The Factory

After the jersey has been dyed and pre-shrunk, it is transported to the factory where it is sewn into garments. Our factory is also situated outside Tirupur, meaning that the fabric travels only 20 minutes by truck. The factory was built in 2010 and employs 230 people, 60% of whom are women and 40% of whom are men. All employees work from 8:30am to 6:30pm, with a 45-minute lunch break and four or five 20-minute tea breaks per shift. Employees work together as a collective to ensure the daily factory output minimum of approximately 9000 T-shirts, which equates to 500kg of cut material.

Fabric Control

Before the fabric can be cut, it must be quality controlled. Every meter of jersey is passed through a quality control machine that lights the fabric from the reverse to reveal any impurities or faults.

Cutting

The fabric is then laid onto 30-meter-long tables. This is normally done by machines – skating back and forth piling the fabric high. Because our fabric has been pre-shrunk, it consists of 4-6m, uneven panels which have to be skilfully stacked by hand to make sure all jersey is even but not being stretched. Once this has been done, the fabric is vacuumed into dense, solid blocks and huge mechanical saws begin cutting all pattern pieces with millimetre precision. All scraps are collected, bagged and sent for recycling.

Cutting Control

After the cutting, all pattern pieces are, one-by-one, put onto a light box to make sure there are no hidden faults.

Sewing

The cut fabric is then taken next door where each piece is put onto the sewing line. The sewing line consists of different stations where individual or groups of sewers each manage one part of the T-shirt construction. When the T-shirt reaches the end of the sewing line, it is quality controlled and sent to the trimmers where all excess threads are trimmed off. The T-shirts are again quality checked before being sent to the steamers where they are ironed. After this, the T-shirts are quality checked one last time before being carefully folded and put into boxes.

Importantdetails

Once boxed, the T-shirts have been through a process of more than 36 different steps, which includes three quality controls. Needles on all sewing machines are changed after each 300 T-shirts, to ensure that only the sharpest are used, as blunt needles make unnecessarily large holes in the jersey.

Workers

As our T-shirts are GOTS certified, every aspect of the supply chain is regularly checked and controlled. However we feel that our factory deserves an extra mention, as they are taking this one step further. The factory is part of the ‘Fair Wear Foundation’ which means that everyone in the factory receives a fair living wage instead of a minimum salary. This means that, on average, a seamstress will receive almost triple the current Indian minimum wage, and those on the lowest salaries will receive almost double the current Indian minimum wage. Additionally, no staff are living in dormitories, but instead the factory works together with landlords from nearby villages to ensure that affordable housing is available. The effects of this can be seen when the factory breaks for lunch and most people walk home to eat, returning 45-minutes later. Those that do not return home for lunch can use the factory canteen where rice and sauce is served.

Commitment

When we visit the factory we are free to walk around unrestricted. As the general manager explains: ‘I will not follow you around as I want you to see how everything works and how transparent we are. It should be the true picture.’ He further explains that the factory uses no seasonal workers or zero-hour contracts: ‘I offer them [workers] my guarantee, that if you work with us we will give you a job for life’. The factory employs only staff that are over 18 years old, but prefer employees to be at least 20 years old, as they are more mature and able to think independently.

IGBC Award

The factory has also been awarded the green platinum award from IGBC – the first garment factory to do so. This is the highest sustainable building award, and is reflected in the factory’s energy use. All electrical equipment is powered by the factory’s own solar panels or windmills. To limit the use of electrical lights, the factory has imported a specially constructed, temperature-controlled ceiling that takes in a lot of natural light. All water used for air-conditioning and toilets is collected during the rainy season. To ensure good, sustainable outside surroundings, the factory has planted 200 Neem trees, and has invested in cows, goats and chicken coups which roam in a field where they grow maize.