Archive | May, 2014

Procrastination my old friend

This is NOT me. This is other people getting on with important tasks.

This is NOT me. This is other people getting on with important tasks. Efficiently.

So it goes something like this

  1. Get freaked out by a new task I have never done before in a new profession I know really very little about and it seems kind of insurmountable
  2. Tidy
  3. Do other fun design stuff
  4. Do some contract research work
  5. Facebook update
  6. Check personal facebook
  7. Cuddle the baby
  8. Make Coffee
  9. Read paper online
  10. Give myself pep talk about sucking it up and just getting on with it
  11. Look back at freaky new task

and repeat….

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what are muka kids like?

I think this best describes what muka kids is all about, a poetry storyboard of muka kids.

muka kids like dirty mucking about

muka kids like their stuff to be cheerful & bright

witch in the cherry tree

witch in the cherry tree

muka kids like quirky funny things

and muka kids are often given to sing (or whistle tunelessly) Continue Reading →

Fitting the Clothes. The Fun & Chaos

Recently, we fitted the mock ups of our first designs. For those in the know such mock-ups are called ‘the toile’, because why not use a lovely French word for what is kind of a ho hum stage in clothing making? A toile is not usually made in the fabric you intend on making them in, have no finishing details and often require a fair bit of adjustment , so all and all more excitement has been had during design phases.

Anyway, my fantastic and long suffering pattern maker Angela was exposed to the terror that is working with children. Though given she has recently had a baby I figure I am simply doing her a favour and providing her with some valuable psychological preparation for the ‘joy’ that is yet to come…

The fitting was best described as:

Total chaos.

A lot of coaching to cope with an extreme fear of ‘the pokey pins’ and excessive food and lego related bribery was required.

We got through in the end, and a satisfying outcome for all (except the child who was in fact poked again with the pins. oh dear). It is a tough old world when you mother does clothing making…

My lovely nephew was a very enthusiastic model and did a great job in our boys & girls leggings. Yes that is right we believe boys should not have to miss out on the happiness that is a good pair of leggings.

deep consideration of crotch fitting by myself and the small one

deep consideration of crotch fitting by myself and the small one

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The Production of Cotton Clothing (A Lot of Ethical & Environmental Craziness): Part 2 of 3

Last week I posted an infographic outlining the basic process of cotton clothing production (Where Does your Cotton Tee Come From?). Understanding where our goods come from is interesting stuff just from a ‘how cool is that?” perspective, anyone seen how online supermarket stores operate? What understanding the production chain also does is lift the veil on HOW the stuff we buy is made, and so helps us decide how comfortable we are with what those processes mean for people and the environment.

So, further to the basics of the cotton clothes production process I want to draw attention to where things seem to have gone pretty pear shaped. I want to show (using additions to the original infographic) where in the process costs are cut and how. These are cuts that enable us to buy seriously cheap clothes (and lets face it some not so cheap because even high end fashion producers use the same process), and ensure some large textile & fashion businesses bring in handsome profits.

I have worked to verify all claims with valid evidence & reports , and for the interested reader there is a pretty extensive reference list (yeah yeah do an eye roll, I am a geek). If anyone sees any gaping holes, or has some evidence they think is more substantial or valid do swing it my way!

PS. I will follow this blog up with a final instalment on tangible solutions. So all is not lost, despair not people…..

 

Infographic: Environmental & Ethical Craziness in Cotton Clothing Production

Infographic: Environmental & Ethical Craziness in Cotton Clothing Production

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What IS a social enterprise exactly?

Today I was awarded a precious 3 hours to go to a workshop on developing business models for social enterprise run by these guys.   Hikurangi is a foundation set up to accelerate people looking to start unique businesses in the social and environmental good line of things. It has government funding even (well a tiny little bit), to help push the idea that businesses based on social and environmental good may just be a clever and useful thing to support as a society (woo-hoo).

