There is a better way
By working with U.S. partners at every step of the apparel supply chain—ranchers, washers, dyers, millers, knitters, and sewers — we’re learning the issues and taking them head on to create a new standard.
PART 1: Material
Selection & Ranching
Imperial Stock Ranch
We've chosen to use natural fibers over synthetic for a couple of reasons. First, synthetic materials are mostly petroleum based, meaning they come from the same rapidly depleting non-renewable resource we use to fuel our cars and factories. Second, these materials take decades to decompose once they have been discarded, staying in the ground long after we've forgotten about them completely.
Working with natural materials, the first step in our journey begins at the ranch, Imperial Stock Ranch in Shaniko, Oregon, to be precise.
Imperial Stock Ranch's roots are about as deep as they get: the ranch's original founder was born in a wagon as his family followed the Oregon Trail.
This history is only a small part of what attracted us to Imperial. What is most important to us are the environmental practices painstakingly followed by owners Dan and Jeanne Carver.
Imperial Stock Ranch works under a conservation management plan, every step of which is carefully considered. Rain falling on their land and run-off from snow melt, is captured, stored and safely released into the ecosystem, protecting and recharging the water table. Livestock graze in a rotational system, stimulating root development in plants, which in turn, triggers revitalization of the plants. By not plowing the land, the Carvers avoid evaporation and water run-off from exposed soil. Implementation of these and a variety of practices under their conservation philosophy and management plan, has resulted in the return of ever increasing numbers of native salmon to spawn in the creeks. The conservation plan has also allowed the ranch to move forward in their positive carbon footprint journey, part of a long-term sustainable solution to climate change and global warming.
According to The World Wildlife Fund, unsustainable agricultural practices present the greatest immediate threat to species and ecosystems around the world.
Industrial sheep ranching is mostly done in the desert climates of Australia and China. To compensate for the dry climate, wool ranchers use enormous amounts of water to irrigate the land, this causes land erosion and leaves neighboring communities with limited water supply.
In industrial ranches, animals also overgraze the land, again leading to land erosion and ultimately to desertification, a significant global threat.
Part 2: Cleaning
When we order yarn from Jeanne Carver, she begins by moving the shorn wool through the steps necessary to transform it to beautiful yarn. The first stop is at Chargeurs Wool in Jamestown, South Carolina, to be cleaned, carded and combed into wool top.
Chargeurs is held to the highest standards, and consistently exceeds those standards. They have a spotless environmental record, and by working through them, we’re making sure that the wool isn’t getting clean, by leaving everything else filthy.
In unregulated environments outside the U.S. wool cleaning is a highly toxic process that ends up in the water supply. In fact, the daily runoff from a typical wool cleaning plant outside the country is approximately equal to sewage from a town of 50,000 people. In the U.S. we have state and federal Environmental Protection Agency Regulations that guide all companies in the textile value chain.
PART 3: dyeing & spinning
G.J. Littlewood & Sons
and Kraemer Textiles
We wanted our yarn to have a luxurious heather coloring, so the next step for us, is sending our clean wool to G.J. Littlewood and Sons in Philadelphia, a fifth generation dye house and one of only two remaining dye houses in the country that can do this style of finish.
With G.J. Littlewood and Sons, we can be sure that our dyes are not carcinogenic and that the environmental water standards are of the highest level. Since the 1970s, U.S. dye houses have complied with the standards set forth by The American Association of Textile Colorists and Chemists, which ensure that their dyes do not enter our water system. These standards are easily avoided in unregulated countries such as China.
Littlewood uses only reactive dyes in our wool, so that after the dyeing process has been completed, all the dyes used remain in the fiber and are not released into the water system. To put this into perspective, the textile dyeing industry currently contributes up to 20% of total industrial water pollution. At G.J. Littlewood that number is just about zero.
After dyeing, the wool makes its way to Kraemer Textiles in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. It may seem simple, but it turns out getting a clump of wool into perfectly even strands is no easy feat!
It’s a multi-day six-step process involving blending, carding, pin drafting, spinning, winding, and twisting. The team at Kraemer Textiles are masters at it.
Many dyes that are currently standard in the industry are highly toxic and remnants from this process remain in the clothing. This leaves the wearer of the product at an increased risk of being exposed to carcinogenic residues.
Also, in other less-regulated countries where the vast majority of traditional wool is cleaned, the chemicals left over from the cleaning process are just dumped into local rivers, creating problems with water life and harming the health of all those people who use the water.
PART 4: knitting
Ball of Cotton
Once spooled, our yarn is sent to Ball of Cotton in Commerce, CA. They are one of the last remaining high-end knitters in the country. Because of their close proximity, we have been able to visit their facility and engage in face-to-face discussions about the best method of creating the perfect sweater. This is no shadow factory. We have watched every step of production and have been delighted to meet and learn from many of the 35 proud employees.
On the design side, we have gained enormously from being able to communicate closely with our producers. It’s only from this close level of communication that we have been able to produce what we believe to be the very best in design.
Knitting, cutting, and sewing are generally the most labor-intensive stages of garment creation, which in a lot of places means the stage most likely to involve an unsafe and unhealthy work environment.
By working with knitters in the U.S. with an excellent track record and being able to visit their facilities and build a strong relationship, we know that unlike the shadow factories strung out across the globe, our supply chain operates in broad daylight.
Labor is a significant cost in apparel production. To cut costs, traditional retailers go on the hunt for the least regulated labor environments, which in turn produce the lowest labor costs. A lack of regulation means unsafe working conditions, often involving slave labor and little regard for minimum wage. It was these conditions that set the backdrop for the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh.
When an apparel company selects a factory overseas, they are often only looking at pristine-seeming show factories while the real work is done in a shadow factory hidden from sight. This fact is often missed even when they attempt to participate in regulation by making inspections.
Unless you’re working in a country with a strong regulatory environment, you cannot be confident that your product is not tied up in such a process.
At Zady, we believe that process matters, and that each step of that process is tied inextricably to the final product.
We are proud to announce our Essential Collection. We are proud to participate in a conversation that we believe is very much worth having. We are proud to work with men and women in the U.S. who themselves take pride in making beautiful clothes beautifully and we hope that you'll be as excited as we are to embark upon this journey. Together.
.01 The Sweater
Available in natural, light grey and charcoal.Get it now