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Spruce Up or Ship Out: Fashion Chains Open Up Their Supply Chains To Ease Customer Concerns About Labor

A worker making a hoodie at Jack Wills' Portugal factory

Customers are more informed than ever, and more concerned with the ethics of the manufacturing process. Overseas manufacturing has often had a negative connotation, with some wondering whether such factories are nothing more than present-day sweatshops.

The Crisis

In 2013, the Rana Plaza warehouse disaster in Bangladesh resulted in the death of 1,138 workers, including child laborers. The factory was making clothing for British High Street brands Mango, Matalan, Primark, and others.

After the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse, revelations about workers being forced to work long hours without breaks and women and young girls being beaten, began coming to light.

The Solution

After these scandals and disasters, some fashion chains are seeking to ease customer fears. UK clothing brand Jack Wills has opened up their supply chains. They’re giving an inside look at the working conditions of those who are making their clothing.

Jack Wills chief executive and founder Peter Williams is proud of their factories. About 50% of their clothing is made in Portugal, with the rest being made in China. Their textiles are British, such as tweed by Linton and wool by Abraham Moon.

Peter Williams, Jack Wills CEO and Founder

Williams commented: “Retailers and brands are being tarred with the same brush and it’s assumed that a foreign supply base means there’s kids on the bench and terrible conditions, but I am proud of all of our factories, where we have long relationships.”

The Inside Look

Jack Wills’ relationship with their Porto, Portugal factory and local suppliers goes back 15 years. In Porto they have the capacity to generate 20,000 pieces a week. And according to Williams, their factories in China far surpass the competition when it comes to investment in infrastructure.

Jack Wills has been posting pictures and videos of their factories and suppliers to their website.

Telegraph reports more of Peter Williams’ comments;

“To my knowledge, no one in the UK has done this so far – we’re calling on them to raise the bar. For years, Marks and Spencer has been fantastic in leading the way, but you don’t have visibility as a consumer into their supply chains, whereas our customers will be able to see exactly where and how our products are made.”

Watch to see how a Jack Wills hoodie is made.

Other than their high quality factories abroad, the brand has some items that are ‘Made in Britain’, such as their Carrington jacket.

You can even see the sheep from whose backs the wool is sheared to make Jack Wills blazers!

With more and more people making purchases based on ethics and quality, it would seem that Jack Wills has bright days ahead of them. Here’s hoping other brands and retailers will follow their lead!