In our last post, we explored alternative production practices that are reducing the fashion industry’s environmental footprint. This week, we are tackling a related and equally heated topic – fair labour and working conditions in denim manufacturing.
Issues such as workers' rights, fair wages, safe and hygienic working environments (synthetic dyes and heavy metals aren’t super human-friendly substances) can be a recurring problem in parts of Asia and Africa where a lot of mass production takes place. There are a few brands that have brought production closer to home to ensure that the quality of the product and the working conditions remain paramount.
The label “Made in America” has the connotation of using a more artisan, fairly produced and traded type of manufacturing. But this ethos doesn’t belong on just one continent. One pristine example of responsible craftsmanship outside of the Americas comes from the up-and-coming workshop, Doublewood Denim. We recently featured their collaboration with the IDC Brand.
“Made in China” has its nefarious pop-culture reputation, but Doublewood Denim is trying to break that stereotype. While the founding members all currently reside in San Francisco, they have chosen to embrace rather than stray, from their Chinese roots. All production is done in co-owner Jade Lam’s family-owned factory in Zhongshan City in Southern China. “Responsibly made in China” is emblazoned proudly on every pair of Doublewood denim.
Lam deconstructed the meaning behind the tag; “It’s a family-owned factory with over 30 years experience. From this factory, we have selected ten veterans to be the tailors for Doublewood Denim. Each tailor makes a maximum of three pairs a day. These are tailor-made, we don’t call these people factory workers.”
Doublewood sources their fabric from Kaihara Mills in Japan (used by brands such as Evisu, Uniqlo, and Baldwin) and delivers the denim to their factory in Zhongshan. Rivet, zipper, leather and canvas suppliers are contacted, then negotiations begin. The prototypes are sewn together in San Francisco, then shipped to Zhongshan for evaluation. It usually takes two to three prototypes before the Doublewood teams in the US and China are ready to move forward with full production. Batch manufacturing takes place in Zhongshan before being shipped to the U.S. for denim-heads to enjoy. We at Dutil. put in an order for everyone up here in Canada too. You’re welcome.
There is a high degree of trust that Doublewood’s team of tailors thrive on. Lam explains, “We hand-pick our tailors, who on average have a minimum of 20 years experience in denim production. They have been working with us for so long, and if we weren’t treating them well they wouldn’t stay. The city is known for clothing manufacturing, so there’s always competition if we weren’t looking after them.” The level of cooperation and quality control that takes place in Doublewood Denim is inspirational for brands that feel the divide between designers and overseas manufacturers. Doublewood Denim stands firmly on a foundation of trust, community, and collaboration.
– James Davidson