Artisan working on the production of Made in Kenya Marni x Isetan bags. © Tahir Carl Karmali

ETHICAL MANUFACTURING

In each region, and for each line of product, the Ethical Fashion Initiative has set up a commercial and production social enterprise. The social enterprise acts as the product development and production hub for a single category of product. This Hub serves as the main interface for international clients and coordinates a large production horizontal network of artisanal cooperatives. Thus, the hub manages tasks ranging from product development, costing and pricing products on the basis of fair labour criteria, production management, production financing, quality control, shipping and customs clearance. Each cooperative of artisans is an independent company that produces and sells to the Hub, which applies a mark-up to the sales price to ensure sustainability and to cover costs of production.

Notably, the Ethical Fashion Initiative implements fair labour conditions and ensures living wages for all of our producers. This principle is coupled with a ten-point set of criteria to evaluate decent working conditions, as per the Code of Conduct of the International Labour Organisation.

For each order, the Ethical Fashion Initiative supplies customers a complete social and environmental impact assessment report on each product. This enables brands to communicate on the story behind a product, how it was made, the profile of the artisans who produced it, the impact of the order on the community involved, the origin of the materials involved, etc.

Cotton Yarn Burkina Faso © ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative (8)

SKILLS

Everywhere it works, the Ethical Fashion Initiative has access to the most talented craftspeople with artisanal skills linking back to their cultural heritage. This inspires fashion designers from around the world and gives fashion brands a unique opportunity to produce authentic ethical fashion goods.

PRODUCTS

Top fashion brands have partnered with the Ethical Fashion Initiative to manufacture high quality, desirable ethical fashion products, while simultaneously empowering micro-artisans through access to gainful employment, knowledge and skills. Our fashion partners embark on a journey of creative collaborations with artisans to ethically manufacture bags, keyrings, fabric, jewellery, shoes, hats, cotton textiles, silk and cashmere.

BUSINESS MODEL

The Ethical Fashion Initiative’s business model connects micro-communities of artisans from the developing world to global fashion houses through a network of hubs in Nairobi, Ouagadougou, Port-au-Prince and Kabul. The concept of responsible and slow fashion underpins the Ethical Fashion Initiative’s business model.

Based on artisanal manufacturing, this model enables micro-artisans to produce directly for brands that distribute products worldwide. Product development is done in collaboration with fashion brands. This ensures that designs are tailored to the capabilities and craftsmanship of the micro-artisans and that there is a global market for the final product.

The Ethical Fashion Initiative supports artisanal manufacturing in the informal sector. To do this, it has created a business support infrastructure based around centralised production hubs. This means numerous communities can participate in production, with the final product assembled, controlled for quality and shipped from the hub.

The Ethical Fashion Initiative’s business model marks a radical departure from previous development interventions with the informal sector as we facilitate a direct link with the fashion industry. For the first time, micro-artisans can operate as an integral part of the international value chain because the production of ethical fashion goods responds to market demand. Furthermore, the initiative is managed by a team that has relevant experience in development and deep knowledge of the global fashion business.

In parallel to this, the Ethical Fashion Initiative has developed an Impact Assessment method to monitor and evaluate the effect and impact of responsible fashion orders on the lives of artisans.