Bangladesh is often associated with crowded sweatshops where garments are transformed from the design stage to the retail floor in only a few weeks. But once upon a time, the country was world famous for producing the finest textiles. A team of eco-warriors is literally re-designing the fashion industry by helping artisans reclaim their livelihoods and market their unique products across the globe.
Fast fashion now dominates our wardrobes and high streets. Super-responsive and cheap brands result in consumers becoming increasingly detached from their products. Overproduction and consumption trends come with a hidden price tag, it is the environment and workers in the supply chain that pay. But, what if we could pull back the curtain and unveil the stories and faces behind fashion items?
This is exactly the mission behind Tripty. Fusing modern design with traditional handicraft in a transparent supply chain, the brand benefits vulnerable women, the environment and consumers. Unique designs and textiles – which would otherwise get lost in dusty bazaars – are now being sold as high-end fashion items in the international market.
The founders come from different backgrounds with years of experience in ethical fashion, environmental sustainability and women’s empowerment. United in their diversity, they deliver a clear message: the time has come to reconnect producers with consumers – and vice versa.
“Our project is about creating connections. We saw this gap between traditional handicrafts and modern fashion and thought of merging the two while narrowing the distance between artisans and consumers,” Marie Sophie Pettersson, one of the founders, told Good Elephant.
Bangladesh has become an outsourcing hotspot second only to China in the “cut, make and trim” clothes-making process. Pettersson explains that the ready-made garment industry in Dhaka’s industrial zone employs over 3.6 million workers, of which more than 80% are women. While it plays a crucial role in the socio-economic empowerment of low-income women and adolescent girls, the sector is famously under-regulated.
“We noticed this big contrast between cheap ready-made garments produced in Bangladesh and the handicrafts tradition that is slowly dying out because sales are low,” the Danish national said.
By providing favourable working conditions and a stable income to artisans from all across Bangladesh, this female-friendly business is rebranding the “Made in Bangladesh” label.
As a ‘slow fashion’ producer, Tripty strives to maintain ecological, social and cultural diversity. The brand focuses on using local materials and resources ensuring the longevity of their clothing by sourcing high quality fabrics. Keeping age-old methods alive, Tripty offers original cuts by blending modern design with traditional handicraft.
“It’s an innovative approach. The fashion industry is generally very top-down, you don’t find this concept of ‘democracy in design’. We believe that producers, or artisans as we prefer to call them, should have a say in the design process. Patterns are all up to them, they are encouraged to be creative,” Pettersson said.
Tripty joined hands with several local NGOs supporting vulnerable groups in Bangladesh and works with approximately 200 artisans – mostly women. Every item enhances the consumer experience by carrying the empowering stories of indigenous groups, sex-trafficking survivors and members of marginalized groups.
Instead of adapting to the demands of the western world – common in factory situations – this social enterprise complies with the unique traditions and materials of different regions across Bangladesh.
Through extensive field research and networking, co-founder and designer Brooke McEver sources the most environmental-friendly supplies native to each region – redefining natural dyes that have been used for thousands of years and promoting techniques handed down through several generations. Bags are made from organic, hand spun, naturally dyed and hand woven cotton. Straps and bottoms with pineapple fiber.
Tripty strives for a “Zero Waste” production, which is something that most brands consider unmanageable. Environmental analyses are attached to each item and uploaded on the Tripty website, allowing international consumers to make ethical purchases.
With shops in Europe and the US, a new production will be launched next month together with a Kickstarter campaign. Supporters will receive different fashion items depending on the donation amount.
“We definitely need more support so that we can make sure that our partners remain sustainable and our workers continue to earn a regular income,” Pettersson explained.
On the 24th of April this year, Tripty will participate in the second Fashion Revolution Day joining tens of thousands of others around the globe in asking, “Who Made My Clothes?”. The event commemorates the anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in which almost 1,200 garment workers lost their lives while making clothes mostly for western brands. The founders of Tripty were present and knew there was a better way.
The incident highlighted the plight of millions of low-paid workers making clothes around the world, but it also gave rise to a new wave of ethical and sustainable fashion activists such as the Tripty team.
“We are interested in meeting others involved in ethical sustainable fashion, designers willing to work in Bangladesh, or anyone who is interested in partnering up with us!”
Interested? Check out their website http://www.tripty.org/ or follow their activities on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/triptyproject.