November 17, 2021

What On Earth is a Clothing Supply Chain?

By Jenny Fong
What On Earth is a Clothing Supply Chain?

A clothing supply chain is the journey a product makes from concept to customer. Every hand off from design to sourced material to its eventual arrival in a customer’s closet is a link in this chain.

As you become increasingly aware of your ethical choices as consumers, you consider the cost of the supply chain’s impact on the planet. It’s important to ask questions that will lead to responsible choices: How does the supply chain work? Why does it matter? What do sustainable fashion brands do to create ethical clothing supply chains? What can you do as consumers?

The Global Clothing Supply Chain

 “You can probably imagine that the global clothing supply chain involves millions of people as well as tons of water, chemicals, crops, and oil. This is what makes it possible for your clothing to reach your wardrobe. Within the last 20 years, there has been an increased demand for high speed, high volume, and cheap consumption. Terrible things can happen when consumerism is valued over a transparent and ethical supply chain”.1

But maybe you, like us, see the silver lining in the form of ALL the amazing opportunities to develop a transparent, traceable system where conscious consumers can find out who made their clothing and where the materials are sourced. And that’s really the definition of a sustainable fashion supply chain.

 

Jenny is sewing upcycled shibori pieces together to make a market bag.

Photo: Upcycling shibori scraps into a market bag.

Every link in the chain should involve intentional strategies that promote sustainable, mindful practices from original women’s and men’s clothing designs to the finished garment displayed on the online store or in-store mannequin. 

sustainable fashion brand relies on slow fashion, where the designer considers each link in the clothing supply chain, taking into account the impact these choices will have on the earth.

Fast Fashion Vs Slow Fashion

Most of today’s fashion trends are seasonal, which results in a lot of clothing ending up discarded. This is called fast fashion, a concept that does not lend itself to sustainable living.

A sustainable fashion brand relies on slow fashion, where the designer considers each link in the clothing supply chain, taking into account the impact these choices will have on the earth.

" 73% of the world’s clothing ends up in landfills. To make sure this doesn’t happen, brands should start at the drawing table: make space in your product portfolio for classic, durable pieces that will last more than a year. Extra points if, instead of tossing unsold inventory, you creatively recycle it." 2

Slowly, many brands are moving toward sustainable practices, such as ones found in the Cradle to Cradle design framework. 

In the framework, “products are developed for closed-loop systems in which every output ingredient is safe and beneficial – either to biodegrade naturally and restore the soil (called a biological nutrient), or to be fully recycled into high-quality materials for subsequent product generations (called a technical nutrient)”.3

Whether it’s textile production, clothing production, distribution and retail, or consumer outreach, every step in a sustainable clothing cycle is analyzed and made transparent. This allows consumers to make conscious choices to either support a fashion brand or look elsewhere for a more ethical purchase.

Jenny's sketch of pants, measuring tape, buttons, pen and scraps of fabric on her desk.

Photo: Every silhouette starts with a sketch on Jenny Fong's desk.

Modern Shibori’s Supply Chain

“A brand's choice of raw materials can define up to 50 percent of its environmental footprint. Yet, there has been little emphasis on material innovation. Companies should increase their use of low-impact materials, such as organic cotton, and invest in the development of new, sustainable materials."4

Our team at Modern Shibori has been working toward a fully transparent, sustainable clothing supply chain since our founder and designer, Jenny Fong, began the brand six years ago. 

Jenny begins the chain with her unique designs in Berkeley, California. She uses the “made-to-order” model that cuts down on the waste of unused inventory. Jenny designs with her materials in mind; the natural, organic linens and cottons that are manufactured using soil and water conservation practices. We use fabrics that offer traceability such as the SUPIMA® cotton trademark which has actually  licensed their entire supply chain - how’s that for transparency?

Local sewing contractors in San Francisco

Photo: Sewers at a small sewing room in San Francisco, CA. Photo by Jenny Fong.

With our low carbon footprint commitment in mind, our designs are sent to pattern makers in Oakland, and on to the sewing contractors in San Francisco. Once the garment is sewn together, it returns to Berkeley for the essential finishing touches for which Modern Shibori is known: shibori tie-dye (by hand) and embroidery. 

Slow fashion and sustainable practices mean that your clothing is lovingly and carefully made to last.

And then you, the valued customer, order your timeless pieces, such as our shibori tie-dye shirts and organic cotton pants! You will be able to enjoy these beautifully and ethically created pieces for years to come - and then hand them down to a new generation if you wish.

Here’s What’s in it For You

“There is no shortage of challenges in the road to sustainability, but the obstacles, however many, have never held back the committed from making a difference and innovating to find new solutions to every challenge”.5

Sustainable fashion brands purposefully invest in the local economy right where you live. Every dollar you spend on a beautiful garment directly supports people working in your own community.

As explained above, slow fashion and sustainable practices mean that your clothing is lovingly and carefully made to last. That’s a pretty big benefit as a patron of great fashion! But it’s not just that.

Beautiful hand embroidery is the final touch in the Modern Shibori supply chain.

Photo: Beautiful hand embroidery is the final touch in the Modern Shibori supply chain.

Sustainable fashion brands purposefully invest in the local economy right where you live. Every dollar you spend on a beautiful garment directly supports people working in your own community.

Here’s the best part: when you support local designers and brands like Modern Shibori that are transparent in their production practices, you are supporting a healthier global economy and a healthier earth.

When you think about buying a garment, what questions around sustainability come up for you? Share your questions and comments below.

Resources:

https://goodonyou.eco/what-is-a-clothing-supply-chain/

https://www.elementum.com/chain-reaction/5-ways-fashion-retailers-can-be-more-sustainable

https://www.onlineclothingstudy.com/2020/03/cradle-to-cradle-approach-in-fashion.html

https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/sustainability/fashions-7-priorities-to-achieve-sustainability

https://sourcingjournal.com/topics/thought-leadership/apparel-fashion-supply-chain-sustainability-roit-kathiala-197314/