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Ethical | Organic | Artisanal

How our Fairtrade, organic cotton loungewear is made...

Step 1: Organic cotton is grown and woven in India

Why is organic cotton so important?

“Organic cotton is a key fibre in the sustainability strategies of fashion brands worldwide. It promotes healthy soils, healthy ecosystems, healthy people, and thriving farming communities. It relies on ecological processes and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse environmental effects, such as synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilisers, or genetically modified (GM) seeds. Consequently, organic cotton sets itself apart as the sustainable staple for the fashion and textiles sector and as an alternative to conventional cotton production, which involves some of the highest use of pesticides and incurs a heavy water footprint. Organic cotton offers a lower ecological impact and by reducing exposure to insecticides, pesticides and other chemicals, improves biodiversity and benefits the health and safety of farmers and their communities. The protection and growth of organic cotton farming is therefore a critical step in turning around the negative externalities of conventional cotton.” (Fashion For Good, 2019)



How do we know our fabrics are grown and produced organically?

Our organic cotton fabrics are 100% GOTS certified and are processed by a GOTS certified mill. GOTS is described by Fashion For Good as “the current, worldwide leading textile processing standard for organic fibres. GOTS relies on on-site inspection and certification of processors, manufacturers and traders, performed by independent specially accredited bodies. This is the basis of the GOTS monitoring system which provides a credible assurance for the integrity of GOTS certified textiles.”

Every step of the production process, from the growing of the cotton to the spinning and milling of it, is all certified. This means every stage and every person involved is protected by the GOTS standards. The certification ensures the highest quality standards for organic textile production, both from an environmental and social standpoint. Social criteria based on the key norms of the International Labour Organisation must also be met by all processors and manufacturers in order to be applicable for GOTS certification. These criteria include but are not limited to: safe and hygienic working conditions, guaranteed living wages and protection against excessive working hours. To find out more visit https://www.global-standard.org/.

Where does our organic cotton come from?

It is important to us that the organic cotton is grown in the same country as where the items are made to minimise our carbon emissions as much as we possibly can. All of our organic cotton is grown in India and also woven and processed by Anithaa Weaving Mill Pvt. in Tamil Nadu, India. The Mill itself, and the sales branch of the company — S.S.V. Textiles Exim Private Limited, are both GOTS certified organisations.

Step 2: Our organic cotton fabrics are block printed by hand by artisans in Jaipur, India

What is the history of block printing?

The traditional process of hand block printing on textiles, with rich natural colours, has been practiced in Rajasthan for around 500 years.  Block printing was introduced to the Jaipur region of Rajasthan by the Chhipa community.  This community was originally located in Bagru Village, an area now famous for its vegetable dye and mud resist (dabu) block prints. The art of block printing has been passed down for generations within families and communities and has branched out in recent decades to other regions such as Sanganer, just South of Jaipur.  In traditional Bagru style block printing, the ‘recipes’ for the traditional plant-based dyes are developed within each family and kept alive from generation to generation.  The colours are dependent on the quality of the plants, the water and skill and knowledge of the printing masters.  In more recent forms of block printing, such as those practiced in Sanganer, colours are mixed using AZO free pigment dyes (Mehera Shaw, 2020).

What is the block printing process?

A print starts with the design, drawn on paper and carved into the Sheesham wooden block.  Designs are meticulously carved by hand into the blocks which are approximately 18-25 centimetres across. The physical block is the design for a single repeat which is then stamped in rows across the fabric.  Each colour in the design is carved into a separate block.  Block carving is in itself an art requiring years of apprenticeship to gain mastery and is done entirely by hand. 

One the block is ready, using AZO free dyes each colour pattern is stamped individually onto the fabric. The process takes skill and time, as the pattern must be positioned perfectly and stamped repeatedly across the fabric. The slight human irregularities — inevitable in handwork — create the artistic effect emblematic of block prints. The final outcome of this intricate labour is a timeless beauty, and every garment made from this fabric is unique.

The block printing villages are know for their rhythmic ‘tock-tock’ sound of the block printer hitting the wood block to ‘stamp’ the pattern.  It is an enchanting sound which echoes through the village and is a reminder of the significance of artisan work (Mehera Shaw, 2020).

You can read more about block printing and watch a video of our fabric being printed on the following blog post Artisanal Prints: How our fabric is printed.

How does block printing have a positive social impact?

Block printing supports decentralised artisan textile production as it is typically done in open-air facilities in villages, or in people’s homes. It provides a source of income to many village families and is an environmentally positive approach to textile production in rural India.  It is also a method of decentralised production, following Gandhi’s philosophy of keeping more people employed within their traditional environment. While often men have been the printing masters, in small-scale, traditional production, women also become skilled printers.  Traditional printing is often done in family units which provides more income for the whole family and allows women to work within the the day-to-day routine of family life (Mehera Shaw, 2020).

