Why the Next Supplier Meet-Up Will Explore Collaboration Between Manufacturing Companies

Why the Next Supplier Meet-Up Will Explore Collaboration Between Manufacturing Companies

by Kim van der Weerd created 2022-09-28T12:38:07+07:00
An open letter from Kim van der Weerd to manufacturers and non-manufacturers.

To my friends in apparel manufacturing, 

When I resigned from my job managing a garment factory back in 2020, I was pretty done with sustainable fashion.  I was frustrated and felt that the sustainable fashion toolbox was full of the wrong tools.  I remember thinking to myself: change requires apparel manufacturers working together to put forward a different sustainable fashion toolbox. Maybe even a multitude of toolboxes adapted to different types of products and local production contexts.  

Two years later and I’m still thinking about manufacturer collaboration. It’s why I work part-time for Transformers Foundation – the unified voice of the denim supply chain. It’s why I’m a huge fan of the STAR Network and the Sustainable Terms of Trade Initiative. It’s why I admire initiatives that focus on community and storytelling – like Cotton Diaries. And, it’s why I host monthly supplier meet-ups for the Asia Garment Hub – informal and unrecorded discussions open exclusively to suppliers (any tier).   

We’ve spent the last couple of supplier meet-ups talking about decarbonization. There’s value in realizing that you’re not the only one thinking something – and that’s been the primary success of supplier meet-ups so far (at least in my view). But participants have also expressed disappointment: “It’s great to connect, listen, and discuss – but what’s the point if we don’t engage the wider sustainable fashion community?” I’ve tried to address this sentiment by publishing anonymized reflections pieces after each meet-up. It’s also why the Asia Garment Hub published practical tips for talking to apparel manufacturers about decarbonization.  But these are baby steps. 

In parallel, there’s been quite a bit of interest in supplier meet-ups from non-manufacturers. For every event, there are non-manufacturers asking whether they can attend, whether they can get a summary of the discussion, whether we could discuss specific points. The appetite for hearing a different perspective seems to be out there – though the jury is still out on whether the non-manufacturing community is able to approach lived experiences that don’t fit neatly into “Western” frameworks for understanding sustainable fashion with curiosity rather than judgment. 

Either way, the seeds are there: some of the manufacturers participating in supplier meet-ups – which, admittedly, remains a small group – have cautiously expressed an interest in having a more public conversation. And the sustainable fashion community writ large seems to be interested in hearing from them. The next couple of supplier meet-ups are about nurturing these seeds.  

Can they grow? Will they grow? Under what conditions? What will the plant that emerges out of them look like? We’ll be talking about how individual apparel manufacturing companies could work together to safely get more manufacturer perspectives out into the sustainable fashion community – about decarbonization and beyond. If you’re a manufacturer, I hope you’ll join the conversation on 6 October at 10AM CET – or, at the very least, leave us your contact information so we can keep you in the loop about how the conversation progresses (non-manufacturers are also welcome to do this).  


Kim van der Weerd & the Asia Garment Hub team

Kim van der Weerd.jpg

About Kim van der Weerd
Kim moved to Cambodia armed with a background in human rights and a desire to better understand the fashion supply chain. Managing production facilities challenged all of her assumptions about what sustainable fashion requires, made her a firm advocate of equal partnership, and instilled a deep respect for the exhausting and difficult work of making clothes. She too, likes to talk about cats.