A key part of our brand philosophy is to bring our customers emotionally closer to the products that they wear. We believe that a supply chain should be a delicate dance between customers who use the products, and the stakeholders which make them a reality. The outsourcing of manufacturing to distant shores has created a gap in the consumer’s awareness of where and how products, in particular clothing, are made. We believe that this disconnect is harmful to society and the environment.
Fundamentally, there are three key reasons why we believe that it’s better for both society and the environment, to manufacture our products in Europe: working conditions, environmental norms, and know-how.
Manufacturing clothing is a labour-intensive business that requires lots of material inputs, many of which, such as cotton, are also particularly water and labour-intensive. Products that are manufactured at very low prices in the far-east often don’t comply with basic standards of what we would deem “fair and decent” labour conditions. Furthermore, sub-suppliers are often not especially well regulated, and there are often cultural and political factors that make it very difficult to build truly transparent supply chains. Working with individuals who live and work in similar social circumstances and cultural norms allows us to understand one another better, and deliver on what we want to achieve. We greatly value the fact that the wages which our suppliers pay are considerably higher than those paid in developing countries; that European workers get suitable coverage from state institutions, in respect of healthcare and education; and that many of the individuals who work in our factories can actually enjoy activities such as skiing, which unfortunately is unlikely to be a pastime within the reach of most factory workers in south-east Asia.
Environmental norms are also more effectively enforced and transparent in Europe. The EU has some of the most stringent standards globally in terms of pollution norms, waste, and the generation of electricity, which increasingly is generated by non-carbon inputs. These norms are far from perfect and there’s a long way to go, but they at least provide a defined framework, within which progress can be made. This is not necessarily the case in many of the low-cost manufacturing hubs in which our competitors manufacture their products. Indeed, in certain Asian countries, investment in carbon driven energy sources is alarmingly actually still increasing, rather than decreasing, such is the demand for power.
Last, but not least, is know-how. There’s a wealth of knowledge here, fueled by passionate people that are real users of our products. We’re blessed in Europe with having a large base of skiers and mountaineers, as well as excellent schools and apprenticeships. As a result, the quality of the craftsmanship that our manufacturers can deliver here is outstanding.
We of course realise that there’s a significant cost premium to deliver on our promise. In our opinion, this is entirely worth it. Manufacturing the kind of products that we sell shouldn’t be a race to the bottom, with suppliers being squeezed and labour being outsourced to the cheapest location possible. We believe strongly in looking at the overall cost of manufacturing a product, including the social and environmental cost, and not just the monetary price.
We’re also optimistic that people are starting to relate to this philosophy. For example, it wasn’t too long ago that most people didn’t pay much attention to the origins of their food. In recent years, however, consumers have increasingly begun to demand information about how their food was grown or raised, and many now show a preference for local produce. Food such as this is more expensive, but better for the farmer, the environment, and consumers themselves. It’s time that we do the same with clothing! That’s why we’re 100% committed to only ever manufacturing our products in Europe.