Having written about the ethics of the clothing industry yesterday, I thought I might mention a company that’s doing it right today. Over the last five years or so, I’ve come across some great companies making clothes to a different business model. Some of my favourites are small companies with a specific focus, often just doing just one thing. One such company is Who Made Your Pants?, a little social enterprise in Southampton. As the name suggests, they make pants, of the lacy knicker variety.
The pants are made out of discarded fabric scraps from lingerie factories at the end of the season. It’s perfectly good lace, it’s just surplus, and upcycling it into pants is a whole lot better than throwing it away. Since these are discards from the fashion industry and the styles are changing, batches of pants are often unique or in very small numbers, which makes them more distinctive and special.
The fabric isn’t the only thing that’s redeemed. Working as a cooperative, the company takes on refugee women from Afghanistan, Somalia and many other places. First they learn sewing skills and start work in the factory, moving on to administrative or accounting skills if they wish. On each pair of pants is a little tag with the date. You can look it up on the website and find out who was working that day, and exactly who, by name, made your pants.
This is of course very different from the pants you buy in most shops, which are made by nameless people in a factory on the other side of the world. When we buy an item of clothing, we usually know nothing about the conditions of the workers who made it.
Who made your pants is niche for sure, but I love their commitment to one quality product, their passion for human rights, and their environmental ethic.