Sustainable Practices in Bloom Bras Factory
I often get asked the question of how did I decide on a manufacturer for Bloom Bras. When I sit down with Oprah to tell her my trials and tribulations as I went down the road to production, this will all be a part of my story. A factory is a partnership similar to a marriage. Sustainability is a rough word when talking about fashion. Fast fashion has changed our outlook on how to shop but it starts at the root. The clothing and textile industry leaves behind the BIGGEST ecological footprint which is far from sustainable. According to the WWF, the industry emits 1.7 billion tons of CO2 annually contributing to global warming, water pollution and high volumes of water for growing raw materials and wet processing, not to mention toxic chemicals and 2.1 billion tons of waste such as disposed clothing or off cuts each year. Setting out as a start-up wanting to create the most body inclusive line of sports bras was my top priority but building a factory that matched my values was one of the hardest parts of the journey.
I spoke with over 50 factories around the globe on our path to finding our partner. It was easy to rule some out after just a few conversations. My values of quality, sustainability, excellence in communication and a vast knowledge of the world of technical sports bras were imperative. There are many reasons why it is difficult to get a highly technical sports bra made for women who are busty. We ran into all of them and then some including most not being able to meet our specifications, wanting to charge more for larger sizes or not meeting my ethics standards.A good majority of factories will not work with start-ups no matter how great the idea may be. We had some that wanted to charge extra for using more materials on larger sizes or were refusing to them at all. Samples were coming back nowhere close to the quality I demanded.
I got connected through a colleague's with a factory that was like a dream with a large development team and we were off to the races. We spent nine months prototyping, experimenting with materials and testing on hundreds of women. I ordered the bras in November, paid for the order in December. Three nights before the product was set to ship in March, I got a call from the owner of the factory explaining that there was a situation. They would not be producing my order. As a matter of fact, they had not even ordered the approved materials and never had any intention of moving forward. It turns out that larger orders came in and I was shoved aside. I was floored and had three options:
- Scream, shout and breakdown into tears
- Abandon my dream
- Go back to the drawing board essentially starting from scratch
While the first two would have been justifiable, I was on a plane two days later..
Coming from manufacturing, I had dreams of building a sustainable factory. A group of industry experts were establishing a new facility on a mountain in Sri Lanka - one of the most beautiful countries and cultures. The workforce would come from the neighboring village. Fresh spring mountain water from the rushing river that ran behind the property would help to power the factory and employees could be fed by the abundance of fruits, vegetables and rice grown on the front lawn. We spent days walking through every detail meticulously because they understood that I would not put a product out that I was not 150% proud of.
Selecting the proper materials had been the most difficult part of the design process. Each detail from the seams riding along the bone structure in the back to my insistence that any material that touches the body be soft, comfortable and free of certain nasty chemicals was non-negotiable. I was particularly insistent on having a zipper in the front. As a preemptive strike, I went directly to the vendor of each of the materials to save costs and reduce waste consolidating to avoid double shipping which is so harmful to the environment. We have such a large range of sizes, each is designed to fit a different type of breast size.
Seeing the Bloom Bra on women across the globe gives me such a sense of pride. We are setting out to disrupt an industry. People often ask if I would manufacture in the US. My answer is I would absolutely LOVE to. Costing came back at four to five times our current costs. The product is a complex one to produce.