Tell us about yourself – familial/personal story, education, and prior work.
I’m grateful to be in this an inspiring industry for over 12 years. My experiences range from working with a variety of companies to owning successful businesses. I had a company named ShortStak Boyswear, which was nominated for most innovative new company. After learning about the impact fashion has on the environment, I decided to start my own organic apparel line, called Pur Blankz Organics, which was nominated by Apparel Magazine as a top 40 innovator.
For the past 12 years, I’ve been visiting factories offshore, establishing relationships and understanding the manufacturing process. I’m lucky to work with numerous factories who all give me access to any part of there department to better understand their process.
Over the years many designers have approached me about the production process and how to go about manufacturing. Source my Garment was created to help designer entrepreneurs manufacture overseas, due to many roadblocks that are faced entering offshore manufacturing. My mission is also to help grow smaller factories that are equally responsible. I aim to help both factories and businesses grow and build relationships.
What is the importance of ethical fashion to you?
Ethics is the bottom line; without values a business is empty and the products lacks the right “energy” to succeed.
I spent a lot of time working with the factories overseas. The Rana Plaza tragedy put a focus on transparency. There are a lot of issues with factories. But There are also factories doing good things, not all are bad. I help build relationships. That’s the most important part about ethical manufacturing and transparency.
My mission is to help improve the work-life workers overseas. Manufacturing garments is an art and both skill and hard work go into every pieces that is made; regardless of quantity. Currently Source My Garment is working on a platform to help people managing and working with factories offshore.
What is the importance of sustainable fashion to you?
Source My Garment is a social enterprise; balancing profit and both helping workers offshore and caring about the environment. We help clients build products with minimal impact.
What is Source My Garment?
Source My Garment businesses manage and guide the process of responsibly manufacturing any product made from fabric. We help source, guide manufacturing overseas and deliver your products to your door.
What makes Source My Garment unique?
There’s not a lot of people who understand both ends of the process. I have been on both sides of the spectrum, founded companies and understand the challenges designer face. I also work very closely with factories and also know the struggles they face. Knowing both sides we truly help to grow both sides of the business and help build bridges. I feel like I’m a mediator with helping both parties achieve success.
With respect to building the relationship between producers and yourself, how does one develop that relationship?
The biggest thing north Americans businesses need to understand is that when your working with a factory it is no different than hiring an accountant. It’s a vetting process and relationships are built on building trust. You should pick up the phone and talk to factory, or Skype if you can’t go see them.
Any factory that is taking an order based on minimum quantities is doing that buyer a favor If you’re working on minimums, the factory is only 30% efficient. They are not making as much as they could; so ultimately they are doing the order in hopes the quantities will grow.
They want to start understanding the product, what your quality standards are, and it makes the process easier in the long run. Getting to know them takes time; just like any other relationship.
What is the greatest challenge in founding a business?
I feel like there are so many challenges start-ups face. One if the big ones that stand out is keeping up the pace and cyclical nature of fashion is very difficult; especially if your doing it solo. Start-up continually feel they need to reinvent the wheel each season; but this isn’t necessarily the case. People don’t realize big corporations use the same pattern, and typically only changing material, in order to reduce costs and speed up the process.
Designers don’t realize the amount of work it takes to create one style and the amount of time. To keep up with the cycle, it is so hard. By the time you’ve shipped your first order, you should be placing your next order so you don’t run out of stock.
It’s competing in a well-dominated, long-dominated market. One of the difficulties is adapting to the system in place. There’s economic inertia
Yea! Definitely, the manufacturing process takes a long time as well. Once everyone is done with the product development, they want products right away, but that’s another ball game as well.
There’s sourcing from the factories end. They’re procuring the fibre, weaving it, dyeing it, and so on. That takes a lot of time. And to produce something of quality also takes time.
What other work are you involved in at this point in time?
SMG is building Product Lifecycle Management platform which guides SME’s through the process of responsible manufacturing. Due to the increasing demand for SMG services; it has brought about the idea to scale and automate their process with a Saas (Software as a Service) model. This is a first of its kind platform based on their trade secret. The end to end solution, includes action calendars, workflow charts, approval features, library resources, file management systems and logistics. Based on fair trade values, we enable businesses to transparently collaborate with factories streamlining the offshore manufacturing process. We are currently building our prototype and are looking for investors.
I am also working on a book called The Entrepreneurs Guide to offshore Garment Manufacturing. The Offshore manufacturing process seems to be somewhat of a mystery to many. If you Google this stuff, it’s not there. It’s not taught in the schools. I don’t know how people are going to be able to work with offshore manufacturing with that restriction in knowledge. So, that’s why I’m working on the book.
(Laughs) What meaning or personal fulfillment does this work bring for you?
I feel like this will help many people who are afraid to work offshore and do not know how to build ethical and fair trade products. The more I help educate businesses, the more fair trade products will be out there. Consumers will then be able to access fair trade a lot easier.
With regard to ethical and sustainable fashion companies, what’s the importance of them now? In other words, if you take the things that you’ve been saying in addition to the timeliness of the global problems such as climate change, pollution, micro-plastics in the oceans, and so on, then companies with ethical and sustainable aims can make a small effect. And if multiplied over businesses, it might make a moderate, reasonable impact.
It will help improve peoples lives and the environment. We have more power. I feel like the government is leaving it to businesses because I don’t feel like they are doing as much as they could be doing.
I feel like this is something that we can control if we create a product. We can do this in an ethical and sustainable way. We can help give back as well.
Any feelings or thoughts in conclusion?
I have lots to say. (Laughs)
Start ups are afraid to work with offshore manufacturers because they are afraid that they going to get bad products that and are unethical. People don’t ever hear the factory sides of the story. They have a side to their story too.
Everyday, large corporations order garments and then default on their payments. They are expecting net terms and not even paying retainers (or 50% deposit – a fair trade policy) to procure fabrics and help pay workers. How are factories going to take thousands of dollars of orders and not have any funds to pay for workers or materials over at least a 3-month period? It makes no sense and is extremely unethical.
Large corporations are putting too much pressure on factories as well. They want something two cents cheaper and decide to change factories. This screws the factory because they’ve invested in the machinery, kept the space on the production floor to them, and invested a lot of time understanding the buyer’s standards.
What I want people to know is that there are two sides to the story, it is rare that a factory will go to all of that trouble to ship a bad product. It is so counterproductive. Why would anyone do that? 9/10 times any factory that is accused of shipping bad product will ask the buyer to return it’s they can replace it. Many reasons, including poor communication can cause issues. But business don’t want to return the products; they just put the blame on them.
I don’t think the factory side of the story gets told.
Thank you for your time, Adila.