Why is supporting artisan work important?

Our supplier Mehera Shaw are a proud member of Craftmark. Established in 2006, the Craftmark initiative helps denote genuine Indian handicrafts, develop sector-wide minimum standards and norms for labelling a product as a handicrafts product, and increases consumer awareness of distinct handicraft traditions.

“With over 23 million craftspeople, the crafts sector is the second largest employer in India. Many communities in India depend on their craft skills as a source of income. The craft sector keeps rural communities alive, sustains families, and allows children to gain education. Supporting the craft sector breathes life into a heritage that is over 4,000 years old. It maintains the transfer of valuable traditional knowledge from elders to youths and master craftspeople to students. Buying hand-made products delivers livelihood to millions of skilled craftspeople that proudly create unique, high-quality products by hand. Above all, in an evolving global village where homogeneous products dominate our lifestyles, craft products stand apart in their distinctiveness and cultural reference.” (Craftmark)

 

To learn more, please visit http://www.craftmark.org/why-craftmark

Step 3: Our block printed fabric is made into our carefully designed ethical sustainable loungewear by our fair trade supplier, Mehera Shaw

Who makes rho loungewear?

Our supplier Mehera Shaw are based in Jaipur, India. They are a member of the World Fair Trade Organisation.

What is the garment construction process?

Once the fabric has been printed, washed, treated and dried, the garment cutting can start. Mehera Shaw try to keep fabric waste to a minimum and use any small unusable off-cuts for their own up-cycling projects. When all of the flat pieces of fabric for each style are cut out, they are organised into sizes and sewn together to form the 3D garments. A range of sewing techniques are used to create each style, from overlocking, to french seaming and adding elastics, interfacings and labels. Normally last to be added are any trims such as buttons, and then the garment can be steamed, any finishing touches added and then it can be hung or folded ready to be checked over and then packed and shipped.

How is the quality assured?

All garment manufacturing is done by our Fair Trade supplier in-house, they also sometimes work with local area artisans in Bagru Village for block printing.

To ensure every garment they produce is beautifully finished to a very hight standard, Mehera Shaw do quality checks at every stage of the manufacturing process:

  • fabric visual check before and after dyeing, colour and accuracy check during dyeing or printing

  • measurement and construction check during production

  • after production: visual check of fabric, seams, alignment, overall look, removal of loose threads, accessories check (zips, buttons, labels)

  • packing: final visual check after pressing and during packing

What does Fair Trade manufacturing mean?

We are very proud to work with our Fair Trade supplier Mehera Shaw. They pride themselves on their people-centered approach to sustainability, which combined with their high environmental standards, and the ways they support and celebrate local artisan crafts, makes them a force for good in the garment industry. Not to mention a huge inspiration for us! ⁠All of their products are made in-house in accordance with the following fair labour standards:⁠

  • no discrimination⁠

  • no child labour ⁠

  • no forced labour and no forced overtime⁠

  • no excessive working hours⁠

  • all staff are full-time salaried employees, and are always paid a living wage on time⁠

  • pension funds for all staff⁠

  • on time payments to suppliers⁠

  • clean and safe working conditions⁠

  • working in a supportive, transparent way throughout the supply chain.⁠ ⁠

Why is buying Fair Trade important?

As described by the World Fair Trade Organisation, “Fair Trade is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalised producers and workers – especially in the South.

Fair Trade Organisations have a clear commitment to Fair Trade as the principal core of their mission. They, backed by consumers, are engaged actively in supporting producers, awareness raising and in campaigning for changes in the rules and practice of conventional international trade."

Fair Trade Organisations (also known as Fair Trade Enterprises) can be recognised by the WFTO Mark.

Fair Trade is more than just trading:

  • It is a vision of business and trade that put people and planet before profit

  • It fights poverty, climate change, gender inequality and injustice

  • Is a proof of concept that showcases the enterprise models of the new economy”

(WFTO, Fairtrade International and European Fair Trade Association)

Thank you for reading! You can browse our first collection of ethical, sustainable loungewear here.

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I love my rho sleepwear! I love wearing them to sleep in and I am waiting for the sun to warm up so I can style them to wear out.

Alice

I feel relaxed and comfortable but also stylish in a subtle but eye catching way. An indulgent investment for many cosy and comfortable evenings at home but also flattering for stylish nights away.

Alison

The design is beautiful. The double breasted PJ top is beautiful and such a unique design.

Alison

Absolutely delighted with my new loungewear. Very comfortable yet stylish. I particularly love the tile pattern design, and colour. Ticks all the boxes for me!

Angela

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