Not too long ago, I ventured out to Miami to attend my first industry trade show, Apparel Textile Sourcing Miami 2019. I had no expectations. This was a new world for me, and I went into what I like to call “sponge mode” – basically using every opportunity to soak in every morsel of knowledge I could. I focused on observing everything around me. I paid attention to the interactions a lot of the manufacturers were having with potential buyers and with each other, as well as answering any inquiries about WRAP that came my way.
Our booth was strategically placed near the front, so to say we were heavily trafficked would be an understatement. During our few days on-site, I noticed a common theme starting to develop. A lot of the designers that were in attendance were very new to the realm of sourcing.
A great deal of them came over to visit our booth and reviewed our materials, talked to us about what we did and the overall mission of WRAP- but there was a consistent theme that I was detecting throughout my interactions.
“How do I get my business off the ground in an ethical manner without wiping out every last bit of operating capital?”
How many young designers and/or rising brands have faced this dilemma? Likely a high percentage of them, if not all.
My first thought was- “This is awesome! New entrepreneurs want to do the right thing!”
My second thought was- “What does it matter if they do the right thing but aren’t able to sustain themselves as a business? What is the point of doing things ethically if your business isn’t able to remain in business?”
The fact that this moral quandary is occurring is encouraging. If my time in Miami is any indicator, social compliance, and ethical sourcing is a high priority for emerging brands and designers. With the rise of social media, it is not hard for bad news to travel fast. And if your brand is caught in the middle of a questionable sourcing practice, there’s a good chance that public outcry could put an end to your brand. Sourcing unethically can be harmful to your business’ chances at thriving.
However- if your focus on sustainability and “doing things the right way” hinders your bottom line, well- you will also not be a brand for much longer either.
So, where’s the balance?
While it may be hard to answer some of the large “meta” questions posed by this debate, there are some small-scale practical options at your disposal.
While this might be a shameless plug for WRAP, one practical option that we have at our disposal is the ability to serve as a kind of “matchmaker” for brands and designers looking for a certified facility to manufacture their designs. We can seamlessly contact WRAP facilities throughout the world and inform them of your individual needs. Once that initial connection is, and you’ve found a certified facility to work with, WRAP will step back and allow that relationship to bloom.
While this simple step may not serve as a cure-all- it does potentially equip an emerging business with the tool to help them in achieving the balance of being ethical in your sourcing practices, while also being able to survive in a crowded and chaotic space.