Published in Sustain-It on 23 May 2021.
Clothing brand Yes Friends is making sustainable clothing affordable
One of the biggest obstacles stopping people from shopping sustainably is affordability.
Sustainable fashion brands often sell garments at costly prices due to the increase in manufacturing costs. A new sustainable fashion brand called Yes Friends is here to change this.
The new brand launched on 7 April with a pre-order campaign for its £7.99 t-shirt. So far, they have sold nearly 4,300 t-shirts and there is a waiting list for those who want to purchase the t-shirt.
“We need more affordable [sustainable] brands and that is exactly why we set up Yes Friends,” says Sam Mabley, founder of Yes Friends.
A recent Deloitte survey found that 16% of respondents didn’t adopt a sustainable lifestyle because it was too expensive. People opt for fast fashion because it’s cheap, causing more harm than good, polluting the planet and promoting unethical fashion practices.
The environmental impact
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that each year, the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions and uses around 1.5 trillion litres of water. A study published in the journal of Nature Reviews Earth & Environment last year concluded that both the production and consumption attitudes in the fashion industry must be changed to minimise its environmental impact.
Yes Friends focuses on minimising the environmental impact by adopting a more sustainable manufacturing process. The independent ethical brand directory Good on You rated the brand “Great”, the highest rating possible, based on its labour practices, impact on the environment and animals.
The t-shirts are made in India, with the organic cotton being grown in Indore and processed in Tirupur. The factories run on solar and wind power.
It might seem like a paradox to try to be environmentally friendly and shipping your clothes from India to the UK. However, organic cotton is not available in the UK. So, even if the clothes were manufactured here, the cotton would have to be imported from another country, like Portugal. But the real issue is that manufacturing in the UK would drive up the costs of production and create a problem with affordability, which Yes Friends is trying to avoid.
Most garment workers in India live in poverty. Last November, BBC reported that women working in factories supplying for brands like Ralph Lauren, Marks & Spencer and Tesco were subject to exploitative conditions such as being forced to sleep overnight to complete orders, not getting toilet breaks and being verbally abused.
Yes Friends is part of the “Fair Share Scheme” run by its supplier Continental Clothing. According to the scheme, Yes Friends pays an additional premium on every t-shirt produced, which goes directly to the garment workers. The workers also receive an Indian living wage, which comes to around £136 a month.
The main reason Yes Friends has chosen to manufacture in India rather than the UK is due to the living wage in the UK is significantly higher. This would, according to Mabley, make their products unaffordable.
Fair Wear Foundation, an independent non-profit organisation has given Continental Clothing a “Leader” status, the top rating for its ethical practices across supply chains.
Yes Friends’ website states that its goal is to gain enough buying power to ensure living wages for all workers in its partner factory, as well as advocating for other brands to pay its workers a living wage.
Yes Friends was mentioned as an example in the letter by MPs addressed to Nick Beighton, the CEO of ASOS, calling on the brand to ensure that garment workers in its supply chains are paid a living wage.
Although the product line is limited to a single item right now. Yes Friends wants to work with designers in the future to sell a wider range of products and hopes to be able to compete with high-street brands.
As they expand their collection, Yes Friends aims to partner with more factories and provide living wages for more garment workers.
As Mabley admits, this model is still not perfect, as importing clothes from India creates a big carbon footprint. It also raises questions about whether fashion can be affordable without relying on the lower cost of labour in developing countries.
However, the model adopted by Yes Friends can be an example to fast-fashion brands that outsource their manufacturing process. Manufacturing clothes in a factory running on renewable energy and paying garment workers a living wage is the right way to go.
You can check out Yes Friends here.