and size to order and prevents wastage and over ordering.
We are after-all, a brand producing limited edition pieces in very small runs.
If you ever have any other questions, want us to publish an article about something in particular, want to let us know what you think?
You're so very welcome to email us about anything really;