The textile -and clothing industry is in a time of change. Consumers are more aware of the downside of the industry, the violation of human rights and of how harmful this industry is for the environment. Consumers are concerned of the choices they are making. For example, finding the origin of a t-shirt can prove to be next to impossible. Fast fashion is so last season. Therefore, the appreciation toward clothing and the people working in the industry must increase. We want to reveal more about our production, the concept of responsibility and the working conditions of our employees. Responsibility must not be about all talk but about actions.
The founding values of our company are renewal, development and learning while respecting and appreciating our customers. As a family owned business, the center of our work are people, the well-being of the community and a sustainable future. Sustainable meaning the reasonable use of resources while cherishing them and respecting the environment. As rare as it is in today’s business world, we here at Black Moda design our own labels AARREkid, Puuvillatehdas, PikkuSet and RATIA so, that they bring joy for as long as possible and so, that no one buys any of the products in vain. The corner stones of designing are timelessness, practicality, the correct fitting and choosing the correct materials for every use. We want to keep our prices affordable so that as many people as possible can afford to buy our long lasting and quality products.
Our family owned tricot factory Cottonhouse, located in northern Portugal, is helping us design from beginning to end. 65 people are employed there. Communicating directly with the production is effortless. The quality of the products is consistent. Product development and collaboration works seamlessly. Our middle-born sister Riikka Keski-Vähälä de Oliveira, the Finnish CEO of Cottonhouse, is responsible for the employees, acquirements and products. She makes sure the suppliers and business partners work according to the ecological and ethical codes.
Portugal is an EU country considered to be a low-risk country. Working life is governed by law in Portugal and it is over-seen that the laws are obeyed. You can familiarize yourself with the list of high-risk countries by clicking this link. The list is made by Amfori BSCI (Business Social Compliance) and it is based on the World Governance Index.
Portugal has also ratified a treaty according to ILO (International Labor Organization). According to the principles of ILO each of its member states are obligated to remove forced labor, child labor, discrimination and to ensure the freedom of association. During the last few years the main goal for ILO has been to achieve decent work globally.
Cottonhouse makes sure their employees are up to speed with their professional competence by providing them a continues training program. All the employees are provided with 35 hours of training per year. Private health care and safety services guarantee for a healthy and safe working environment. We closely follow the development of technology and our machinery is up do date. A significant piece of equipment was acquired late 2018: a cutting machine.
The pay rate in the textile and clothing industry is very low on international measures. Many brands search for the lowest possible prices from Asia and in a decreasing rate also from Africa. Not everyone can compete, not when the well-being of employees and the environment are on the line.
Employees of Cottonhouse are paid the minimum wage and more depending on the job description. Besides sewers our company employs production designers, planers, a pattern master, cutters and storage personnel. In addition to the minimum wage the employees are paid rewards for diligence and production. The employees also get three weeks of paid summer vacation and one week of paid winter holiday. Any possible work done over time is always negotiated and the employee is paid compensation. According to the new collective agreement in Portugal when necessary, a worker can work two hours over time per day and up to 200 hours per year. The maternal and paternal leaves in Portugal last for five months. After that one the parents may work for six hours a day until the child has turned one. However, the employee is paid for the full eight hours. Annual increase to pay are included according to law.
During busy seasons we manufacture our products with subcontractors. The pay rate of the employees, the working conditions and the environmental effects of the production are governed by law also. Cottonhouse inspects the subcontractors regularly. Furthermore, staff from Black Moda visits our partners at least once a year.
Cotton is the most important and used material in our tricot products. Most of the cotton is organic. Currently we mainly use GOTS certified organic cotton which is bought from a Turkish cotton wholesale. GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) is the world leading handling standard for organic fibers. GOTS makes the high standard environmental criteria covering the entire chain of production from the field to the finished product. GOTS also requires social criteria to be followed.
Raw cotton from different fields are combined in the cotton wholesale. This is done to ensure the consistency of different patches of cotton. The quality of cotton and especially organic cotton is muchly influenced by the weather conditions during harvest season. Spandex is also bought from one supplier with factories in Turkey and Vietnam. We also make tricot products with no spandex. This is trending in B2B production, for example.
We use and actively search for more ecologic materials than cotton and we use recycled materials. We largely make use of leftover materials in making our Puuvillatehdas brand. We also have tights made in Italy where they are made with pre-recycled materials. We want to be involved in creating more ecological materials and we are currently collaborating with our business partners to find new solutions like to have more ecological options for packing materials.
The organic cotton fibers are post-processed in northern Portugal where it is spun to make thread or ready-made thread is brought to Portugal. The basic thread is usually spun in Turkey and special threads are done so in Portugal. The threads are then made in to knitting in the same area.
Next, the knitting is dyed, pressed and finished. The dying process requires a lot of water. The company that dyes and presses the knitting has a legitimate water treatment plant which has its own system to regulate pH values.
Our production is Öko-Tex Standard 100 certified. This means our products have no harmful pesticides, heavy metals or remnants of formaldehyde. The REACH act (stands for Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) puts more responsibility on the industry when it comes to the risks that chemicals might have on the environment and health. REACH has been in affect in the European Union since 2007.
The dyed and pressed knitting are transferred to our tricot factory to the storage to wait for the next steps, cutting and sewing. The leftovers are recycled. Cottonhouse is responsible for the recycling process. The finished products are transferred directly to our storage or to our client’s storage by truck. The trip from northern Portugal to Finland lasts for about a week. Sometimes different weather conditions might cause delay (such as snowstorms in central Europe). Fortunately, this happens quite rarely.
There is still a lot to be done. For example, the traceability of our cotton’s origin is one of our main goals. In order to achieve this, we must work relentlessly and work together with other people in the industry. In the future we need to know where the cotton we use comes from and we need to be sure that the working conditions along the chain of production are in check. Environmental effects must be controlled also. Like we stated in the beginning, being responsible cannot be about words, it must be about actions. Work on being more responsible must never stop.
If you have any questions or want to leave a comment, feel free to contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org!