Who, where and how Poetry clothes are made is very important to us. As participants in the world economy, we do not want to be involved in or supportive of practises that we do not believe in. It is important to us that the people making the clothes have full rights, decent pay and good working conditions. So who does make Poetry clothes and where are they located?
In summary, all the knitwear, most of the wovens and about half of the jersey styles are made in China. We have always had a significant amount of production from Portugal, specifically garment-dyed linen trousers, jeans and jersey which the Portuguese are very strong at. We have been working over the last two years with one supplier in India, slowly growing our business with them focusing on clothes in cotton which is grown and spun in India. We do a small number of leather and suede styles each season which are actually made in very small quantities in a long-established workshop in East London. Recently we have started doing a small amount of outerwear from Romania.
What these various factories all have in common is that they are based in areas where there is a history and therefore the related skills and knowledge of making a certain type of clothing. Chinese knitwear, Portuguese jersey, Indian cotton, Eastern European tailoring and so on.
We have worked with all of our suppliers for many years, the majority of our clothes being made by factories we have worked with for at least ten years. I know the owners of the factories and I have visited them many times. They are all high-end factories making relatively small quantities, at a very high-quality level. As a result, their workers are highly skilled and experienced. These are not the factories making huge quantities of clothes that are sold at incredibly low prices by big high street retailers, it really is another world. There are absolutely no children involved. The factories are bright and spacious. The labour laws are strong and adhered to.
Some of our customers question the use of Chinese factories. A few things to consider in relation to China. Over the last thirty years, China’s economy has been opened up to international trade. As a result of this trade literally hundreds of millions of people have moved out of poverty and as this has happened the wages of workers in China have risen steadily to the point where China is now considered an expensive place to have clothes made. The Chinese government has steadily increased the protection of the workers so the additional costs of employing people in China have risen progressively as well. As a result, low-cost clothes making has relocated from China to places like Cambodia, Vietnam and Bangladesh. These countries are able to make clothes much cheaper than China but the clothes are of lower quality and the workers are paid less and in many cases less well treated. Even if we were comfortable with the working practises in these other countries, which we are not, the factories there would not be interested in our low volume, high-quality orders.
Whilst China has undergone a process of economic liberation, the same cannot be said of its politics. I have concerns about some of the policies of the Chinese government. However, we don’t deal with the government, we deal directly with privately owned businesses, the owners of which I count as friends and who I believe to be decent people trying to run a business for the long term, with people working for them for many years and across generations. We carry on with our trade regardless of the politics. I think this is the right thing to do?
One thing the Chinese government has done over recent years is to increase the protection of workers and also the environment, and these new laws are enforced. This has resulted in higher pay, more holidays and less pollution. So in this respect, the Chinese government is doing some good.
When looking at where clothes are made you need also to question who has made the clothes and in what conditions. Actually, some of the worst abuses of labour in the textile trade happen much closer to home. There are sweatshops in the west where immigrants work, often in much worse conditions than in developing economies. Bangladeshi workers in factories in Leicester, Mexicans in Los Angeles factories and lots of Chinese workers in Italian factories.
So it isn’t really a question of in what country the clothes are made. What really matters is who made the clothes, in what conditions and with what pay and rights. In this respect, I am proud of the clothes that we make, confident that the workers are well treated, in the same way as the people who work directly for us are well treated.
This is not a finished job though. We operate in an ever-changing world and we will continue to evolve and adapt. From one season to the next, the vast majority of our clothes are made by long-established suppliers, but we are always looking to improve our business and trying new things with new people. You can rest assured that in everything we do we are guided by our core values and beliefs. Decency and respect for our fellow human beings, whether suppliers, customers or employees is more important to me than maximising this year’s profit. In the long term, decency and respect deliver financial security and without the support of the people we interact with there would be no business.
Founder and Creative Director