Where We Started
When we first set out to start Sustain Textiles, one question which remained at the forefront of our minds was…
How many people actually care about who makes their kids uniforms, or their workwear?
Who actually looks at the materials used to create each garment? Or wonders about where the fabrics were manufactured and sourced?
Because at this point in time, Australian society was experiencing a shift. Collectively, we were becoming more and more conscious about where and who we were purchasing our personal clothing from. The labour involved in its creation; whether the working conditions were ethical or designed for sustainability.
Siobhan (Bon) and I were actually in China during this period, and realised that the majority of uniforms that Australian people wear were manufactured in this country. Primarily because China has the means and infrastructure to produce quality clothing products, en masse, for affordable prices.
So when we began on this journey to forming Sustain Textiles, one of the first steps we took was to conduct thorough research into China’s manufacturing processes.
I (Push) started visiting various factories and workshops, in an effort to find a suitable supplier who was on board with our own vision of producing ethical and sustainable uniforms.
However, we soon encountered a number of barriers… language and culture being the biggest.
And as we continued our research, we quickly recognised how difficult it would be to achieve the level of supply chain transparency we wanted. It would also be notably challenging to build relationships with these manufacturers in China, mostly for the reasons mentioned above.
Chances were, we’d become another one of those businesses who did some sort of ethical manufacturing overseas (ticking most boxes), but the relationship with these manufacturers would always remain surface level at best. It would be purely business based, and we wouldn’t be able to establish that closer connection or personal partnership which we were seeking. It would be almost impossible to achieve the transparency we needed across all operations, or be able to work towards a shared vision through mutual values.
This was when Bon suggested we look to manufacturers in India instead. It was a real lightbulb moment and appeared so obvious in retrospect.
Considering my personal ties and background to India, and Bon’s too, we knew that it would be easy to find ethical manufacturers with a shared vision on sustainability in this country. So that’s where our focus shifted next.
However, despite our inspiration firing back to life, it wasn’t as easy as we’d initially believed to locate a suitable manufacturer to partner with. Most places were reluctant to work together and agree on implementing measures that rewarded their respective workers with the wages we wanted to pay, or to support their professional development. In fact, the majority turned out to be just another factory where the end goal was merely to produce as much profit as possible. This was the exact opposite of what we wanted.
If we’re being honest, there were times when we began to doubt that we would ever find the right partner to help make Sustain Textiles a reality.
Which was when our luck changed and – we like to think – destiny interceded.
Meeting the Jain Family
By pure chance, we came across the Jain family. In fact, I went to school with one of their sons, Hitesh, although we had fallen out of contact since those early years. But when we came together, it was almost like we picked up where we left off.
We started discussing our vision for Sustain Textiles with the Jain family, explaining what we wanted to achieve and our desire to partner with a manufacturer who had the same strong ethics and values that we did. Although we had a personal connection to the Jain family, we weren’t willing to move any further in a professional capacity if they weren’t on board with this.
However, it was clear from the first couple of meetings with the Jain family that we were completely on the same page. We knew with certainty that we could work with them for a very long time – which was precisely the kind of relationship we had searched for from the offset.
A personal connection & professional partnership that would last a lifetime; where we would continue to learn, grow, evolve and improve together.
The Jain family, we discovered, had been in manufacturing for three generations, and were as enthusiastic to embark on this journey with us, keen to enhance their own knowledge and practices too.
As part of the set-up process, the Jain family then allocated a team to manufacture all Bonpinda Uniform products, meaning we could directly oversee exactly how much all team members were getting paid. Because to us, a fair wage is not merely ticking the ‘Ethical Guideline’ box and doing the bare minimum required.
Rather, a fair wage should be based on skill, talent and capability.
During our research with other ethical manufacturers, we’d come across some individuals who were getting paid a fair wage – as per many global industry standards – but in reality were still struggling to make ends meet on a regular basis.
We didn’t want any of the employees who made our clothing to be in this position. And we didn’t want to make them dependent on us through charitable initiatives, such as sponsoring their kids’ education or directly supplying them with extra food.
Of course, we wanted them to have all this and more, but we first and foremost wanted to pay them the right wage so that they had the means and ability to attain this for themselves. We wanted to pay them a wage that they could feel proud of, enabling them to afford all the necessities on their own, helping them to be independent and secure in their own lives.
Where We Are Today
Today, we continue to work with our manufacturing partners and the Jain family, to find more sustainable ways to provide uniforms and workwear. Our end goal is to completely offset all the carbon emissions that we produce and become a carbon-neutral company.
Likewise, in an ideal world, we would like to increase our manufacturing capabilities in Australia itself. However, there are current restrictions in place which make this a goal we are working towards long-term rather than in the immediate future. We are currently addressing issues such as lack of infrastructure, workforce availability and access to certain fabrics in Australia. We hope that with further backing we can spearhead a movement and bring government awareness to this issue, so we can eventually manufacture both ethically and sustainably to wholesale volumes within this country too.
If you would like to connect with us personally or have any further questions about our operations, we welcome you to get in touch. We are seeking to create partnerships with our clients that last for life, and believe that openness, honesty, authenticity and trust are the strongest foundations on which to establish this relationship.
Here’s to a more sustainable future, and the potential ethical manufacturing has to offer us all.