Last week, it was reported how women garment workers labor under poor conditions on low pay, making designer clothes for brands like Adidas, Armani, Gap, H&M, Marks and Spencer, and Joe Fresh among others; and how many of these international clothing brands fail to promote their workers’ rights because of poor supply chain transparency.
At a time when fashion brands knowingly or unknowingly oppress women workers and make vast profits off cheap labor, it’s rare to find fashion brands that are ethical, sustainable, and profitable at the same time. Brands that value workers’ rights and fair wages, ensure safe workplace conditions while empowering communities, and make a large percentage of their garments with sustainable materials and processes, and promote fair trade through a business model that bridges commerce and socioeconomic development is difficult to come by.
However, there is one label that is investing time, energy and resources to create environmentally sustainable fashion ethically — Munich-based Simón Ese, with roots in Mexico.
Simón Ese was launched in 2011. The fashion project between Munich and Mexico aimed to produce casual and multicultural street-style outfits using the unused leftover pieces of high quality fabric from leading textile companies in Mexico City.
Based on the philosophy of “no waste design,” Simón Ese is “one man’s trash, another man’s treasure” that not only pays fair wages to its workers in Mexico, it uses their ideas to make artistically designed fabrics ensuring zero waste, sustainability and fair trade.
Whenever possible, Simón Ese recycles materials that are primarily made of natural textiles or cellulose, and are produced from renewable raw materials. The result is perfect for hot temperatures: Light clothing, made of modal, a comfortable, breathing, yet robust fabric.
However, Simón Ese has more than just sewn together fabric leftovers. The label attaches great importance to ensuring that all employees are able to live close to their families, which is not half as easy in Mexico City. The working hours of the production team are adapted to European standards — a 40-hour week.
The brand involves coworkers and providers in decision making; enables them to use their skills and abilities the way they want to in producing high-quality clothes; shares profits with the workers; and pays them much higher than the Mexican minimum wage or industry standards. The company also spends part of its profits on social art projects.
Simón Ese’s Andi Bernhard tells POPmarket:
“Our motivation is to develop positive, meaningful relationships with all those involved in the design, production, distribution, and use of our clothing. Our “No Waste Design” concept means that we use “waste materials” in our collections. These materials are the wastes from other large companies. The aim is to reduce the general waste of garment production. By doing so, it adds a unique element to our designs.
“In addition, we are very happy to work on a personal level with small, independent companies and individual craftsmen in Mexico, for example, Lupita, the chief of the tailoring family, and Enrique, who produces our knit. Because two of the co-founders, Bernhard and Veronica, live in Mexico, we are in frequent and close contact with our production partners. We want to give the people behind the clothing a face.”
An increasing number of brands like Simón Ese — such as People Tree, Zady, and Mini Mioche — are moving to embrace ethical practices throughout their production processes, making it a central part of their mission to produce sustainable, wearable, socially responsible and environmentally friendly fashion. Bernhard explains the motivation behind Simón Ese:
“We search for our materials. And when we find them, we treat them in the best way because it will become our product one day. [We get our inspiration] From observing the sub-cultures in our cities [Mexico and Munich], and also from the people around us that bring joy to our daily life. Our customer is fashion-conscious, mindful of sustainability, and between the ages of 16 and 46 years old.
“The mindful lifestyle comes with the idea of our sustainable brand, which is seen in the main meaning of “no waste design”. To reduce the mountains of waste a little bit. The Mexican feeling comes along with the design on some of our products where we use indigenous designs from the native Mexican people.”
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