Our ethical supply chain: your questions answered.
Without wanting to brag too much, at ioMerino, we’ve cared about the environment and ethical and sustainable manufacturing long before it was fashionable. Whenever it was possible, we’ve always gone the extra mile to do the best we can, every step of the way in our supply chain. And we’ll be the first to admit, we haven’t always gotten it right. And even now, we’re always looking for ways to improve.
So here’s the short version of what you need to know about our current supply chain.
Most of our stuff is cut and sewn in Fiji.
The vast majority of our products are currently made in Fiji. They have a great little manufacturing industry with a unionised workforce working in good working environments and fair conditions, and are close to Australia, which helps us reduce our footprint with fabric and garments going back and forth.
We’d like to make more things in Australia.
In an ideal world, we’d manufacture here in Australia, but it’s simply not viable for us to do for all sorts of reasons right now. We could debate this, and you’d probably win, because manufacturing here would be excellent, but it would make our garments so much more expensive and our current feedback is that’d be a problem, so for now, not a lot of ‘cut and sew’ happens here.
We do use Australian Merino wool. And make a lot of our fabrics here.
The good news is, we almost exclusively use Australian Merino wool. And the vast majority of our fabrics have been made right here in Australia. From time to time we look at alternatives, and in 2020 we did make some fabrics at a mill in Thailand where we have friends who helped us out. This was because we simply couldn’t get what we needed in Australia. Which is disappointing, but just how it goes sometimes.
We’ve started doing a bit of stuff in Sri Lanka as well.
Our production manager Leroy is from Sir Lanka, so in recent times we’ve also done a bit of manufacturing with some of his contacts. It’s not much at this stage, but they’re in the mix. And they’ve been pretty great to work with and we’ve been really happy with the products they’ve made for us so far.
We don’t really make stuff in China anymore.
Historically, we’ve done a few bits and pieces with China, but these days not so much. We had a bunch of socks made there a while back, and some gloves as well. But moving forward production of those products has moved - mostly to Sri Lanka where we’re much happier with how they go about things. From time to time, you might still receive an order that says ‘Made in China’ and wonder why that is when we say we don’t manufacture there, and it’s because we did do a production run there with some friends of ours a while back. We were happy with the ethics of their specific factory, so gave them a go. The product was great quality, but ultimately we’ve decided to consolidate our manufacturing in other places.
How is ‘Made in Australia’ judged?
In 1986 the Australian government came up with an official ‘Australian Made’ logo and program. Basically, companies who pay a fee can display this logo if they meet certain criteria. Like life, it’s not entirely straight forward and there’s ‘Australian Made, ’Made in Australia' and ‘Manufactured in Australia’, and to be perfectly honest, the rules can be a bit… funny. For example, one of the criteria is a thing called ‘substantial transformation’ where someone can take ingredients or raw materials from overseas, but transform them here in Australia, and if that happens, they might get to say they’re made or manufactured here. Even though all the bits come from somewhere else. One of the other criteria is the cost of production/manufacture where at least 50% of the cost of producing those goods must be incurred here. For us, that’s very much true, as the most expensive part of our garments is the merino wool and knitting it into fabrics. So if that makes sense, we could certainly say we’re ‘Australian Made’, but that feels a bit misleading when we do parts of the process offshore. But that’s how it works and now you know.
Any other questions?
We do our best to be pretty transparent about what we do, where we do it, and how we do it, so if you have any other questions, please feel free to ask. As a family owned business, a lot of the time we work with ‘friends’. Whether they be wool growers, fabric knitters, or factories. Sometimes they’re people we’ve known for years or even generations, other times we experiment with new partners. We’re constantly looking for smarter, better ways of doing things, so if we haven’t covered it here, it may be something we tried for a short while or something new we’re trying now. One thing you can be certain of, we’re not some big conglomerate and we take everything pretty personally. There’s no shareholders, stakeholders or impersonal boards of directors, there’s just a family who own and run the business, who don’t want to put their name to anything they’re not personally comfortable with. Even if it means alternative, better options costs a few dollars extra. Like we said, there’s always room for improvement, and we’re doing that all the time, but for now we think we’re doing an OK job and we hope you do too.
It’s just one of the reasons we’d like you to feel as good about your clothes, as you do in them, when you go with io.