Our approach to Ethical Design
For the design team at Madly Sweetly – design starts with the fabric. We have a team of four designers who as conscious consumers are the first to challenge our fabric sourcing approach. Over the last few years we have been extending our knowledge of sustainable fabrics and have found the most useful resource to be the information available through the Textile Exchange website plus in the past we used the “Made-By environmental benchmark for fibres,” alongside other credible sources both online and through our sustainability consultant. Whilst we are definitely making progress – focusing on natural fibres, reducing the amount of synthetic fibres in our range, and building our knowledge of new sustainable fabrics available in the market – we still have many challenges to overcome and on this we are not alone. The global fabric industry as a whole is struggling to replace fibres such as micro fibre releasing polyesters and chemical dependent viscose with viable qualities and importantly at prices workable for the majority of consumers. Another issue for small brands such as ourselves, is the demand by the fabric manufacturers to place high volume orders. Most of the time we are unable to meet such minimum orders due to our smaller customer base in NZ and Australia, but also we are not confident to place any volume until we know that the fabric will meet the quality expectations of our customers. You, our customers tell us that quality, longevity and versatility are important to your buying choices, and therefore we cannot consider a fabric truly sustainable unless we have tried and tested the fabrics and styles for ourselves. This takes time. However, the Madly Sweetly community are rising to the challenge, we have set ourselves targets, have challenged our suppliers, and will in the future be offering more sustainable choices to our Madly Sweetly followers. Look out for our sustainable tencel and tencel/ linen styling, sustainable viscose and viscose / rayon and recycled polyester in our collections to come.
In terms of styling, we know that our customers value the ability to build a wardrobe around classic styling that will still be relevant for years to come. This is the core of the Madly Sweetly collections and our designers are challenged every season to prove the long-term value, longevity and collectability of every one of our gorgeous styles.
At the same time we are challenged to ensure our design sampling is kept to a minimum. We are proud to say our suppliers regard us a top performer when it comes to sampling. They tell us of horrendous waste in the mass-market industry where designers over-sample, resulting in as much as 90% of samples (which can be 1000s over a year) being wasted. At Madly Sweetly we are working towards a 90% hit rate, which means that for almost every style we sample, we place an order. All samples that cannot be sold at the end of a season are donated to charity giving us a 100% zero landfill rate.
Exploring ways to improve quality and fit have always been embedded in our design and development process, and are investments we continue to be absolutely committed to. Every single one of our styles passes through a detailed fit process, both at our NZ office and during our twice-yearly factory visits. We use an in-house model, and when needed adjust the design or pattern to ensure our fit is consistent for every style and every season. This is not only reassuring for our customers, but also goes a long way to reduce returns and rejects which are common place in the fashion industry, and contribute to the ever increasing problem of landfill. In addition, every new style is “make standard” assessed by our experienced technologists, ensuring the best possible manufacturing techniques are used. We are fortunate that the majority of our factories work with high-end international brands and are therefore well exposed to high quality demands and to many global best practices.
To further support the life of our much loved Madly Sweetly collections, we have a “Care For” guide, which has been developed in-house with both longevity of our products, as well as environmental impacts in mind. It is now a credible fact that around half of the carbon dioxide from the fashion industry occurs after purchase, from the wearing, washing, tumble-drying, ironing and dry cleaning of clothes.
This guide is to help our customers beyond our standard care labels. All fabrics have their own unique characteristics, which need to be considered if we are serious about extending the life of our clothes and more importantly our planet. Tips to consider include:
- washing your polyester in micro fibre / guppy bags to reduce the fibre contamination in our ocean
- washing clothes at below 30-degree temperature, to conserve energy, C02 emissions and to prolong the life of your items
- selecting front loading washing machines over top loaders
- keeping your half load washes to a minimum
Another tip to consider is limiting the use of commercial fabric softeners, and perhaps replacing them with a natural softener such as vinegar. All are more mindful ways that can contribute to reducing our impact, as well as ensuring your gorgeous clothes stay gorgeous longer.
Remember if you’re uncertain about how to care for your clothing, always refer to the care instructions on the label on the inside seam of your garment. These are designed to ensure your garments stay in great shape.
Another way to extend the life of your items is to consider garment repairs, for example when those moths become too ravenous in your wardrobe or when a seam perhaps becomes less stable after extensive wear. Whilst the Madly Sweetly team carry out robust quality checks, both at the factory as well as in our NZ warehouse, unfortunately we are all human, and there is always the odd garment that slips through. We are however proud to say that all our faulty garments are repaired where possible, or given to various charities to ensure not one garment is thrown into landfill.