True Craftsmanship: A look behind the door of our workrooms

True Craftsmanship: A look behind the door of our workrooms

94% of our clothes are made locally, many right here onsite at our Christchurch head office, and that’s something we love to shout about. Why? Because we believe in local manufacturing and a connected, transparent fashion industry. Having our workrooms right next door means we have a unique relationship with how our clothes are made and the people who make them – something many brands no longer have – so we want to take this opportunity to open the door to our workrooms and share how we do things at Untouched World.

The benefits of local

In having 94% of our garments sewn or knitted here, we reject the disconnected nature of fast fashion, which so often relies upon a tangled string of suppliers across the globe who have very little connection to the brands they manufacture for. The people who make our clothes are truly part of our community and team. We care greatly about their wellbeing, health and safety, and because we all work in such close proximity, we can oversee the manufacturing process and ensure the team members in our workroom are treated fairly, just like anyone else.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case everywhere. In fact, it’s a very rare set up in the fashion industry now. Since brands began to offshore their manufacturing to chase ever-lower prices, most no longer know the people who make their clothes or even exactly where they’re made. This lack of oversight can lead to poor conditions, poor pay, and dangerous situations for workers.

As well as it being more difficult to look after the wellbeing of garment makers, it’s also harder for brands with opaque supply chains to track their impact. But we know our energy usage, our water usage, and how much (or how little) waste we generate. We measure it monthly and collaborate with and educate our team to make changes and reductions in all areas. For instance, in 2023 the number of units we produced increased by 13% yet we still managed to decrease our water use by 23%. It would be much harder to do this if we didn’t manufacture locally and weren’t on top of every single detail.

But local manufacturing doesn’t just help us control the finer details of our impact, it helps us control our impact as an entirety because the ‘cut, make and trim’ garment construction phase happens in one country, in one workroom. At every turn, local manufacturing is a route to reducing impact.

Our team

We employ 90 local women across our brand - including in production - supporting over 110 local families. There are lots of stages to making our clothes, and many different roles within our workroom that our makers fulfil. Our team works on manufacturing steps such as carefully cutting out fabric, sewing garments together, operating knitting machines, laundering garments, finishing and pressing garments, and setting up and maintaining the machinery. Each step and every role is just as important as the next, as it all comes together to create the finished product.

Because we’re all together in the same location, there is a collaborative spirit to the way we work, and everyone has a hand in delivering the exacting standards that Untouched World promises our customers. The care that our skilled makers take in their work is evident in each garment produced; the high quality of our clothes speaks to the high quality of the team in our workroom. And nothing is left to chance. While some brands only check between 1 and 10% of their products, every single garment and accessory we produce goes through a quality control check.

Our high standards are a reflection of the way we work, and we’re proud that so many of our team members stay with us for so long. 14 of our staff members have been with us for over 10 years, and two of them have been with us for over 30!

To build those kinds of long-lasting relationships, we regularly check in with our workroom team to see how they feel about their work and their position, and we’re pleased to say that over 90% are proud to work at Untouched World. And we’re proud to have them.

An added extra

Making 94% of our products locally has a perhaps unexpected knock-on effect: we can be much more careful and considered about the 6% we do manufacture overseas. Having majority local manufacturing means any global manufacturing is consequently of a much smaller scale, therefore we have the time and resources to be able to work closely with our handpicked partners in Vietnam and India to ensure they uphold the same standards we do.

While sprawling, hard-to-trace global supply chains spawn issues such as exploitation and high environmental impact, local tight-knit supply chains engender transparency, accountability, responsibility and a duty of care to the people we value as part of our team. That’s why it’s always been at the core of how we make our clothes.

To learn more about the future of locally made fashion, read our journal entry, The Future of Local. And to find out more about the inner workings on Untouched World, read our 2023 Impact Report.