From April 19 to 25, we’re spotlighting our sustainability efforts
Fashion Revolution was founded after the Rana Plaza disaster of 2013, which claimed the lives of more than 1100 garment workers and injured more than 2500 others. It is now the world’s largest fashion activism movement, fuelled by a vision of a global fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment and values people over growth. Fashion Revolution works toward this through research, education and advocacy work at every level and segment of the industry, from designers and academics to business leaders, brands, retailers, workers, fashion lovers and more.
The collapse of the Rana Plaza building took place on April 24, and each year, in the week coinciding with this date, we remember the lives lost and demand that no one should die for fashion.
For Fashion Revolution Week 2021, we thought we’d highlight a few of the commitments and ongoing initiatives we’re making here at The Sleep Shirt to help create a better fashion industry.
Five ways The Sleep Shirt is an ethical clothing company
1) CONSIDERED FABRICS
We choose to work exclusively with natural materials for many reasons – but primarily for comfort, quality, and the environment. We believe that sleepwear should be made from natural fibres that are breathable and durable, and the majority of our fabrics are Oeko-Tex certified and/or BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) certified.
Recognise these terms but not sure what they mean? Oeko-Tex is the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology, which was founded in 1992 and is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland. The Oeko-Tex Association includes 18 neutral test and research institutes in Europe and Japan, with an office presence in over 70 countries. Its certification, Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex, is the industry standard for consumer communication when it comes to potentially harmful chemicals on clothing and any textile-based goods.
The Better Cotton Initiative, meanwhile, is the international non-profit governance group that promotes better cotton farming standards and practices across 21 countries. It exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future by training BCI Farmers on soil health and irrigation practices, how to reduce fertiliser use and more sustainable agriculture and crop protection procedures overall.
Here at The Sleep Shirt, when our sleepwear reaches the end of its life cycle, we want our products to biodegrade naturally. We are concerned about the environmental impact of synthetic fabrics, especially as many release microparticles when washed in domestic washing machines. For this reason, we are dedicated to ensuring all of our clothing is primarily made from cotton, linen, or cashmere.
Primarily sourced from Japan, Italy, Portugal, and China, our fabric selection is high quality, durable, and stylish. Our cottons range from lightweight voiles to classic shirtings with dobby, twill, or Oxford weaves. During the warmer months we offer delicate, semi sheer voiles woven in Italy, lightweight polished shirtings, and breathable patterned cottons and blends. In fall and winter, our cotton selection features flannels, brushed cottons, and midweight materials suitable for colder environments.
2) ETHICAL MANUFACTURING
It’s important to us that we sell ethically made clothing, which is why all of our manufacturing is done in Canada, in a factory on the outskirts of Vancouver. All of the people who make our collections are employed under safe working conditions and paid above minimum wage.
Local production means that we can visit our factories on a regular basis, both to inspect the premises and to meet with our team and build lasting relationships with them.
One of the things we’re asked most often is why our prices are high. The answer is a combination of our ethical manufacturing and our high-quality fabrics. By making our products in Canada, in small batches, we can ensure everything is made to the standard we expect, by workers who are treated as we would expect. We wouldn’t have it any other way
3) LOW WASTE
The Sleep Shirt is focused on ensuring our supply chain, materials, and packaging are as sustainable as possible. We operate a low-waste production process, with every single fabric scrap accounted for and used. Any fabric end that can be turned into a clothing item is used, while any remnants under 10m long are used for the UPCYCLE collection.
UPCYCLE includes everything from napkins and tea towels to laundry bags, dustbags and kerchiefs; this year, we will also be launching an apron, which will come in One Size and PLUS
4) SIZE INCLUSIVITY
In 2017, we launched PLUS, offering extended sizes up to XXXL (3X), with XXXXL (4X) and XXXXL (5X) coming later this year.
Creating PLUS is labour intensive – it involves additional grading, sampling, and fittings – but expanding the range is a priority here at The Sleep Shirt, and we are committed to being a size-inclusive brand. Customer feedback helps us determine which shapes and sizes are offered, but we also engage in extensive market research and work with a plus-size model on fittings and consultations to ensure the product is comfortable and the right size.
To read more about how far we’ve come, and the PLUS styles that will be launching later this year, check out our progress report here.
5) REDUCED CONSUMERISM
The Sleep Shirt is dedicated to making high quality items that stand the test of time. Everything is designed for both comfort and style, increasing the likelihood that our pieces are items you’ll want to wear across many situations and years. We ensure our collections pass the ‘real life situation’ test: we want you to be able to (proudly) wear our pieces over breakfast with your in-laws, when you’ve got house guests, and while answering the door to room service or the delivery driver.
What’s more, our collections are made to last. We genuinely want our products to enjoy a long life cycle, reducing the need for them to be replaced regularly. In fact, now that we are in our ninth year of business, we know and have heard from many customers that our machine washable nightshirts last over 700 wears.
WE’VE STILL GOT WORK TO DO
Of course, we’re not perfect – far from it. One particular area of frustration, and an area that we are focusing on this year, is packaging.
Packaging truly is tricky, and there’s more to it than meets the eye. Almost all of our retail partners, including the physical and online stores where you can find The Sleep Shirt, demand that product arrives in their warehouse in plastic packaging – so even if it’s then packaged in beautiful, sustainable or compostable materials before being shipped to you, the truth of the matter is that almost everything in your order most likely first came in a plastic package.
The #1 reason for this is damage. Clothing is much less likely to arrive in a retailer’s warehouse damaged – we’re talking water damage, rodent or insect damage, and garments that are misshapen or completely squashed – through the transport process when it comes pre-packaged. This then means the retailer will encounter fewer problems with quality control, vendor returns, and ultimately, customer returns.
Luckily, consumers are becoming more savvy about plastic waste, and are demanding more transparency and change from boutiques and stores. We’re on both sides of this revolution, working with retailers to find a better solution while knowing all too well the restrictions and issues that come with using recyclable or compostable materials. While we continue working on this plastic outer package, we’re happy to report that we’ve successfully removed plastic collar stands, so the collars lay flat, meaning our shirts take up less space when folded and stacked.
If you’ve got any ideas, suggestions, or have seen unique alternatives to plastic packaging that you think we should consider, we’d love to hear from you! Please send your ideas, photos, or links to me and my team at email@example.com – we’d love to hear from you.