At TAMGA we believe sustainability in the fashion industry is one of the greatest challenges of our time. If this sounds a bit far-fetched, think about how much clothing you’ve owned in your life. Now imagine more than 7 billion people with the same amount.Every piece of clothing has an impact, from chemical usage, to water, emissions, energy, and wages for garment workers. Sustainability in the fashion industry means finding ways to reduce this impact from design, to wear, to the end of a garment’s life. Ultimately, we’ll only be sustainable if we can create and re-create fashion through renewable materials, recyclable garments and ethical production that enable workers to thrive.
Why Should Clothing be Ethically Made?
Most of the world's garments are made in Asia, in countries that have a high risk of forced labour (slavery) including Thailand, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. Jobs in garment factories can be hugely beneficial to poor workers and their families, helping them to gain skills, maintain good nutrition and send their children to school. Working with manufacturers that treat their workers with dignity is possible. It involves building a code of conduct and visiting the factories in-person to check up on them, or for larger brands, working with firms that audit supply chains to expose the risk of exploitation. Sweatshops do not have to be the norm in fashion, as brands and consumers we have the power to demand ethical treatment of workers.
Why Should Clothing be Eco-Friendly?
The environmental consequences of fast fashion are too important to overlook. Take a simple material that we all wear – cotton. It’s in our shirts, our sheets, and practically everything that touches our skin. But it’s actually one of the thirstiest crops in the world. Cotton can take more than 20,000 litres of water just to produce one pair of jeans and a single T-shirt. With rapidly rising demand for fashion, even cotton can’t keep up. In 2007 polyester overtook it as the world’s dominant fibre. However this fibre isn’t much better for the planet – it’s quite literally plastic, and is polluting our airways and waterways alike.
But as you may have noticed, at TAMGA Designs we're driven to make fashion more sustainable, and that means finding solutions. According to the Danish Fashion Institute, up to 80% of a garment’s environmental impact is defined by choices made in the design process. By choosing eco-friendly materials, water-saving dyes and plastic-free packaging we can significantly lower the impact of a piece of clothing. Take the Rosella Wrap Dress for example, it saves 126 litres of water compared a typical fast fashion dress, that’s the equivalent of nearly 200 days of drinking water for one person from one dress!
The Beginning of an Ethical Clothing Brand
After food and shelter, clothing is the most important product in many of our lives. But how much do we know about the clothes that we’re wearing every single day? TAMGA Designs began because this question is too hard for most of us to answer. After living in Bangladesh from 2013-2016, we realized that what we don’t know is causing real harm.The 2013 Savar building collapse was a painful experience for Bangladesh, occurring when a shoddily built structure containing several garment factories imploded and took more than 1,100 lives with it. The clothing being made in this building – dubbed ‘fast fashion’ for its focus on cheap and trend-based garments carried a hidden cost that many of us weren’t willing to pay.
Demand for cheap clothing in the Western world has created a highly efficient, industrialized and global fashion manufacturing machine. In Bangladesh alone, more than 4 million people create clothing for a living – and around 80 percent of them are women. These jobs have been an incredible force for poverty reduction in the country, but as Western brands push for lower prices and faster turnaround it’s the workers and their natural environments that suffer.
In 2016, we put together a small team and spent a year setting up an ethical and transparent supply chain in Indonesia. We set out to produce bright, bohemian-inspired garments from the world’s most progressive, sustainable fabrics and eco dyes. Our ultimate goal has always been to prove that creating ethically-sourced women's tops, bottoms, dresses, jumpsuits and kimonos is not as complicated as it sounds. Exciting, creative fashion should not have to come at the expense of your values or your budget!
We get excited when talking about the journey that each TAMGA garment goes through - from field to fashion. Believe it or not, the magic begins in sustainably managed beechwood and eucalyptus forests in Europe and South Africa. Once harvested, these trees are transformed into our TENCEL™ and Lenzing Modal® fibers in a closed loop process that re-uses 99.8% of the water and chemicals. TAMGA fabrics are spun, woven and printed with GOTS certified dyes in Indonesia, before being cut and sewn by workers who make a living wage in our ethical partner factory in Bali. Since the world already has enough plastic, each garment is packaged in a bio-degradable bag made from cassava starch. No detail is too small for us or the planet!
Fashion That Gives Back
It’s a little-known fact outside the fashion industry that viscose and rayon fabric comes from wood. In fact, more than 70 million trees are logged every year and turned into cellulosic fabric. Some of the world’s most ancient and endangered forests are being logged to feed demand for these fabrics, placing vulnerable ecosystems, wildlife and communities at serious risk.
To combat this, our first step at TAMGA was to find high-quality fabrics from 100% sustainable wood sources. However, over two trips to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, we’ve been stunned by the amount of forest that’s already been destroyed. Regaining these forests means saving five critically endangered species from extinction, and restoring healthy carbon absorption. Creating forest-friendly fashion is a part of the solution, but the ecosystem needs a long-term plan and resources to rebuild.