Last week we took a three day trip to Turkey to visit our suppliers and look around the factories where our organic fabrics and childrenswear are made.
Despite us being a little nervous before we left, because of the ongoing demonstrations in the country, life and business carried on as normal; apart from a healthy open political debate over dinner.
Our first visit was to the factory that manufactures our cotton from raw flower heads. Against a stunning backdrop of cotton fields running all the way to the foot of the mountains on the horizon, our organic cotton is harvested and goes straight into the ginning sheds to separate lint from seed.
Aegean cotton is considered to be of the highest quality because of its long, strong staple or fibre and is known for its soft feel. In fact Turkey has been a leader in organic cotton production since the 1980s and, until recently, more than 40% of the world’s organic cotton supply was grown here. An added bonus is that biotech insect-protected cotton plants are not allowed in Turkey, so farmers do not have the worries about cross contamination from GM varieties so common in other cotton producing countries.
As we left the ginning factory it was a real pleasure to see that the workers here also have a large greenhouse where they grow organic veg for their own use. Our supplier also told us that more Turkish brands are starting to use organic cotton as people understand how conventional production affects their day to day lives, with its high use of chemicals.
Across the road is the building where the fabric is made and although only the best of the cotton is used to produce yarn for this, waste is kept to an absolute minimum with the rest going to stuff furniture, nappies and a myriad of other uses.
We were impressed not only by the hi-tech weaving machinery, but also by the factory’s air filtration system and health and safety precautions, as there is a high risk of fire in the manufacturing process due to the high levels of lint in the air.
A short drive away was the dying and printing factory. (You absolutely can’t fault this whole process for keeping down carbon emissions, because it’s all done in one local area, rather than bringing fabric halfway across the world).
There in the laboratory, staff were checking the quality of each fabric; measuring for colourfastness and shrinkage, content, weight and tensility. This is also where dyes are developed and lab dips produced. Once clients are happy with their samples, the information is fed into a machine-linked, colour mixing system to eradicate human error and colour variation between fabric batches.
On the factory floor, we walked the production lines of screen making, printing and dying machinery and were shown the magnetic computer tracking system that follows each order through its production journey from raw fabric to finished product. Everything was immaculate with workers smart in blue uniforms and protective wellies - and it was good to see them proudly displaying their GOTS certificate alongside a photo of their company football team.
The final part of the process is the cutting and sewing of our garments. This takes place above the offices in the textile hub of the city, 15 minutes away, allowing greater control of every aspect of creating the finished item. Staff here work until 6pm as their standard day, then are paid overtime rates if they wish to stay late, as well as getting a lift home and often a meal to keep them going.
When finished, redurchin products are labelled, packed and then delivered by road to the UK. We waved off our latest order onto the truck. Who needs air miles?