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Manufacturer/ Buyer Relationships in Fair Trade - A Supplier’s Perspective

March 25, 2019

Manufacturer/ Buyer Relationships in Fair Trade - A Supplier’s Perspective

‘Fair trade” and “sustainable fashion’ have become huge catch words across the fashion industry recently.  Consumers are asking for brands to be more sustainable and transparent.  We couldn’t agree more and fully support this movement.  We are a fair trade clothing brand and a manufacturer so we see both sides of the supply chain and know how inherently important fair trade practices are to the artisans whose lives are being impacted by fair trading and unfair trading practices.


While brands are being pressured to prove their sustainability, they in turn put pressure on the manufacturers to prove their ethics.  This is also necessary.  It means that gradually manufacturers improve their labor standard, which is a must.  But what is the relationship between a brand (buyer) and their supplier (manufacturer)?  Does a buyer need to help support their manufacturer toward better standards?  Do they need to make a commitment to continue to use their supplier and form long lasting relationships with suppliers? A commitment to regular orders? Increased orders? Skills building to help a manufacturer improve?  A hand-in-hand five year plan such as the type Eileen Fisher has published?


Is there any responsibility on a brand to act ‘fairly’ toward their manufacturers? Or is all the responsibility solely on the manufacturer regardless of a brand’s ordering and payment practices?


Supposing a brand uses several suppliers: Is it ethical or fair for a brand to, say, make the samples with one supplier and then switch gears and hand over the manufacturing order to another manufacturer, often with no notice? Is it ethical for brands to not communicate with suppliers about their plan, schedule, and expectations?  To not pay the full amount of a deposit if they’ve previously agreed on it? To delay payments? These are considered bad business practices in any industry (and far from upholding the standards of fair trade, they are purely unethical practices).  These practices are rampant in the fashion industry and are not given enough attention.  They are a significant part of the problems inherent to manufacturers’ achieving an ethical supply chain. 


From a manufacturing perspective, trust is key to the whole equation.  The manufacturer is typically in the Global South with less capital, less access to the market and clearly in the weak position in the power relationship, hence the need for ‘fair’ trade in the first place.  For a manufacturer to achieve fair trade labor standards (which Mehera Shaw has done consistently from our inception), they must be able to work with buyers/brands in constructive, long-term relationships.  They must be able to trust their buyers and trust that the buyer is not going to engage in the above list of unethical business practices so that together they can build a strong, transparent, and ultimately sustainable supply chain (of course trust is a two way street—the other side of which is for another article!).


As an example, Mehera Shaw hires all employees on a full-time salaried basis, as opposed to taking on workers on a job-by-job basis (which leaves them with no security or standing in a company).  This means we are responsible for paying their salaries at the start of every month along with their medical and pension funds.  Within our fair trade structure, this means that each and every person working with us knows when they will receive their salary, know it is a living wage, and that they can safely plan for their families, their children, their futures.


This means that the company must work very hard to maintain an even manufacturing schedule.  If we grow and add new stitchers, we need to be able to guarantee permanent employment for them.  If we receive bigger orders from brands that we’ve built long-term relationships with, we invest a great deal of trust that the brand will continue to work with us and communicate transparently about their plans so that we can keep our commitment to our workers.  Without regular and consistent orders and transparent, honest communication, we, and any manufacturer, would have a serious problem being able to keep our commitment to our employees. 


If, for example, a brand were to switch manufacturers without warning, the damage this would do to a manufacturer could have serious and heartbreaking consequences on the employees.  It is ,after all, regular, consistent orders, open communication, and on-time payments that make it possible for manufacturers to live up to their responsibilities and maintain a fair trade standard.


I write this in hopes that it gives a fresh perspective on a portion of the fair trade supply chain the is generally overlooked; it is a critically important part of making the entire supply chain sustainable.  When brands demand of their manufacturers to know their labor standards and ethics, they also need to stop and ask themselves what ethics they put into practice when working with manufacturers. 


Brands need to personally check that their manufacture is a fair trade supplier, that they as a brand also take the same level fo responsibility to adhere to fair trade practices toward their supplier and to provide transparent clear messaging to their end customer.


Fair trade is not charity.  Fairness is the most basic level of all ethical business practice.  Fair trade is all about relationships: between worker and manufacturer, manufacturer and brand, between brand and customer.  To dismiss any one of these relationships and not value them is to damage the supply chain and the people at its core. Fundamentally, if you don’t establish fairness, you can’t establish trust.  And without trust, you can’t trade.    


If trade isn’t fair, you can’t call it “trade”; you have to call it something else.

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Our styles are meant to give room to breath and move.  We use fine tailoring coupled with a relaxed, comfortable fit.

We use a fit guide for each of our styles to provide more information about the fit that was intended.

Slim Fit: a close fit to the body. Regular Fit: a comfortable, relaxed fit with room around the body. Generous Fit: a very loose fit (such as in our oversized blouses) with lots of room around the body for ease of movement.


h4XS/ 36

h4S/ 38


h4L/ 42



h435.5 inches/ 90 cm

h437.5 inches/95 cm

h439.5 inches/ 100 cm

h441.5 inches/ 105 cm

h444.5 inches. 113 cm

h44cm extra from body


h426 inches/ 66 cm

h428 inches/ 71 cm

h430 inches/ 76 cm

h432 inches/ 81 cm

h435 inches/ 89 cm


h4low waist

h428 inches/71 cm

h430 inches/76 cm

h432 inches/ 81 cm

h434 inches/ 86 cm

h437 inches/ 94 cm



h437 inches/ 94 cm

h439 inches/ 99 cm

h441 inches/ 104 cm

h443 inches/ 109 cm

h446 inches/ 1

h44cm extra from body


All garments have been washed several times during the printing/dyeing and manufacturing process.  

CARE for 100% cotton

We recommend cold water machine wash (up to 30 degrees celsius) with a bio detergent and either tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade for all of our 100% cotton garments/homewares (except for quilts).  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.  

Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Cold water wash and low heat drying or line drying in the shade will increase the life of the garment, prolong the vibrancy of the colors and reduce energy use. Shrinkage on all cottons is minimal, approximately 3%.

Garments/homewares are dyed or printed using AZO free, low-impact, pigment or reactive dyes unless otherwise noted.  These dyes are color-fast, but care should still be taken to wash with like colors to retain the vibrancy of the colors.

CARE for 100% cotton quilts

For quilts with cotton fill, we recommend spot or light surface cleaning only with a damp cloth and mild detergent.  Eco-friendly dry cleaning is also recommended. 

CARE for herbal/vegetable dye items

Vegetable dyes are not colorfast and are specifically marked in the product description.  We strongly recommend that all vegetable dye products be washed once before use in a cold water wash with minimal detergent.  Wash separately. Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  Iron on reverse side.  Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Please keep in mind that indigo dye does continually fade over time.  This is the nature of true indigo dye and is not a defect, but rather a sign of the 'living' nature of the dye.

CARE for silk and cotton/silk

For our silk and cotton silk garments/homewares, we also recommend gentle cycle machine wash cold water (up to 30 degrees celsius) or delicate hand washing to increase the life of the garment and reduce the environmental footprint from energy use, detergents and water wastage.  

Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.

Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Dry cleaning using an eco-friendly service is also recommended.

CARE for linen and cotton/linen

For our linen and cotton linen garments/homewares, we also recommend gentle cycle machine wash cold water (up to 30 degrees celsius) or delicate hand washing to increase the life of the garment and reduce the environmental footprint from energy use, detergents and water wastage.  

Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.

Do not use bleach or stain remover.