Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.
FairWear is a social enterprise built to address garment worker abuse and poverty in large scale manufacturing in Bangladesh and other developing countries. By building a sustainable model for ethical large scale manufacturing we can change the way our clothes impact the lives of the global poor.
WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"
What if the 1 Trillion dollars the world spent making its clothes was invested in large scale ethical manufacturing operations that lifted the global poor out of poverty and enabled a life of their choosing?
Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Garment manufacturing in Bangladesh and much of the developing world is a human rights nightmare. Poverty wages, unsafe working conditions and exploitation are the norm rather than the exception. But most attempts at addressing this problem rely on small artisanal cooperative manufacturing that does not address the core issue and does not scale appropriately to match the size of the problem.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
FairWear seeks out innovative manufacturers who are providing their workers with dignity and a livelihood. Our first partnership is with BRAC, the largest NGO founded in the developing world, and its social enterprise clothing business Aarong, manufacturing premium ethical T-shirt blanks for sale to commercial merchandising/screenprinting companies in the US. The shirts are made according to World Fair Trade Organization standards, at a scale that remains price competitive with standard premium t-shirt blanks. This arrangement raises wages while keeping workers safe and reduces working hours to an average of 8 hours per day (10-12 is the norm in Bangladesh). Manufacturing done right can be a powerful help to millions of garment workers.
Founder was selected for Hive Global Leaders program in Jan 2015
Impact: How does it Work
Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.
The women who make our t-shirts get paid above market rate wages, work in safe, inspected buildings for eight hour work days and are offered supporting social services for themselves and their families including health access, financial services, women's political empowerment, nutrition and education programs. Making a mass produced product with an enormous addressable market creates the potential to repeat this process millions of times over and give these mostly female workers the freedom to live a life of their choosing and build a better future for their children.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.
We have thus far established the manufacturing relationships and made a few thousand shirts, some for sale to customers directly, and some to use as samples for merchandisers and screen printers who would be potential large scale commercial customers. Our first product, an ethical tshirt line in a variety of colors an a fashionable unisex fit has a practically addressable market of well over $100M per year. Each shirt that we make in Bangladesh provides the domestic economy with a boost of up to 8 times that of standard manufacturing arrangements. We are currently in talks for a major partnership with Custom Ink, who spends more than $40M per year on blank t-shirts alone. The future scope is similar in scale and profile to American Apparel, which currently runs revenue of $615M per year. Around 80% of our revenue would directly impact lives in Bangladesh and other developing countries.
Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?
Find large scale printers (currently in talks with CustomInk and VistaPrint and Threadless) interested in socially responsible blank options that are affordable and fit within their established revenue models and create a line of basic fashion tees for sale direct to customers. Pursuing high visibility partnerships with musical acts and other performers (Global Citizen concerts is a budding partner) interested in social justice issues to raise the profile of the company with the goal of eventually establishing distribution through industry leader channels (like SanMar and AlphaBroder).
Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
Once we achieve financing necessary to establish self distribution the company should generate a profit from the sale of its garments fairly quickly. Our profit margins are actually slightly above industry standard even with our prices remaining competitive. Our BRAC partnership has an established annual capacity of 3-5 Million shirts and we are in the process of vetting additional ethical manufacturing partners to scale beyond that point.
Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
There are numerous small scale artisanal companies making branded clothing with a human rights focus, but they are not direct competitors because of their higher price points and lack of a scalable business model. Some t-shirt companies have a social responsibility focus on environmental sustainability rather than human rights abuses in challenging developing markets. Our approach is more scalable because our wholesale price is lower than premium competitors like American Apparel and targets the problem of human rights head on, maximizing both the potential breadth and depth of our impact.
After the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, Devin Chesney was working for the UN World Food Programme's USA affiliate office and felt moved to contribute to some effort addressing this problem. After extensive research he felt that there were no real scalable solutions to the way that most of the world makes it clothes. So he set out to forge a new way: large scale manufacturing done right. With an NGO partner already operating a social enterprise clothing company serving the domestic market in Bangladesh, he established FairWear to do just that. Starting with t-shirt blanks, a $20B industry in the US alone, with plans to expand to all variety of clothing basics and third party sourcing.
Devin Chesney, Founder- International Development and financial operations professional with more than 10 years experience in the social space
Ken Seidl, Advisory Board member - Former SVP Alpha Broder, largest tshirt distributor in US, currently VP at Fruit of the Loom
James Anderson, Advisory Board member - VP of International at Earth Networks, experienced sales and branding professional
Plan to recruit marketing and PR member for executive team as well as a supply chain logistics manager when funding becomes available.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]
Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]
Auditor, Brand Representative, Corporate Staff, Factory Owner.
Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]
Auditors, Brands, Consumers, Corporations, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Retailers - Department Store, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Women.
Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.
Capacity Building, Certification, Enforcement, Organizing, Media, Standards.
Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?
Hidden from View: Conditions in Forests, Farms, and Factories are Only Visible to a Select Few, A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being, Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits.
Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?
Activate Local Know-how for Driving Solutions: Build Opportunities for Workers to Become Leaders, Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.
Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?
If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?
● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?
I want to build a company with an inspiring mission that drives everyone to create impact in new ways.
● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?
Partnerships with ecommerce companies that screen print and with merchandisers are key to my model of change.