This week is Fashion Revolution Week. It marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh where over 1000 garment workers tragically lost their lives and many more were injured due to exploitative working conditions. The campaign is about putting faces to the fashion industry's workforce and has been a global phenomenon in terms of raising awareness of the perils of fast fashion. The impact of asking the all important question: “Who made my clothes?” created a tangible, relatable workforce, and held brands to account for the way their decisions impact upon both people and the planet.
This year, Fashion Revolution have asked us to go one step further. They are asking “Who made my fabric?” We are thrilled to announce that every one of our suppliers has taken part and so we wanted to take this opportunity, in the name of transparency, to tell you more about them and how Socko socks come to be. Although we fully understand and believe in the importance of transparency, the pros and cons of sharing supplier and manufacturer contact information is a topic that has come up many times within Socko’s small business community. This is because of the amount of time and research that goes into developing these leads, establishing contact and forming partnerships. To date, we have willingly shared information with anyone who has asked for it but have not proactively put it out there. That changes today as we put our insecurities of plagiarism aside in favour of the greater good.
Who made my socks?
We have worked with the same Leicestershire-based manufacturer since day one. We held firm on wanting to manufacture in the UK and J. Alex Swift was the factory willing to take a chance on an entrepreneur with a vision. We travelled up by train to have initial conversations in person and were humbled by the history and expertise of this family-run business. New product development is a risky expense for a manufacturing company and so we were keen to work within the boundaries of what they do best: Quality socks made with traditional methods.
With our first range of 500 pairs under our belt, we requested to spend a week at the factory, learning the skill of hand-linking. This is the process of manually threading each stitch of the toe seam of a sock to close the loop, so that the end is joined seamlessly. Their willingness to have us along, even though it could have impacted on the production time of the rest of the linkers, was an opportunity we are hugely grateful for. As are the chocs and Radio 2 over the hum of the machines.
Building our relationship in person and being less afraid to ask the basic questions has led to a collaborative relationship that we are proud of. As we anecdotally mention; anyone can send off for 20,000 pairs to an anonymous supplier on the other side of the world. But to know the names of the people who work at each stage of the production of your product, to be a short train ride away, to support the skills of local manufacturers, is a price that both we and our customers are willing to pay.
Who made my recycled cotton-polyester?
Our first few sock ranges were made with dead stock yarn from mills around the UK; yarn that would otherwise go to waste because it was the end of a production run of a larger item, or a colour that was no longer being used, or had a slight streaking effect but was still perfect for socks. However, we had ambitions to work with a recycled fibre and after further extensive research, discovered Usha Yarns in India. We were invited to a wedding in Delhi and took the opportunity to make a detour to visit Anurag and his team up in Chandigarh. The hospitality we received was incredible; how often do you share a lovingly prepared, home cooked packed lunch with the MD and Senior Marketing Manager of the suppliers you visit?
We were then taken on a tour to see where the cotton off-cuts are colour sorted, through to the shredded fibres and on to the large vats of freshly spun yarn, composed of the shredded cotton and polyester from PET bottles. This innovative combination of pre-consumer and post-consumer waste to make an innovative pre-dyed yarn that is GRS approved was what drew us to Usha Yarns, meeting the people and seeing the behind the scenes processes is what cemented this working relationship.
We continue to get regular updates and well wishes from Jai and the team and were thrilled by their willingness to take part in Fashion Revolution’s campaign with us this year.
Who made my regenerated nylon?
Many other recycled socks end there. However, all socks have a nylon component. It’s not seen but it shadows every stitch in the sock for added stretch and durability. To us, this man-made fibre needed a more sustainable solution and so even before our first range was in production, we were in talks with Aquafil to secure their regenerated nylon for our socks. ECONYL® deals exclusively with brands, rather than manufacturers and they work hard to protect their innovation and brand. This is why many of the brands using ECONYL® regenerated nylon are swimwear brands (where the product is almost 100% nylon) or large global brands.
It was a major coup to be able to secure ECONYL® for our socks and we are hugely grateful to them for sharing their pictures of their team with us for this year’s Fashion Revolution Week. As you can see, the regenerated nylon consists of ghost net and other nylon waste to create a fully recycled nylon with the same properties as virgin nylon. You don’t have to be as nerdy about fibre as we are to recognise the amazing science that has gone into making this circular fibre.
We look forward to sharing more about each of our suppliers, including suppliers of our packaging, in future posts. Any questions, feel free to pop them in the comments below.
If you have enjoyed learning more about our ethical sock brand and who we work with to ensure the rights of people and the rights of nature hold the power wherever business decisions are being made, please consider donating to Fashion Revolution below. 100% of your donation goes to charity.
To give support to the global movement, donate below: