This post originally appeared on the Leim Kickstarter campaign. To learn more click here!
I've had a couple of messages about the price of the jumpsuits and so I thought I would write something to outline the cost a little more.
It's an inconvenient truth - that for a piece of clothing to be fair to everyone it touches, we need to pay more for it.
This is a long update but it’s important to me. I spent a long time working on the price. There are reasons behind every decision and every portion of this on-brand pie chart:
Creators are encouraged but not required to include a detailed cost breakdown, but I included this on the Kickstarter campaign page for a few reasons.
Firstly, most people are so disconnected from their clothing and the people and processes involved that we are encouraged to consider clothing as a throw-away item. It fuels demand and therefore sales and has resulted in over-consumption. Marketing budgets reinforce brand image and so the perceived value of their product, without ever giving you an idea of where your money is actually going.
Secondly, I want Leim to be as transparent as it can be as a business, so that there can be accountability in the way that we manufacture now and in the future.
The Raw Materials: Fabric, Buttons, Zips. 33%
Let’s start with the fabric. The ezp™ jumpsuits use three different types of fabric. Linen, organic denim and lyocell.
Each have their benefits for the sustainability challenge that clothing presents and have been chosen carefully.
Linen is a low impact crop, which means that it requires less water and less pesticides to grow. We live in a world where crops grown to make t-shirts and jeans are using more water than basic food (we’ll ignore the meat industry for now) which seems crazy to me. Linen also doesn’t necessarily need a warmer climate to grow successfully and so can be grown in Europe. This makes transporting it to the UK more carbon efficient than transporting other fabrics from from further away.
Dyeing is a major issue for the fashion industry. Surplus chemicals in waste-water have been found to significantly affect affect the plant life in areas surrounding dyeing houses. Waste absorbed by plants hinders their ability to photosynthesise, so growth is stunted and in some places the ground is so polluted by waste water that no plants will grow full stop. If plants can't take the water, how are humans or animals expected to survive drinking the same water?
Not only that - every time you wash your clothing, dyes leak into the water system from your clothes. We need to start thinking about the lifetime value and effect our shopping habits have on the world around us.
The linen used in the Sisterhood is dyed using OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified dyes and dyeing processes. This certification bans the use of the more harmful dyes and production processes to protect the environment at the time of manufacture, as well as the rest of the garment's life.
Organic cotton denim
The majority of cotton needs to be grown in a warmer humid environment. Cotton is a sensitive soul and has quite a few enemies in the natural world and it also needs a considerable quantity of water to grow. There has been quite a lot of noise in the media recently about the negative impact of industrial cotton production and there are lots of resources out there for further research.
Organic cotton, however, requires less water because it’s grown with a softer touch. Farms that don’t use pesticides (or natural ones at least) may have a smaller yield but the environmental impact of not using chemical pesticides and fertilisers is considerable.
Cotton is a socio-economic issue too. Farmers in developing countries, most notably India, often go into considerable debt to afford to pay for genetically modified seeds (more resistant to pests), threat of lack of water and pesticides that often cost considerably more than their yearly income. Rates of suicide among farmers have risen dramatically since the introduction of industrialised pesticides and GM seeds, as they cannot cope with repayments and the stress of potential crop failures.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think anybody should be dying for a jumpsuit or a t-shirt, which is why the cotton for the jumpsuits is GOTS certified from a small family-run factory in Kerala in India.
Lyocell was invented in the 70s and has risen to prominence recently as a sustainable alternative to viscose fabrics (which are made from plastics.) Lyocell is made from wood pulp from sustainable forests (in Leim's case, but not necessarily - it's worth doing your homework on other lyocell products you buy.) The fibre goes through a closed loop manufacturing process in order to turn it into a useable yarn ready for weaving into fabric. ‘Closed-loop system’ means that the waste created throughout the process (eg water, waste by-product from the wood itself) are used to create the next batch of fibre, meaning there’s very little real waste.
