29 – 08 – 19
We went to visit our manufacturer in China and all we got are these great jackets.
We want to make really good outerwear – but we don’t want others to pick up the tab. So when we had to switch factories due to the higher demand we’re facing this year, we thought about ways to make sure working conditions are what we expect them to be. The easiest solution: See for ourselves. And now we want to show you, too.
WORDS & PHOTOS by ERIC MIRBACH
So there we were, hopping on a flight to China to see where our Fall/Winter 19 collection was made. We had our visit scheduled right in time for us to see the manufacturing process or our coats while it was happening and document it. And at the same time, we were early enough to maybe suggest some last-minute alterations (as we’re never finished with tweaking our designs and always find little things that could still be improved).
Street scenes: The back alley of our manufacturing partner’s office building.
Embassy-founder Niko has been designing streetwear for over two decades and knows his way around – so our ’new’ manufacturing partner wasn’t quite that new to him, really, just new for Embassy. Niko had been working with Jason and his company before and, because of that, knew two things:
- The quality would be there. You see, the knowledge and craftsmanship needed to make really high quality outerwear is in Asia, Europe has lost both a long time ago. Jason and his crew know what we’re looking for in terms of quality.
- We would be able to establish a longterm working relationship and through that be able to constantly improve our efforts in sustainability. It’s easy: The more volume you give to one producer, the easier it is for him to source sustainable materials for you inside of a price range that won’t cause consumer prices to skyrocket. If you have good communication, that is.
“Europe has long lost the craftsmanship and know-how for quality outerwear… It’s all about Asia.”
Jason picked us up at the airport for the hour-long drive to Yangzhou, a city with a population of over 4.5 m and a bit of a Disneyland-feel to it, as the streets are wide and the houses tall and everything looks like it has been built in a matter of just a couple of years.
As it’s close to the Yangtze river, the city is part of a very industrialized area and with that comes the smog that hung over the city most of the time during our short stay.
Niko going through material swatches with Jason and Eileen in the manufacturing offices in Yangzhou.
We sat down for lunch with the office workers and they had prepared a wide selection of vegan dishes for us.
After a couple hours of looking at swatches and discussing possibilities of sourcing new, sustainable materials, we then went to the first of overall two production sites, where the actual coats are made.
“The atmosphere was concentrated, yet light-hearted. Everything felt rather familial here.”
Jason’s factory is rather small, with a packing floor and a production floor that consists of a sewing department and a cutting department. It was light and clean, spacious not overly crowded. The atmosphere among the garment workers was of a concentrated, yet light-hearted manner and all in all, everything felt rather familial.
We especially liked the kitchen area, where the workers cook lunch together or eat food prepared at home.
This is where the garment workers sit together for lunch.
A small part of the production is subcontracted to a partner of Jason’s and of course, we visited his premises as well and were happy with what we saw there, as well.
All in all, we were happy with both the quality of the craftsmanship as well as regarding the working conditions in the factory. After checking the goods together with the garment workers, talking to the owner of the place and taking a walk around the premises to see the rice fields in the backyard, we were ready to pack up the samples for Spring / Summer 2020 we were planning on taking home with us.
Some more impressions from the production sites where our winter coats are made.
This trip was my first time in China but it wasn’t my first time in a textile production facility, far from it. I have been working for other fashion companies before, all of them from the world of ethical fashion. I have visited production sites in Turkey, Portugal, in the New York Fashion District and more remote places, like wool farms in Southern Patagonia.
This means I know first hand there’s no way we’re perfect – nobody is. We are on a journey. We want to do our part in improving the way fashion is made, and so we decided to walk the thin line between making a great, fashionable, quality product that works in our home market – and to also make sure we’re doing it the best way we possibly can.
“We’re on a journey to improve the way fashion is made.”
I think we’re off to a great start with partners like Jason and his people and I, for one, can’t wait to hash out more cool things with them in the future, i.e. getting the factories certified for their fair labor conditions and finding new, organic and/or recycled solutions for our upper fabrics, just to name a few of projects on my desk.
Meanwhile, feel free to check out what we have put together to further explain our sustainability efforts and check out our instagram feed for more behind the scenes photos and anecdotes.
Keeping you posted. (Promise!)