So we started talking about what is a social enterprise. I was kind of delighted to hear that Hikurangi themselves had not actually settled on a definition (as most of the time it bamboozles me), but what they did have goes something like this (not word for word)

‘a business with a social or environmental mission that supports itself through trade’

So, by my way of thinking it is all about developing a profit making business to work with or for the environment or with and for social improvement (or even both). Continue Reading →

That little bit of crazy just got bigger

As anyone who has spent any time (like more than 10 minutes) with me will attest to, at the best I times I have a little touch of the manic about me, just a wee glimpse of crazy in my eye and a slight propensity to the 1000 yard stare. This is mainly due I suspect to what psychologists and zen type people will call the ‘inability to live in the present’, and what I call ‘being a working parent who has also decided to start a business’.

 

Well today, I am sorry to say, that little bit of crazy just went full on postal. I put this down to a nasty combination of an overconfident sense of what I could manage a year or so back and some idiot biological function that means humans can only focus fully on tasks if they had a reasonable amount of sleep and down time.

 

Today my day looked like this:

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Where Does your Cotton Tee Come From? Part 1 of 3

Cotton clothing production is complex. Cotton clothing production involves many people. Cotton clothing production is resource intensive. There is room for improvement. Significant room.

In an earlier blog I discussed what buying certified fair trade cotton clothing actually means. In that blog I skipped over the complexities of the cotton production process for the purposes of brevity. Now I want to lay out exactly what the supply chain for cotton clothing in India (where muka kids clothes will be made) looks like. The purpose being to help highlight the complexity of the process, the huge numbers of workers involved and to lay the ground work for talking about where exactly in that chain ethical and environmental issues crop up and how they can best be countered. Right, no further words, just a picture (all be it with lots of words!).

 

Infographic. Cotton Production in India.

Infographic. Cotton Production in India.

Sunshine of the Mind

I love colour. I especially love colour in unexpected pairings and surprising tones. I think clothing, especially kids clothing could be so much more exciting colourwise.  So you would think that choosing colour for clothing designs would not be too onerous a task for me. HA!

Welcome to the confusing world of textile & design colours ala Pantone colour tones LTD (just think the Nestle of the colour processing world – though I am note sure they have links with big tobacco, so maybe not such a good analogy).

Anyway, imagine choosing a new wall colour but 1000 times worse. As Pantone textile charts are so VERY expensive, I of course got the cheapest chart I could (come on I am a start-up!) .This people is a book of thousands of tiny little jewels of colour the size of a small woman’s thumbnail.  Beautiful, but hmmmm not so good for trying to visualize how colour will look on a length of fabric.

Unlike choosing your wall colour, you cannot pop down to the paint shop, buy all the different shades you are considering, and create a huge patchwork wall to ponder in all different lights the nuances of half and quarter versions of varying shades of pantyhose. Actually when put like this I am not sure choosing the pantone colour is actually worse than paint selecting. But it is at least on par in terms of difficulty, with frankly a lot more riding on a poor decision than a ‘do over’ on the feature wall.

Yellow, how I do love you and believe you to be a much maligned colour, but really you have some fair ugly sides. Lets hope I can choose the right one from those teeny tiny jewels of colour!

Beautiful but potentially deadly. Pantone Cotton Colour Chart.

Beautiful but potentially deadly. Pantone Cotton Colour Chart.

What does ‘certified fairtrade’ mean when it comes to clothes?

It is a long supply chain, but we have it covered.

It is a long supply chain, but we have it covered.

While I have always been what you would call a ‘fairtrade motivated’ consumer, and I was pretty clear on what buying fairtrade certified food products like coffee, chocolate, bananas, sugar meant.  However, the picture was a little less clear when it came to clothing, and actually I hardly even considered it as an issue really.

When I started on the muka kids path I knew that fairtrade certification would be more complicated for clothing than the for the direct commodity products where the route from farmer to consumer is short. However, sorting out in my own mind what certified fairtrade clothing actually meant did require doing quite a bit of digging. I thought it would be useful to share what I found.

Figure 1 (I can’t help myself, it is the researcher in me coming out!) is a simplified but pretty accurate idea of the chain from the food commodity farmer to you (e.g. coffee, banana etc).

Fugure 1. Farmer to consumer chain for simple foods

Figure 1. Farmer to consumer chain for simple foods

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