Compromises in design

Posted on October 27 2016

Last month I discovered that I can no longer buy fabric made from New Zealand wool by the metre.  For each colour the minimum order is now 200 metres of fabric. Since ElementAll offers a very small number of garments in a wide range of colours, and using local fabric and services is important to me, this has provoked some serious soul searching about what sustainability means to me!

The supply chain for apparel is notoriously unsustainable.  A single garment may be made in several countries leaving unfairly treated workers and environmental pollution in its wake, only to be bought by a customer for $10, worn twice and end up in landfill. I've worked hard to design a product which is the antithesis of this. Made from a natural fibre, produced as locally as possible, designed to be timeless and durable and require less laundering. Yet it's by no means perfect, design is full of compromises. 

In my ideal world the merino sheep would graze down the road and neighbours would offer world class facilities to scour, dye, spin, knit, cut and sew the wool into beautiful, classic garments. However for many reasons this is neither practical or possible.

I've spoken to alternative New Zealand suppliers and investigated alternative business models. One possibility was using PledgeMe to crowdfund the money required to purchase the larger quantities of fabric. However my experience and intuition tell me that the range of colours is a big part of what makes ElementAll work and trying to sell a large number of garments in a single colour is unlikely to be successful.

What I can do, is continue to buy beautiful, traceable fabric made from Australasian ZQ fibre from The Fabric Store, a company that has impressed me with its care and responsibility. 

I believe, this is the best option available right now. I'll continue to ask questions of my suppliers and look for ways I can make this business increasingly environmentally and socially responsible, but for now I take to heart feedback from customers telling me that they love the care and thought which is already going into the garments.

(Note: check out this article and embedded video on the fashion industry, its supply chain and advice for consumers wanting to make mindful choices).


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