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 men and women 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 thathad 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 (then Flatter:Me Belts) in 2011, “Made in China” wasn’t outsourcing. It was insourcing. It was my "made local," because the women sewing our 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 smaller, more human-scale style of manufacturing is not only possible beyond North American borders - but necessary.
Does this mean we’ll always be manufacturing in China? Nope. Our goal is to benefit the most garment workers we possibly can with our belts. China’s labour laws have improved in big ways since 2011 (see the results of one of many studies on the subject here), and we might find the time comes to bring our jobs to other communities. In other words... we're focused on the who, not the where.
Check out Claire's 2014 TEDxShanghaiWomen talk "A Better Made In China" >>>
Our local and global community involvement
Fair Trade is to products what B Corps are to businesses. We've been certified since 2015 as a "Business for Good" - in other words, having real sustainability metrics built into our 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 a blast - see you there?
Change of Clothes
In 2015, we founded a “one stop, non-shop” event that helps Edmontonians extend the life of their wardrobes by swapping, upcycling, repairing, and donating their clothes.
Progress, not perfection - you can get involved, too!
Join the annual Fashion Revolution movement - it’s easy and powerful. Organize a Change of Clothes in your community (email us to learn how). Know that labour conditions and wages in North American factories aren’t necessarily better than those offshore - and that every garment, regardless of where it was sewn, carries a long offshore supply chain behind it. Focus on progress, not perfection. Ethical fashion isn’t black and white, and big change comes in small steps.