In the wake of devastating fires in factories in Bangladesh and Cambodia, the high cost of cheap production has once again been laid bare. It behooves us all to read labels. Here we profile ten designers who can trace the who, what, and where of their collections.
“Ethically, I feel it’s a tipping point,” says Jonathan Anderson about the state of the global clothing manufacturing industry, in light of the recent factory collapse in Bangladesh. “In the end, it’s more about communities than fashion.” Which is why, when it comes to the production of his line, London-based designer J.W. Anderson uses U.K. factories. Simply put, “it keeps people in work,” he says. But it does also make for some great fashion. For his first full women’s collection (fall 2011), Anderson went to a traditional paisley fabric maker in the north of England. The result: his pajama pants done in the swirling print; much copied, they set off a huge trend.
For his own label, Anderson also uses a shirting factory in Derry in Northern Ireland (where he’s from) and producers around London. “It’s incredible to be able to employ people in our area and keep the economy going,” he says. And, of course, it’s easier to make sure laborers are working under humane conditions when a point of production is across town, as opposed to halfway across the planet.
Collaborations are kept in the U.K., too, whether he’s partnering with companies that make their lines in Britain, such as Sunspel (‘they have women who’ve been working in their factory in Long Eaton in Nottinghamshire for generations”), or convincing megabrands like Topshop to produce his designs for them in the U.K. “It was so amazing that we could give four-and-a-half thousand kilts to a traditional maker in Scotland—and then girls bought them in Topshop all over the world.”