What does it take to create a garment? Apparel manufacturing is complex and made up of a lot of steps, processes, people, and time. Where something is stitched is only one small part of the entire journey of a piece being made. It is easy for all the information to get overwhelming but it is important to remember how much goes into each article of clothing so that the value is understood. When you hear about something being sustainable, make sure every step of the supply chain can be vetted properly in as much detail and proof as possible. Just saying things are “mindfully made as much as possible” is not enough. At Seek Collective we account for the handloom weaving, the dying, the printing, and the stitching. This includes the where, how, and who. This week we are focusing on clarifying the ‘how’.
Seek Collective began with a search for those most knowledgeable artisans who execute each stage with the best quality and most responsibility, both to their employees and their environment. The quality matters immensely as we want each garment to last you as long as possible and we want the materials to feel incredible against your skin. We do not skimp on any stage of how we make our clothes, all the way down to the woven yarn. Seek Collective is unusual because we work directly with most of the producers. And we are also always looking for ways to improve each season to make the quality even better and more transparent.
As mentioned, supply chains are rarely simple. It takes everything into account, including the designing and developing, sourcing, growing, spinning of the yarn, weaving, dying, printing, stitching, finishing, transportation, quality checking, packaging, and journey to either a retailer or a customer. When this is done sustainably and responsibly, the costs add up. It is impossible for a garment to cost $10 if you take into account all these necessary steps as well as all the people involved who must be paid. At the same time, producing sustainably also does not mean a garment has to be outrageously expensive either.
For example, we can break down at item like our camel polka dot Haus pants. It all starts with a great deal of time put into designing the item. First drafts are called muslins, as they are stitched out of an inexpensive cotton fabric called muslin. A new one is made after each fitting as we work to get the shape and fit of the garment just right. This all adds up to days, if not months, of work. For this item we sourced the organic cotton twill with a company that buys large quantities directly from mills. This particular fabric is machine woven and costs about $4 a meter. Handloom woven fabric is more expensive, about $5-10 per meter, and has lower minimums so easier for a small brand to order directly from. We then had the yardage dyed using plant materials with the natural dye group we partner with. Natural dyes vary in cost depending on what ingredient is used to achieve the color as well as what type and weight of fabric is being dyed. The costs range from $6-15 per meter. Next, the pattern of the garment is traced onto the fabric using chalk so that the embroidery work only goes where it needs to be. Depending on the layout and design, hand embroidery costs $20-50 per garment. The completed fabric is then cut carefully and stitched together, at about $12-30 per garment. Every finished piece gets main labels, fabric labels, and hang tags so that all necessary information is communicated.
From there, the Haus pants are marked up from the cost to make in order to cover additional expenses. This includes all the time and money spent designing and perfecting the fit. It also covers photoshoots, so that each item can be understood in how it fits. This means full days of pay for photographers, models, and rented spaces. The final batches are transported to our fulfillment center where they go through quality checks. While slight variations are normal, even celebrated at Seek Collective due to all the hand-done processes, we want to make sure any garments with major issues are pulled from the stack. From there, once the pants are bought, they are packaged carefully and shipped to either a retailer or a customer.
Each stage requires skills, knowledge, time, and ultimately people. All the various costs contribute to the value of every garment. We strive to bring you the best quality clothing while paying everyone in the production chain fairly and maintaining prices that are reasonable considering all the work that goes into the pieces. All while bringing mindfulness and transparency to the entire process. We care about each person and craft that helps make Seek possible and about the long-term impact and sustainability of creating our clothing so the planet is not exploited. We also care about designing and creating garments that are special, well made, and beautiful to be worn in your life now as well as for future generations to enjoy. Stay tuned for when we break down the 'where' and 'who' of our supply chain.
Keep on Seeking!
Absolutely loved reading this!
Thank you for a very informative article.