Notes from Nantong: An Unexpected Strategy for Waste Reduction

An offhand comment led us to explore something new entirely.


A key aspect of Vindur Hao’s focus on accountability is our commitment to visiting the factories where our garments are made, with the goal of reviewing working conditions and environmental practices, examining production quality, and most importantly, engaging in collaborative conversations with manufacturers about how to address persistently problematic aspects of the apparel industry. Sometimes these visits result in surprising outcomes.



For example, when we visited Oceanus, a manufacturing company in Nantong, China, our focus was on technical specifications for our newest garments. But an offhand comment led us to explore something new entirely. Louise, the factory owner, was showing us samples of her team’s work, including styles that the factory had developed on their own for another client. She mentioned that the client had not been interested in the styles, but the patterns were ready for production. Curious, we had a look, and realized that with some changes in style details, two of these garments could definitely be #VHAF. And because the pattern was already in the factory’s pattern-making software, we would not have to create multiple rounds of sample garments, a source of waste and pollution in the normal production cycle.


We had to take it one step further of course; we wanted to produce these garments using remnant fabric. Remnant fabric is the fabric left over from producing other garments, and may be of superior quality, but without a purpose is soon discarded to reduce storage costs. Using remnant fabric reduces fabric waste, but it also limits production quantities. Making fewer garments means that customers are guaranteed unique styles, and it also results in less overstock, another common source of waste in the apparel industry.


Thus began the hunt for the right remnant fabrics in Louise’s labyrinth warehouse. These fabrics are not stored systematically by type or color; they are just thrown onto shelves haphazardly. For close to an hour, sweating in Nantong’s subtropical June heat, we went from shelf to shelf looking for just the right type, color, and quality of fabric.

 

The Results:


 

 


 

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