Source My Garment is an apparel manufacturing agency that specializes in ethical fashion. A member of the FTA community, we spoke with founder Adila “Dee” Cokar to share her story.
Tell us about your company: who are you and why have you decided to create Source My Garment?
Specializing in ethical fashion, Source My Garment (SMG) is an apparel manufacturing agency that functions as a bridge between North American designers and manufacturers to overseas factories. We take designs from concept to market and are the go-between that gets things done.
I have learnt that business is really the best course on self-awareness and personal development. The more you understand yourself and listen to your needs the better you will be at what you do. It has been an incredible 13-year journey working in the fashion industry. Over the years, I’ve learnt a lot about myself. I’ve learnt to follow my intuition and that giving without expectation always comes full circle in one form or another. I love helping others succeed and I am skilled in managing production and product development. I’ve also learnt that all garments are made by hand regardless if they were made in a factory.
After many seasons of balancing success and struggles, I came to the realization that companies need a solid production person to keep the ball rolling and my expertise and experience makes this happen.
How do your values shape Source My Garment?
My belief is that not all factories mistreat people and the planet, cater to mass production and care only for bottom line. I believe in the triple bottom line, profit, planet & people. For generations there have been people in production who care about what they do, enjoy it and count on us for support. My “give back” ambition is to educate manufacturers and consumers on the process of how things are made. We do this in three main ways: transparency, video profiles and Q and A with founders of factories that we work with.
We believe in fair trade and pay 50% so factories can pay people and procure materials and don’t go into debt. We have recently been Green America Business certified and are excited to promote green practices. SMG is based on fair trade, corporate social responsibility, and the need to provide quality and affordability. To meet these demands, we establish strategic relationships worldwide that share our values of integrity, honesty, proper conduct and fair wages.
For the past 12 years I’ve worked with factories in India. I visit the factories annually and my relationships have built trust and provided access supply chains and resources. I believe in being transparent and knowing who our sources are. We maintain regular contact via Skype and scheduled in-person visits to ensure our ethical checklists are being maintained. Most importantly, we take the time to really know and understand the factories we work with.
What is your relationship to fashion/clothing?
After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Design, as well as earning a certificate in Fashion Marketing, I set out overseas to explore the garment factories. I then went on to complete a fashion internship in New York City.
Post 9/11, I decided to move back home to Canada and start a fashion line of my own. Through my experience working in the childrenswear industry; I discovered a gap in the market. The need for trendy semi-formal boyswear. My clothing label, Shortstak Boyswear was born and was featured in magazines and Nominated by Earnshaws Magazine for most innovative new company. The collection consisted of 20 co-ordinates made of fleece, jersey, corduroy, denim, jersey and twill. With the help of four sales reps, I was in close to 60 stores during her first season.
Unfortunately, I bit off more than I could chew and due to stress was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and had to put Shortstak Boyswear on hold. Once I regained my health, I returned back to New York and had the opportunity to assist companies such as
Walmart, Kohls, Aeropostal and JC penny with product development and manufacturing. It was here that I realized how much the apparel industry plays a huge role in damaging the environment. The fact is, there will be nothing left for generations to come if we are not sustainable in how we manufacture apparel. It’s hard to convince people how much of an impact the fashion industry has on the environment since it is out of sight out of mind. It’s easy to turn your head the other way when we have a beautiful piece of clothing.
In 2007, I launched Pure Blankz Organic Fashion. My mission was to provide an eco-friendly option to consumers that was both sustainable and ethical but also at a fair price. The line consisted of fashion blanks for both baby and adult. Not only was the fabric certified organic cotton, but the dyes were equally important and certified eco-friendly. I visited the factories on a yearly basis and also ensured everything was ethically made. And now I’m running SMG!
Who has impacted your life the most and why?
I was in a car accident and at that point I understood how hard it is for small to medium sized companies to succeed. I believe it is my purpose to educate people and help factories offshore help their workers.
Who/what do you look to for style inspiration and why?
Always classic pieces because fashion shouldn’t go in the garbage. Also change your style up with accessories. I don’t believe in seasons for colours and anything can be worn year round. Layer for winter. Believing in eco means buying pieces that are good quality, last many years and cost more.
When you think of the future of sustainable/eco-fashion, what do you see and what excites you the most?
Right now, there is an ever growing demand and challenge for fair trade products, transparency, and an increasing number of designers are trying to seek out socially responsible garment factories to manufacture products in a way that suits their ethics and ideals of fair trade. It is difficult to address responsible manufacturing solutions, sustainability, and transparency, while remaining profitable. Equally important is the preserving our planet. For SME’s without the global reach, ensuring corporate social responsibility is an overwhelming challenge. There is also lack of education and understanding. Accessing information and guidance on offshore manufacturing is difficult. Addressing social responsibility is a mission. Designers lack knowledge and experience. Consumers have the misconception that garments are made by machines.
Our future goal is to is to humanize factories as we believe employee happiness is a human right. We hope to develop a program to improve work life and factory culture for workers overseas. Overall, our vision is to be an innovative leader in socially responsible manufacturing solutions and to humanize garment factories.
By: Lara Cardoso