From the Floor Series: Fabric
From the Floor Series is a further insight into what we do at Dorsu, how and why. Have you ever wondered where your clothes were made? What the production process is? Who makes them? Well we would like to show you, every step of the way, from idea generation to final product.
Cambodia has a large and pervasive garment industry, employing over 700,000 workers and accounting for approximately 80% of the country’s total export revenue (Better Factories Cambodia). It’s a huge industry with significant impact across the entire country. Masses of clothing are produced and distributed globally, for the likes of global fashion brands such as H&M, GAP, Levi’s and more.
As Cambodia is not a producer of fabric, fabric is sourced from all over the world and shipped into the country for production. Due to the nature of ‘fast fashion’ itself, production is fast, responsive to immediate trends and enormous in scale. Every day, huge amounts of fabric are deemed unusable by brands for reasons such as incorrect or oversupply of fabric, last minute changes in production schedules or the sheer need to switch to a new product or colour based purely on changing trends.
This fabric becomes what we know as remnant fabric, or end-of-roll fabric and it is sold on to a local supply industry in Cambodia, bought and used, rather than wasted or dumped into landfill.
Remnant fabric defined
Remnant fabric is left-over, unused or unwanted rolls of fabric in it’s original condition.
In Cambodia, factories sell their remnants to a local supplier, who sort, store and sell the fabric onto buyers all over Cambodia. And that’s where we come in. We head directly to our suppliers in Toul Kork, Phnom Penh and physically search through the warehouses to find the quality and colour that we are after. It’s a long and arduous process, but well worth it when we find the perfect fabric!
What this means
With remnant quite literally meaning ‘the part or quantity that is left after the greater part is used’ - only small amounts of the leftover rolls are available.
We can only purchase what is available and in the right quantity and colour to use for our collections. Some would call this a limitation, but we call it exclusive. When we head to the suppliers, we buy what is there, in the colours and amount that is available. Sometimes it might be 10 rolls, sometimes it’s just two. We work our designs into what fabric we can find, and plan out collections to showcase the exclusive colours we were able to get our hands on.
Matching our values around overproduction and overconsumption, working with a small supply of fabric means we produce directly against demand. With our operations all under one-roof, we can be flexible and ensure we only produce what we know will be sold and loved.
Limited edition colours
When we buy a small number of rolls, we release mini collections of exclusive, limited run colours. We bought only a few rolls of our latest Dusty Pink and have released it as a limited-edition pop collection, adding a little extra colour and variety to our New Classics Collection. Our designs + limited colour = exclusive product!
We prefer to use fabric with a full cotton count, however this can be difficult due to the nature of it being remnant, as the fibre content is unknown and it's origin untraceable. So what do we do? We burn test it. Our production manager Kunthear cuts a small piece and holds a lighter to it to determine whether there are synthetics fibres present. If it burns like paper it is cotton (a natural fibre) whereas if the fabric melts, like plastic, it has a synthetic fibre content. Although Kunthear can tell if a fabric contains synthetic fibres just by touch, she burn tests everything before purchasing and rules out any options that don’t burn as a pure cotton content.
The pros & cons
We know our fabric has limitations, especially in respect to knowing it's true origin, footprint and impact. We choose remnant fabric because not only are we supporting a local supply industry, we are using an existing product rather than creating demand for the production of more fabric. It already exists, so we believe in using it to do what we do.
A viral campaign
This year, we joined forces with a team of creatives and advocates to develop a masterpiece in support of raising awareness of overconsumption and waste in the apparel industry. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, a factory was found piled high with clothing and fabric left behind from the previous inhabitants. Thousands of kilos, dumped. Photographers Von Wong and Pete DeMarco, activist Laura A. François and filmmaker A.Todd Smith with the help of Dorsu- used this fabric to create a viral campaign. 2500 kg of clothing and 1000 volunteer hours later, Worship Your Clothes is set to release in approximately 4 days, and counting.
See more at Worship Your Clothes.
Next week in the From the Floor Series- all about our Production. Stay tuned for more details on our production processes and the way do things at Dorsu.
Questions? Please comment below and let’s chat!