Throw away fashion, this is NOT. On the opposite end of the [fast and cheap] spectrum of fashion is Standard Issue.
The New Zealand knitwear brand, Standard Issue, defines sustainable fashion. With it’s vertically integrated sustainable practices from yarn procurement to consumer end-use, Standard Issue is a leader in socio-economic and environmental clothing manufacturing.
According to the consulting firm, Mckinsey & Company, consumers keep clothing items about half as long as they did 15 years ago and some estimates suggest that consumers treat the lowest-priced garments as nearly disposable, discarding them after just seven or eight wears. In contrast, Standard Issue tells us their consumers keep their pieces in double that amount of time, around 15 years. Their use of natural yarns and the design of classic and timeless garments speak to a vision and business model of quality and longevity – an important factor in sustainable fashion.
They started this business in the late 1980’s and have certainly carved out a niche in the market with a winning formula of design and local manufacturing [made in New Zealand]. From our interview, we learn how they mitigate their carbon footprint by designing a product that consumers see as an investment, sourcing top quality biodegradable materials, and using zero waste knitting technology.
Today, Standard Issue, and brands like this, are considered progressive and advanced [they are a minority] in lessening the environmental impact of textile wastes and contributing to the socio-economic factor of a sustainable practice. Tomorrow, let’s hope this will be the norm [the majority] for the industry.
Advances in knitting machine technology means we can now knit garments all in one with zero-waste. – Standard Issue
What makes Standard Issue a sustainable knitwear brand? What are your social and environmental sustainable practices throughout the supply chain?
Right from the start of the design process through to the end product we always consider and choose the most sustainable methods and materials. We design timeless styles with the hope that the consumer will wear the product for years not just one season. We create our products on whole-garment machines which are the most sustainable method of knitwear manufacture.
We source our yarns from the world’s best spinners and focus on using 100% natural yarns which will eventually biodegrade. By choosing high quality natural yarns the garments really are designed to last a lifetime, and with the right care, they will. The majority of our products are made using 100% Merino wool which is one of the most sustainable fibres the world has to offer. Our buttons are made from the Tagua nut which is a completely sustainable material, non-toxic and biodegradable.
Our factory is based in Auckland and we use local suppliers and employ staff locally to ensure we are putting back into NZ economy. In regard to our factory we recycle all textile waste, use packaging only when we have to, we actively try to have the lowest carbon footprint possible.
With your sustainable practice, do you consider all phases of a product life-cycle, including stages beyond your direct control like the product’s consumer usage/care and endpoint – designing a product with recycle in mind – shifting the industry and consumer behavior that this is the norm?
Absolutely, our ranges are always made up of classic pieces to encourage customers to wear the garment year on year. Every item bought online comes with instructions on how to care for your knitwear to prolong the life of the garment, and they come packed in a bag designed to store and protect the knitwear from moths etc. We also offer a mending service to our customers to make sure slightly damaged pieces don’t get thrown away. The vast majority of our collections are made using 100% natural fibres so when they finally get in the ground they will biodegrade harmlessly.
What is the perception [and experience] from your consumer? What are they saying about your product?
Standard Issue customers are incredibly loyal. We find once people buy our product and see the value in these high quality garments they come back as they know our products are investment pieces. On a weekly basis, I talk to customers who have had sweaters and cardigans for 10-15 years and they always say how they are still in great shape. They also love that they are supporting NZ industry which in-turn helps the environment and economy.
I would consider Standard Issue an example of glocalization – think globally and act locally. You have a sustainable message that reaches globally and you take conscious action to make clothes in New Zealand. In the spirit of Fashion Revolution week, talk to us about the importance of “I Made Your Clothes” campaign.
It is so important to show consumers the impact of their buying decisions. They may think that buying a cheap t-shirt will save them money but they are contributing to the exploitation of people and the environment. That’s why “I Made Your Clothes” is vital to bring home the reality of the fashion industry and how you can positively affect someone’s life rather than negatively.
Your thoughts on technology. What does the future hold or have you incorporated any technological advances on raw materials development, production efficiency, and/or consumer engagement?
Technology is crucial to Standard Issue. Advances in knitting machine technology means we can now knit garments all in one with zero-waste. These machines are simply the most sustainable way to create garments, and what sets our product apart from our competitors.
With an impressive operation and creative output, what are you most proud of?
Our Seamless Cotton Tulle range is completely unique and combines all the aspects of what makes our brand what it is (100% natural fibre, NZ made, seamless, zero-waste, timeless design, versatile). We’ve had fantastic success with this range internationally so I’d definitely say it’s made us proud!
Thank you, Standard Issue, with your pioneering practice in sustainable knitwear. EDGE wishes you continued success.
You can visit Standard Issue here, https://standardissue.co.nz/, and read their blogpost on Fashion Revolution here: https://standardissue.co.nz/blogs/archive/who-made-my-clothes
Images, Courtesy of Standard Issue. Lookbook Images: Photographer: Steve Tilley; MUA: Lauren Gunn; Model: Makayla Harmon from Red 11 Models.