PIGEON IS ALL ABOUT COMMUNITY AND RELATIONSHIPS
Posted on April 23 2021
Against the background of Fashion Revolution Week, we wanted to share some insights into our business and our suppliers.
Pigeon is about community. We earn a living, but we’re not in business to maximise profit. We ethically produce and thoughtfully sell beautiful clothes, whilst engaging in meaningful relationships with our suppliers and customers.
Most obviously, we have always chosen to use organic cotton and to comply with the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) – the main global organic standard, which covers both social and environmental factors and covers the entire supply chain. We are certified by the Soil Association (the UK’s main certification body) and undergo rigorous annual audits.
We work with three factories in India and two in Turkey and we have visited all except one at least once. We try to visit one (usually more) of the factories each year although this hasn’t been possible in 2020 or 2021 because of Covid, but we are still in weekly contact.
In India, the factories each have their own personality, but they are all Fairtrade and GOTS certified, which provides us with some basic reassurance that they’re acting responsibly. One of the factories in particular, based in Agra, has a large extended programme of social and environmental responsibility – from zero waste, to ensuring that all female workers have their own bank accounts and providing a health education for employees. They also work with local charities (including one that supports survivors of acid attacks) to provide vocational training, and they provide training for a local special needs school. The other two Indian factories, though both GOTs and Fairtrade certified, are slightly more conventional businesses, but we have visited both several times and are always impressed with what we see. And we in no doubt that these three factories make every effort to send us the most beautiful and best quality clothing.
In Turkey, we work with two factories, one of which we have visited and a second smaller factory that we haven’t yet had a chance to visit because of Covid. Fairtrade certification doesn’t really exist in Turkey, but the main factory is GOTS certified. For the smaller knitwear factory (which supplies us with a small amount of knitwear) certification is not yet viable, but we’re continuing to work with them in the hope that our business will help. Both factories are in regular contact with our Turkish agent who overseas our sourcing in Turkey – we have a very close working relationship with him and have met him (and his family) many times, both in Turkey and the UK.
Working with factories so far away, we will never be 100% sure that we’re seeing the full picture, but we try to do everything we can to ensure that we have a reasonable understanding of how the factories work. It’s about trying to build long-term, trusting relationships.
On the customer side, we believe in providing the best service we can both to wholesale and individual customers. We are disillusioned with the way that many large corporations show little responsibility to the communities in which they operate (particularly their customers) and we’re happy to be small enough to be able to engage with our customers at a very personal level.
Within our own company, we try to be environmentally responsible. We’ve been using renewable energy in our office/warehouse for several years and we’re half way through switching to compostable garment and posting bags. Our biggest environmental cost is flying some of our Indian stock to the UK twice a year. In the short term, we’re signing up to carbon offset projects. In the longer term, we will have to look at sea transport – we know this is vitally important and something we are eager to pursue. However, being such a small company we are still nervous about bringing all of our goods across in container ships – certainly during Covid, the timing just didn’t work – but we’re working on it.
We try to prevent all waste - most of our spare stock is given to charities. Over the past two years, we have sent four pallets to a charity working with refugees in Greece, several boxes to a women and children's health clinic in Ethiopia, and several deliveries to the Baby Bank and Homestart networks in the UK and some local charities here in Oxford, including local women’s refuges. Next season we will be supporting a range of activities with disadvantages children (in this country and overseas) to coincide with our ‘Friendship’ collection arriving in spring 2022. We know that our clothes are long lasting and are passed from baby to baby and child to child.
At Pigeon we don’t want to grow huge, we just want to do what we love doing, working with people we like, in a way that has a positive impact wherever possible.