How can you ethically source a T-shirt that costs $5?

It was the very first question I asked the Ethical Sourcing team at The Warehouse when I sat down to chat with them recently.

With my background working in-house for several designers here and in Aus, and longevity of almost 20 years in the wider fashion industry, I’ve got first hand experience seeing the manufacturing process, from start to finish.

The Warehouse wanted an expert, who understood the industry, to come on board and help tell their story, so hopefully I do a good job of it!

So let’s start off by having a look at the T-shirt in question. It’s a simple style. It comes in several colours, and is good quality – on par with other T-shirts you’d buy from a mainstream store.

I own both the navy and white ones so I can personally vouch for that, it’s featured in the last two posts I’ve written for The Warehouse read them HERE and HERE.

white tee styled with light mom jeans and glitter trainers

Here for Good

Where to even start.

This is a more complex process than one blog can showcase.

I hope I can provide some of the vital information that can help you make an informed decision about the efforts that The Warehouse are putting in to their ethical sourcing program.

The team at The Warehouse Group have been very open in the past, about the fact that their sourcing / manufacturing process is not perfect. But since they started this journey in 2004, they have constantly worked with suppliers to implement improvements to the system, in order to make sure that their suppliers are treated fairly, and have humane working conditions, no matter where they are in the world.

Making the desirable, affordable.

So back to the $5 T-shirt.

It comes down to a couple of factors;

Simple design
This is not a complicated garment.
It can be made easily and efficiently, making it possible to make a large amount in a small amount of time.

Sheer numbers
The Warehouse works on a “volume for profit” business model. The markups and margins on a product like this are low. They rely on being able to sell a large amount to make profits.

Transparency from factory managers
Each and every supplier working with The Warehouse Group must pass audits run by The Warehouse teams on the ground in each country.

There are strict guidelines that must be adheared to (or exceeded) for the factory to even be considered as a supplier.

Local working conditions
The Warehouse works closely with their factories to make sure workers pay, is equal to, or exceeding the legal wage requirements in that country. Comparing overseas workers rates to that of New Zealand wages, is like comparing apples with oranges.

There are so many other factors that come into it, and while it’s easy to jump on the bandwagon of bashing a big brand that moves clothes in volumes, it’s important to remember that the work (and therefore income for individuals to lift themselves and their families out of poverty) offered to these individuals wouldn’t be on offer if it wasn’t for these big companies like The Warehouse.

The Warehouse have a ZERO tolerance policy for breaking any of the agreements they make with suppliers, from wages to working conditions. In an ideal world every single garment would be ethically made, and I hope I get to see that in my lifetime, but for the moment, The Warehouse and others who do this, are starting this journey.

For more specific information on any of the above topics, have a read of The Warehouse’s Ethical Sourcing Guide here

How it happens

I want to break down the manufacturing process for you a little more so you can see how this T-shirt is made, so maybe you can better understand the story of this T-shirt.

all the information in this graphic has been supplied by The Warehouse Group Ethical Sourcing Team

I’m excited to continue my partnership with The Warehouse Group, to help bring to light their #HereForGood campaign, specifically their ethical sourcing program and to share it with you guys too!

Remember, by shopping at The Warehouse, you’re giving a huge vote of confidence in what they are doing to make life better for the communities around their factories.

While there is still no perfect solution, The Warehouse Group are actively working with their teams on the ground, and their factories in places like Bangladesh, ensuring that standards are being managed, and elevated for the people making the clothes you want to wear.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, tell me in the comments below.

This post was a collaboration between Chasing Cait and The Warehouse Group as part of their Here For Good campaign. Please support the brands that support this blog.