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The Stories They’re Too Scared To Tell You

Haaappy Fashion Revolution week! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, where people are dressing up their houses in fairy lights and kids are getting ready to open presents… oh wait that’s Christmas.

Let’s start again.

Happy Fashion Revolution week. Where brands are being called to be fully transparent about their practices, show us the good, the bad and the ugly of what goes on behind the scenes in a fashion brand.

Yep, that’s the right one.

We’re so here for it, we love this time of the year. As do most brands….. or do they?

Well, they’ll definitely have us thinking they do, what with their Insta posts, their email dedicated to the week, their promises to do better, blah blah blah. But the big question is: Are they really showing us their uglies, or are they just distracting us with some fluffy chocolate frosting, without getting to the cake?

You won’t be surprised to hear that working offshore is not all Betty Crocker, and no brand is doing the right thing all of the time… so what about when stuff isn’t going so right? What about the moments they’re ashamed of, and the things they know they need to change but they’re in so deep they don’t even know how?

Those are the stories you need to hear, and today those are the stories we’re gonna tell you. The title of this post is the stories they’re too scared to tell you, but we could easily call it the stories we’re too scared to tell you, coz this feels freaking terrifying.

Our palms are sweaty, we’re very nervous, so deep breaths, and let’s dive in. 

The one where we learned our lesson.

In 2013 we thought manufacturing in China meant cheap, like $7 for a pair of shoes kinda cheap. So when we got our first quote from a trustworthy supplier that was a few times that amount, we were fully outraged. Cut to us spending 12 months finding someone who agreed to do it for half the price, only *of course* for us to make our way back to the more expensive supplier 12 months later with our tails between our legs. Turns out prices are higher for good reasons – like shoes lasting more than 2 months and living wages being paid to workers. You know, the little things. (Read: the huge things).

The one with all the plastic.

We didn’t realise we were supposed to specify how we wanted the shoes packed, so for the first order we ever placed, every pair of shoes arrived wrapped in an individual plastics bag. Every. Single. One of them. That’s thousands of plastic bags, straight to landfill. If plastic waste was a crime (shouldn’t it be though?!) then we find our 2016 selves very, very guilty.

The one without an answer in sight.

In the early days we would get our materials from these big gigantic material markets, where there were endless halls of any material or trim or tassel or jewel you could ever want. It was totally unclear where exactly they were made, or who exactly was making them. We were told this is how everyone works in China. We now realise that this is how everyone *who doesn’t care about the environment or workers rights* works in China. 

The one where she almost broke her ankle.

One time, we received 350 faulty pairs of shoes. Not like oh-there’s-a-jewel-missing-on-that-one kind of faulty, more like they-snap-when-you-walk-in-them kind of faulty. We found out through a customer who bought them from one of our retailers that they snapped while she was walking on her very first day. We went to the warehouse to see if the rest held up, but sadly they didn’t. So we threw them in the bin. All. 350. Of. Them. Heard of a recycling program, 2019 us?

The one that really shook us.

One day it struck us that we had never thought to ask where our materials were dyed, so a couple of years in we asked if we could go to watch the dying process. The response? We literally got laughed at. And then we got told no. When we enquired further, the response was “well technically they only work at night-time, and it’s not safe to go there”. Cue all the freak outs.

The one that currently hurts.

Last season, we opened 20 moulds at about $1000 USD a pop – a mould being something they make the sole of a shoe in, and you need one for each size and style. We thought it was the only way to start using sugarcane in our soles, and were ready to invest in something that would be so impactful for the environment. Last week we found out that might not have been accurate, and that we may have opened the moulds for literally no reason. Ooooh that’s a hard pill, and one that we prob wouldn’t have had to swallow if we weren’t doing business over Zoom. 

Well there you have it, and we feel like some of that in there isn’t even cake, it’s more like those burny bits stuck at the bottom of the tin. And while these stories are ginormous and shameful, we have no doubt that big brands have them x 1000.

We’ve written this post not to make you angry (although if you are, we get it), but so you know that what brands are sharing with you is literally the tip of the cupcake. We all need to be asking for more transparency from companies, even from the small ones like us who are trying to do better.

We’re not proud when we look back on these stories, but being transparent about our practices and the recipe to our cake – genuinely, all-the-way-down-to-the-vegan-butter-we’re-using-transparent, has helped us to ask the hard questions, make the hard changes, and demand better from ourselves each and every day. We only hope we can start to see more of this real transparency and real change, from the big retailers who have the power to make big change to our world.

Happy Christmas. We mean, Merry Fashion Revolution.

Jess and Stef, TWOOBS Founders.