Because it's made from wood pulp, the fabric is biodegradable at the end of its life. However, because of the high-touch manufacturing process, it's not necessarily considered a 'natural' fabric. This doesn't mean it feels man-made. It's got a beautifully soft texture and looks like sand washed silk - slightly dusty with a beautiful drape. It has enough structure to hold a shape, which is why I chose it for the Bringing Sexy Back, which needed a fabric that showcased the trouser pleats properly!
Corozo nut buttons
The Corozo nut is also known by a few other names - tagua, palm ivory or vegetable ivory. These nuts are found in the northwestern parts of South America and they are pretty big, about a foot in diameter. Inside each nut is a collection of pods, each containing what starts as a white milky substance (much like coconut milk) but hardens as it reaches ripe-ness to become the seeds.
When ripe, the nuts fall naturally from the tree and so human intervention is minimal. They are de-seeded and the white inner part of the seed is removed and dried for around 3 months, to be carved into objects including the buttons on your jumpsuits. When it's dyed you can see the beautiful natural pattern of the nut.
It's a hardwearing substance that gives the local communities a way of protecting from deforestation whilst also providing an income.
The zips are an integral part of the jumpsuit and so they need to be durable to withstand all that toilet-time. So I’ve gone premium, sourcing zips that are designed to last.
Unfortunately the zips aren’t made from recycled plastic as the carbon required to ship them from Japan to the U.K. would be considerably more than the impact of having new zips. This is definitely something I’m working towards though, once I can ensure that the benefits outweigh the negatives.
Think about how many people we’ve already touched. The farmers who grow the crop that turns into fabric. The weavers and people who work in the fabric mills. The people who pack and then ship everything to the factory. All need a wage to survive and support themselves and their families.
The Pricey Bit: Production - 55%
Production is the bulk of the cost of the ezp™ jumpsuits. This one is very important to me for multiple reasons.
Once the jumpsuits were developed to the stage that I felt I could start looking into production, I began visiting factories. I started my search in London because it’s where I live and I wanted to be close by so I could support local manufacture and more easily keep up with production.
I was shocked by the factories I did visit. Some I visited were nice - clean and enough space to move. And some were not. Some I am certain would not pass building regulations, never mind employee rights. And trust me, they were charging considerably more for the production of the jumpsuits than the factory I decided on.
It is important to me that manufacture is in the U.K. because it means I can honestly say that the people who are involved in every stage of the creation of these jumpsuits are doing so in a fair and legal environment, with wages that support them and rights and protection when they need them.
This does not mean that I am against production in other countries at all - there are fantastic factories that are worth supporting but I felt it's important to support local businesses and manufacturing where possible.
The factory is lovely, bright and airy with plenty of room to move and work - it’s in Sheffield in the U.K.
10 people will touch your jumpsuit in the factory alone. Those who cut the pattern pieces, those who sew, those who pack the jumpsuits ready to be delivered to me before I send them onto you. They also have families and homes and deserve fair wages and treatment alongside everyone else, which they are receiving.
Packaging - 2%
Packaging needs to be strong and durable enough make sure that your jumpsuit/s arrive to you in perfect condition. If you choose to return it, the packaging needs to survive the journey back to Leim without damaging the jumpsuit inside.
The outer packaging is fully recyclable and the protective bag that your jumpsuit arrives in is compostable.
Most people don't realise that the cost of packaging is included in the price you pay for a garment but I thought it was worth mentioning, in the interests of transparency. Also, maybe you might find it interesting!
Operational Costs - 10%
This covers the nuts and bolts of running a business, as well as a little money for further development of the next collections - there are some playsuits in the works in time for the next (short) U.K. summer :)
Ultimately, I want you to think of these jumpsuits as an investment. They are beautifully made, designed to be passed across and down, from fabrics that will last. I want you to save for it and therefore cherish it, not throw it away next season.
The fashion industry has got this far with smoke and mirrors, maintaining exclusivity in the luxury sector and over-production in fast fashion. I’m hoping that by being honest and open with you it can provoke thought and create a conversation about where in the process you are happy to spend your money and where you are not. Where you should be spending money and where you should be saving.
I would love your feedback so please do get in touch!