Kate Sylvester takes a considered and kind approach to everything we do. These principles guide the way we make our clothes, our business practice and the community we surround ourselves with. Our pursuit of these values is a commitment that permeates all aspects of the business. We endeavour to take a responsible and ethical approach to design, creating beautiful garments that are built to last a lifetime. We want to ensure that people and the environment are not disadvantaged by the production of Kate Sylvester product by taking a sustainable approach to business practice, creating a supply chain that respects our environment, and taking care of the people within our community.
CODE OF CONDUCT
The Kate Sylvester Code of Conduct is a shared commitment we have with all our manufacturing partners, including suppliers, outworkers, contractors and subcontractors. This embodies our commitment to workers who manufacture all of our products and ensures that our partners adhere to our values and our ideals. We ensure that all our partners recognise this code of conduct as a guide to ensuring transparency and traceability throughout our supply chain. Our code of conduct is included in all supplier contracts and signing this is a requirement of working with Kate Sylvester. Read our Code of Conduct for more information about our standards surrounding working conditions, forced labour, gender equality, corruption and bribery, discrimination, worker representation and child labour.
80-90% of our Kate Sylvester collection and 60% of our entire product offering is made in New Zealand and we are incredibly proud to support our local garment production industry. We work with 22 amazing local partners who specialise in their own unique crafts that cover all parts of our garment production process including cutting, making, finishing, pressing, pleating, printing and more. When production in New Zealand is not possible, we work with 6 boutique manufacturing businesses and 6 fabric mills in China. They are based in Zhe Jiang and Jiang Su provinces and we have been working with them for between 5 and 8 years. These small, specialised factories have between 20 and 50 highly skilled staff members and are perfectly suited to the high-quality product we produce. Our final stage manufacturing partners and fabric mills follow the local government policies related to labour rights and environmental protection. All of our New Zealand and Chinese partners have signed our Code of Conduct and share our commitment to our high standards and values. All our offshore manufacturing is accredited as Child Labor Free and Kate is proud to have been an ambassador for this important initiative since 2015.
MAKER VISITS & AUDITING
We are proud to have 100% traceability of all our final stage manufacturing partners. Because we work very closely with these partners, our Kate Sylvester production team visits our New Zealand makers weekly and we have introduced six monthly visits to all of our offshore partners. On these visits our team personally checks that our suppliers are meeting their commitments to their workers, health and safety and environmental practices. We are currently in the process of externally auditing our offshore manufacturing partners but we have access to existing official audits for 40% of these businesses.
MINDFUL FASHION NEW ZEALAND
We passionately support clothing that is Made in New Zealand and so do our customers. The New Zealand garment production industry involves many different manufacturing partners who cover all aspects of the garment production process. As our local garment making industry is very unique and important to Kate Sylvester and our customers, we are in the process of founding a collaborative industry project to create benchmarks of what is an acceptable standard of ethical practice in clothing production relevant to our unique industry. We aim to share auditing costs and train local production teams on social compliance and environmental initiatives as well as encourage transparency and more sustainable fabric options from our local fabric suppliers. Watch this space!
RESPONSIBLE FABRIC SOURCING
At Kate Sylvester we work closely with our fabric mills and suppliers to produce signature fabrics for our brand. These unique fabrics make up to 70% of our collection. As a small business buying small amounts of fabric to make our limited garment runs, traceability of fabrics and base materials can be incredibly challenging as we lack the buying power and influence to demand full disclosure. However, we are incredibly proud to have traceability of 80% of our Kate Sylvester fabrics and 65% of our entire product offering. We have a transparency project underway to trace the fabrics that comprise the remainder of our collection, many of which are end of line fabrics that would otherwise end up in landfill. Our goal is to increase traceability on our fabrics by a minimum of 10% a year, with full transparency on our fabric offering by the end of 2021. Tracing the base fibres that are used to create our fabrics is more challenging, however we are working to towards 70% transparency on these by the end of 2020.
Kate Sylvester has a responsible purchasing policy in place to ensure that we don’t place undue pressure on our suppliers and workers. We have conducted a labour rights risk assessment of our supply chain and find that makers working excessive overtime is the largest and most reoccurring issue to for garment manufacture in both New Zealand and China. At Kate Sylvester we have the below in place to help mitigate this risk for our makers.
We ensure we manage our production schedule responsibly. Our ordering and lead time agreement means our production lead times are between 90 and 180 days. This ensures all factories have sufficient time and space to complete garments and employees are not stretched or pushed to work excessive overtime to meet our deadlines. We work closely with our makers to make sure that they have a manageable workload and everything they need to achieve their deadlines to help ensure overtime is minimised. If overtime does occur, workers must be provided at least one day off for every seven day period, and working hours must not exceed 60 hours a week (including a maximum of 12 hours overtime.) We act in good faith and honesty, with constant communication with our manufacturers to help solve any issues that occur.
Occasionally our final stage manufacturing partners may request to subcontract part of our production due to high work load. Our first solution is always to allow factories more time to complete the order to avoid subcontracting and work with our existing factories to mitigate these issues (see Responsible Purchasing above) wherever possible.
We work with our makers to ensure that prices for work completed is fair and covers labour costs in New Zealand or ensures that the price enables the employers to meet at least the minimum wage expectations for the region. This price is often assessed once a first off garment has been completed prior to production. We have used the Anker Methodology method to calculate the living wage for the regions in China we manufacture and on average our factories pay their workers 10.7% above the local living wage for the region.