It’s currently a luxury if a brand tells you exactly how, where and with what their products are made. But, transparency and traceability are the first steps towards a sustainable supply chain. And once you start tracing things back, you can start to see why solid relationships with suppliers will help you create a stable and fair system. Because the power is in the chain! It works both ways and we rely on one another to become stronger and better. As Kuyichi puts it “The more we work together, the stronger the chain will become.” So, how do we work with suppliers to ensure our choices positively affect our supply chain counterparts? I asked Zoé Daemen, Sustainability Manager at Kuyichi, to tell me a story about why “partnerships” are so important to them and their suppliers, and how working together has created a positive outcome for all parties:
In the end of 2017 we started to focus more and more on the improvements of our wash recipes. It was at this time we started working with the Environmental Impact Measuring tool of Jeanologia. This tool gives us insights in the steps of the washing process of a jeans and gives a score on energy, water, chemical and worker impact. To make a jeans look ‘worn in’ it often takes 10 washing steps or more, for instance, rinse washes, tumble drying, laser or sprays. The lighter the colour of the jeans, the more steps are often involved. The challenge ahead with our supplier was to make this process as efficient as possible with the lowest environmental impact. We focused on eliminating hazardous processes like stone washes and eliminating certain chemicals. Instead we chose low impact chemicals or different techniques, like laser and ozone. The problem we faced is that working with low impact chemicals was very new. The people who work in the laundry are used to working with the conventional chemicals and the new substitutes or new machines work in a totally different way. So you have to do trials and testing, over and over until the workers can use the new methods, like they can do with the conventional ones. But these things can go wrong as well.
One time we had jeans that actually faded in sunlight, because it was not fixated enough. Or it took a couple of trials before a wash looked beautiful. We’ve received some awful ugly ones. With our comments and suggestions and their work and knowledge we always get where we want to go, but it’s still sometimes a struggle. We keep challenging each other to improve every time. Not only to reduce the environmental impact on water, energy and chemicals, but also to make it safer for the workers as well.
“We’re happy that together with our suppliers we continue to test out new innovations in denim washing. This way we make it easier for other brands at the same suppliers to make the switch as well. With their hard work and drive to improve and our determination to do it better we hope to establish a new normal.” - Zoé Daemen, Sustainability Manager
My favourite takeaway from this story is that we are all learning together. There is no formula to creating the most socially and environmentally sustainable jeans out there and we are constantly evolving, so it is important that we strip down our egos, learn together and evolve. By doing so we will evolve into an industry we are all proud we had an impact on.
Until next time, always be curious and STAY DILIGENT FRIENDS!