Equitably made, and made to last
Unbelts was founded with two goals in mind: helping you feel great in your jeans, but also creating quality jobs for the people at the beginning of our supply chain. Why?
Because we know just how many pairs of hands it takes to bring a product to life, and have learned that with every step of our belts’ production, we have a chance to insist on better working conditions, more manageable hours, and more upward mobility for the people behind your belts.
Investing in our supply chain also results in a higher-quality product. Unbelts are made to be worn and loved for hundreds of wears - and to be repairable when they do reach the end of their first life. Designing for longevity helps us reduce our environmental impact, and having a direct relationship with our suppliers helps ensure our components stand the test of time.
Beyond "Made in _______"
Unbelts founder Claire here. I'm so passionate about this subject that it's impossible for me to write about it without telling a little bit about my story.
I lived in China from 2008 to 2014. When I moved to Shanghai, I knew what reputation the “Made in China” label carried with it. Throughout my first couple of years there, though, I couldn't help but notice how many locally-produced goods were of extraordinarily high quality, and how much skill even amateur "makers" (a term that had popped up in the North American lexicon) in my neighbourhood had.
Meanwhile, on visits back to Canada, supersized stores with supersized piles of very, very cheap products were thriving - especially in the fashion industry. I just couldn't reconcile the putting-down of Chinese manufacturing with the clear reality that Western demand for huge quantities of on-trend, low-priced goods was making low quality inevitable. What would happen, I wondered, if a company was willing to pay higher wages for smaller quantities of well-made goods?
When I launched Unbelts from my living room in 2011, “Made in China” wasn’t outsourcing. It was insourcing. It was my "made local," because the women sewing our small quantities of belts lived right down the street. And as the business grew and as the global movement against fast fashion materialized, my team and I became more and more determined to show our customers that a more human-scale style of manufacturing is not only possible beyond North American borders - but necessary.
Check out Claire's 2014 TEDxShanghaiWomen talk "A Better Made In China" >>>
Who, not where
In Fall 2018, we launched a second studio - this one in Edmonton, Alberta, where we're using shorter turnaround times to launch new prototypes... and our brand-new Intrepid belts. So now we've got twin studios - one in Canada, one in China - both offering living wages, stable hours, and upward mobility. In other words... we're focused on the who, not the where, and our goal is to benefit as many communities as we possibly can as Unbelts grows.
Our local and global community involvement
We are one of over 3,000 businesses worldwide (including Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and more of our heroes) who are third-party audited and certified to be creating concrete social and environmental sustainability through our products and business operations.
Fashion Takes Action
We’re a proud member of Canada’s only national non-profit devoted to fashion industry sustainability. FTA's annual conference, WEAR (World Ethical Apparel Roundtable), is held every October - see you there?
Progress, not perfection - you can get involved, too
Join the annual Fashion Revolution movement - it’s easy and powerful. Know that "Made In _____" labels don't tell you the whole story - every garment, regardless of where it was sewn together, likely carries a long offshore supply chain behind it. Ask about workers' job quality, not just where those jobs are located. Honour the work that has gone into your clothes by taking good care of them, and try to take responsibility for where they go when you're done with them (swap! Repair! Upcycle!) And most importantly, recognize that big change comes in small steps.