When you put on a piece of clothing, do you ever stop to consider who it was made by?
This is the question Adila (Dee) Cokar found herself asking more and more, and it eventually brought her to this place – the founding of Source My Garment, a company that sources sustainable garment manufacturers in Asia and connects them to designers and labels throughout North America. Dee’s business is mission driven: to improve the working conditions of garment workers while creating opportunities for North American labels to access ethical, cost effective manufacturing solutions.
The gain for designers is knowing their clothing is produced in an ethical way, avoiding many of the issues that can plague off-shore manufacturing, from child labourers to human rights violations. While Dee had always been acutely aware of these issues, the 2013 Dhaka Bangladesh building collapse brought harsh conditions faced by garment workers to the forefront, and caused significant negative publicity for label Joe Fresh.
While Dee had always been mindful of such international problems, she did not always inhabit the world of social enterprise. Before starting Source My Garment she owned her own award winning clothing label, Pure Blankz. During her time running Pure Blankz, she was in a serious car accident. The accident was a wake up call, an incident which caused her to reflect deeply and think widely – she realized she wanted to help designers to lead a paradigm shift in the way apparel is produced and sourced.
Her belief is that contrary to what we hear everyday, not all factories mistreat people. She is a firm believer in a triple bottom line approach to her work, and ensures the sustainability of people, planet and profit in all she does.
Currently her team works with labels to understand their needs, guide them through product development, fair trade sourcing and managing offshore manufacturing. Source My Garment are the go between that help streamline the process of ethical overseas garment manufacturing and keep the wheels turning.
Western companies do not always understand the multiple processes, hard work and personal sacrifices, that go into making a garment. While transparency as a concept is often most visible in the realm of social responsibility and compliance, its real benefit is when it is seen as a business priority. Transparency is about being open with information. It is about the ability of the receiver to have full access to the information she wants, not just the information the sender is willing to provide. To be transparent embodies honesty and the willingness to share – even when it is uncomfortable to do so. As a commitment to bringing transparency to overseas garment manufacturing, Source My Garment provides video profiles highlighting individual factories personalities as well as a Q&A with founders.
The company has had great exposure and success to date, but that does not stop Dee and her team from continuing to innovate. They are currently developing a cloud based product life-cycle management tool that walks designers through the step-by-step process of creating custom designed goods, matchmaking with the appropriate factory, all the way to shipping the products to their door. The subscription based platform will guide the process while supporting smaller scale offshore manufacturers. Companies will directly work with factories to streamline, improve processes, and communication.
In addition, apparel companies will be able to choose from a list of available benefits and factory improvements that will be incorporated into every contract purchase. So factory workers will gain improvements they have asked for in their working conditions with every contract they complete. Moreover, apparel labels can feel good knowing that simply by sourcing from Source My Garment, they are helping to improve the working conditions of garment workers in a real, tangible way.
The first module of the platform will be beta tested in January. This platform will create real change and the opportunity for impact is enormous. It will offer apparel labels the opportunity to become more sustainable and transparent in their manufacturing, and to become triple bottom-line companies in real-terms rather than just in name.