Building the Supply Chain

After years of studying supply chains, I never thought one day I’d be building one myself from the ground up, let alone in the fashion industry. Funny how things turn out. It’s been an eye-opening experience that really got me thinking a lot about what Sonderlier’s supply chain should look like. 

If you followed Sonderlier’s birth story, you may know that I studied supply chains and sustainability in my first career. Sustainability is something I care deeply about, and therefore is also a bottom line for Sonderlier.

I never want sustainability at Sonderlier to be an empty marketing buzzword. It has to be reflected in all aspect of our business operations. I fully understand that this means much more work and higher cost, but I firmly believe that our world cannot take another fast-fashion company that sells $4.99 shirts. We just can’t. Here’s why not.

Our take on trends and waste

Fast fashion is largely driven by trends, most of which are fads, prioritizing extremely low-cost manufacturing above all else. The clothes are low quality, fit poorly (because making them more tailored and individualized adds cost), and go out of style quickly. The business model requires heavy consumption with high turnover. This model has dominated the industry for the past decade. The result is that we now consume 5 times more clothing than we did in 1980. The majority of these clothes quickly end up in the landfill or incinerator. This is a cycle that I do NOT want Sonderlier to be a part of.

Sonderlier’s pieces aren’t going to be trend-driven. Each piece has been and will be carefully thought through on its look, its fit, its quality, its versatility, and its sustainability. That is our promise to you. Our goal is to create timeless pieces that you love wearing all the time and everywhere. I believe this is the only way out of the disposable culture and our waste problem. If everyone feels this way about their clothes, there will be so much less need for the landfill. 

Building transparency and responsibility

With globalization, supply chains have gotten long, very long. With that comes a loss of transparency and accountability. Marketing for these clothes carefully hides of all the hidden costs used to drive down the price. We see the brand name, but hidden from us, half the globe away, is a mother paid so poorly that she still struggles to feed her family despite a 100-hour work-week. We don’t see the fabric mill that cuts costs by directly pouring carcinogens into local drinking supplies. The human and environmental cost isn’t reflected in the $9.99 price tag – unless you realize that it’s exactly how that price got to be so low. The true cost behind a fashion supply chain can be staggering, and our customers deserve to know that.

Providing this transparency is no small feat. In fact, few companies can see beyond their immediate suppliers for various reasons. Getting information from the suppliers upstream is difficult, because nobody wants to talk. Ask direct questions and you get evasive non-answers. For a startup like us, because of our small size, it’s hard to twist arms and make the bad guys shape up. So instead we go the extra mile in searching for partners that truly share our commitment. We ask a lot of questions, and we don’t work with the companies that dodge them. We do what we can to shorten the supply chain so that we reduce our carbon footprint and better monitor our partners. I have more plans, and even though they are not all feasible at this stage given our resource constraint, we are taking important steps to lay the groundwork.

By supporting us, you are a part of a revolution whose time has come. Once we set the standard high, big companies would be forced to fall into line or risk losing their customers and their bottom line – which is the only thing powerful enough to motivate them to change. And, of course, you get amazing clothes in the process. I call that a win. 

More is to come on this series as I try to fight an uphill battle against how the fashion industry does things. Sign up to join this journey with me.

And leave your comments. I’d love to hear from you.

-Xi

 


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