Kilt knows how to surprise and delight

I was walking around on my lunch break a few weeks ago when I got a phone call from an unknown number. Expecting a bank or an insurance company, I was surprised to hear that it was someone from Kilt. She was calling to let me know that my free earrings were available for me to pick up. Why? Because it was my birthday month!

Not many brands actually go to the effort of doing this, but when they do it really does make a difference. I’ve always been fans of Kilt and their NZ-made ethos, but this was super lovely and a real point of difference.

It’s small gestures like this that can really make a brand stand out from the crowd. Thanks Kilt!

Check out the goodies Kilt has

Kilt earrings image1 (3)

Good on you ‘Good’ magazine!

I’ve always loved Good magazine and get excited every time my subscription arrives in the mail. But now I think they’re the bees knees for writing about the topic of ethical clothing practices on a regular basis. Especially after the tragedy in Bangladesh.

They are challenging well known companies to explain how their supply chain works so that we can have faith in buying their clothes. Who better to hear it from than the horse’s mouth?

What is the challenge put to the companies?

The editor of Good pens a letter to company owners to make them accountable. It goes something like this:

Dear so-and-so,

In the wake of April’s Bangladesh garment factory collapse, we witnessed a wave of concern from New Zealanders wanting to know how they could guarantee the workers who made their clothing have a safe environment and a fair wage.

As much as we love ‘Made in New Zealand’, we recognise that this country doesn’t have the infrastructure to efficiently produce garments on a large scale, and that manufacturing locally isn’t an option for many major clothing brands.

Apart from Fairtrade, there is currently no local third-party certification system for ethical or sustainable clothing. The next best option would seem to be transparency from brands such as yours. A lack of information about these matters leaves us feeling powerless to make good consumer choices.

We realise that there are many challenges facing the garment industry and we want to make our readers aware of the issues brands deal with in providing clothing at an affordable price for New Zealanders. So we’d like to invite you to share with Good readers any information you have around the ethics and sustainability of your company’s products.

Maybe you personally visit the factories where your garments are made – our readers would love to know this. Ultimately, we’d like to lift the curtain and connect New Zealanders with the makers and suppliers of the clothes they wear everyday.

Over the next few months we will be publishing any responses we receive online at and we’d be thrilled if you would be willing to take part in this industry-wide conversation.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely yours,

Sarah Heeringa

Read some of the replies

You can read letters written in response from companies here:

Check out the Good story on who makes your clothes

Bangladesh & Rana Plaza – did the corporates grow a conscience overnight?

How come it took one of the world’s worst industrial disasters to take some action on the appalling factory conditions in Bangladesh? Doing a quick google about Walmart (one of the manufacturers in the factory) threw up the astonishing figure of their net income for 2013.

Walmart net income: USD 16.999  billion (2013)

Wow. Each person in the Bangladesh factory makes NZD 133 per month (8,000 taka). You would think Walmart could have perhaps afforded to make the environment these people work in a lot safer.

At least now they and Gap are part of the growing number of companies that have finally signed an agreement to pledge to fix the problem.
Walmart and Gap sign agreement

Fact: Over 1,100 people died making Western clothes in Rana Plaza. It was entirely avoidable.

Companies that have agreed to make some sort of financial contribution, include: Primark (UK), El Corte Ingles (Spain), Loblaw (Canada), PVT (Denmark), Matalan (UK), Benetton (Italy) and Premier Clothing (UK).

Benetton released a statement on the 23rd of May saying that their support will include artificial limbs, surgery, psychological support and training for survivors and workers. They need to engage with the trade unions representing the workers, and to commit to compensate for loss of income, pain and suffering and support to education.

What you can do

By not buying from brands that don’t take safety and ethical practices in their factories seriously, you can show your support for the victims of the Bangladesh factory collapse. Vote with your wallet and choose to spend your hard earned cash somewhere that gives a damn.

Ethical running/casual shoes…options you’ll love

So…shoes shoes shoes. This has been a bit of a conundrum for me. I have not bought a lot of shoes in my ethical year. The ones I did buy were second-hand. I really struggled with running shoes. Reading Lucy Siegle’s Guardian article, I realised that the shift is slowly but surely happening towards ethical shoes. Even if it’s at a bit of a glacial pace.

One aspect of running shoes that has always annoyed me is that fact that we can pay $220 for a pair of running shoes yet the actual cost to make them (including the labour) is not that high. In the words of local heroes Flight of the Conchords,

“They’re turning kids into slaves, just to make cheaper sneakers
But what’s the real cost? ’Cause the sneakers don’t seem that much cheaper

Why are we still paying so much for sneakers? When you got them made by little slaves kids.
What are your overheads?”

But after a bit of digging around, I have found some good options which happen to be both stylish and fair trade – score!

Ethical shoes featuring Vivobarefoot, Ethletic and Veja

Made my first skirt thanks to the Fashion Workshop

I’m so pleased my friend asked me if I’d be keen to do a bag making sewing class a few months ago. Because after progressing from that, we decided we were ready for the skirt making ‘not your nana’s sewing class’ at Wellington’s Fashion Workshop.

I was super excited to find a NZ made pattern for my skirt from Papercut Patterns. Really cute packaging and pretty easy to follow. They are based in Nelson, NZ and have a modern take on patterns. Here’s the pattern of the skirt I made.

As I am a total rookie, it was great that our tutor Jenny from the Fashion Workshop was really helpful and patient. Questions like ‘umm how do I thread the machine?’ were allowed. No question was too stupid and the class was nice and small.

I finished the skirt during the once a week (for 3 weeks) 3 hour sessions after work. Using mum’s hardly used dream machine Bernina was a bonus and created a nice smooth finish. I reckon it might need tweaking and taking in a little bit, but I was so excited to get some use out of it that had to wear it to work (pic below – skirt made from 100% wool bought at Global Fabrics Wellington).

I fully recommend this sewing course and I know my friend and I will definitely be getting along to another one.

Check out patterns at Papercut Patterns

Find out about sewing classes at the FashionWorkshop

Wearing my first made skirt

Made in NZ – CAST clothing

Just discovered this brand CAST by Catherine Stonely, made right here in NZ.

CAST is a one man or should I say woman band. She stocks and ships lots of cute dresses, tunics, tops, leggings and accessories. She is based in Fielding but occasionally comes down to Wellington to the Frank Kitts market. Hoping she gets here soon otherwise I feel a road trip is in order…

I love this coat.

CAST website

Finally, some ethical jeans!

So since I started this, two things have me stumped – jeans and sports clothes. But I’m pleased to say that jeans are now off the list thanks to finding out about Monkee Genes.

Monkee Genes was born in 2006 out of the frustration of the denim market, to offer something fresh, vibrant and youthful. Disillusioned with Primark and disposable high street fashion, the Monkee Genes team decided to raise public consciousness. Monkee Genes is the first and only jeans label to have unique mix of astute accreditation from The Soil Association and the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS).

Innovative fits and styles in top of the range fabrics, classic denim with a retro twist and luscious sateen cottons in pop art inspired colours. In today’s fragile environment Monkee Genes is the independent label to watch, on trend, affordable and with an eco and ethical conscience. ” Read their manifesto.

They make women’s, men’s and children’s jeans as well as shorts. They also ship to anywhere in the world for 5 pounds.

Might have to order me some soon….

Monkee genes image