We're one week into #slowfashionoctober. Thousands of makers from all corners of the world are putting their best foot forward to change the way we consume. First step, take a good hard look at where our stuff comes from.
If you watched the documentary The True Cost, you, like me, are no doubt alarmed at the garment industry's ever-complicated and shrouded production methods and supply chains. Even the most ethical and responsible companies face an uphill battle for transparency in every step in production. For example, Patagonia keeps close tabs on its garment factories in China, but have significant gaps in knowledge about the entire supply chain for their textiles, zippers, buttons, cords, etc. They are farmed out to various cities and factories that aren't always as reputable as their main (vetted) factory. Bottom line is, each time any portion of the production is farmed out to someone else, your company loses control over production, and the greater the opacity is for knowledge about it.
Let's take a look at our own production – Knitters Graph Paper Journal and Found Paper Memo Books specifically. Our printer/binder 1984 Printing is independently owned and operated by our buddies Richard and Amy. We know them. They are good, smart and caring people. I'd say this is the primary reason for working with them, but they also use animal-free glues and soy-based inks, and they mostly use recycled paper stock (I say mostly because it always depends on what their customers want). When we place our orders, we speak directly to Amy, who speaks directly to her suppliers who are here in the US.
The covers for our Found Paper Memo Books were printed by another independent printer, Oakland Printing Company, owned and operated by Robin Weinert, an experienced printmaker with vast expertise in most areas of the craft. Also, a good, smart and caring person. For the covers, we used French Paper Company's 100lb. Construction Paper. French is an American company with factories in Niles, Michigan that use hydroelectric power, and they offer a large inventory of recycled papers.
The pages (aka "innards") of the FPMBs were sourced entirely by us. Over the course of the several years, we gathered about a half a ton of second-hand paper, all of it diverted from the landfill or recycling plant, and then hand sorted and collated by us. Sometimes you just gotta do it the old-fashioned way. It's not glamorous, and we don't even have any great photos because it's, well, dull work. We find that binge-watching is a great way to get through all the piles.
And that's about it, really. Pretty simple. By knowing our makers, we have a lot more control in production. While there may be a bit of sacrifice in terms of timeliness of goods delivered, or in quantities, our costs are still realistic. We can keep to a manageable budget, enjoy the production process by chatting on the phone or meeting in person with our favorite makers. It's rewarding to know that our money, while not a lot, is going toward people who put a lot passion into their work and who do a great job doing what they do.