At Mode & Methodology we talk a lot about fashion made on-shore and locally, and about vintage and pre-loved style. That’s been my main way into sustainable or ethical fashion, but it’s important to acknowledge that not everything that’s shipped into New Zealand as a new product is on the naughty list. So it is with ReCreate Clothing, an ethical and sustainable business creating streetwear for New Zealanders, from Cambodia.
ReCreate operates on a three-limbed approach: ethical, organic and sustainable. You can read more about their efforts here, but as a sample of their commitment:
- Their workers earn a living wage, and work a 30 hour work week so they can enjoy life outside of work (I bet that sounds like a dream outcome for a lot of New Zealanders, aye)
- They providing training not only in garment making, but in literacy and budgeting
- Their workers are predominantly women, so they ensure there are opportunities to look after pre-school age kids onsite (so that’s better than many NZ workplaces, right there)
- Their garments have a minimum of 95% certified organic fibres – ReCreate’s fabrics are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- That GOTS certification also means that fair employment standards extend all the way through their supply chain
- They’ve thought about it all the way through to shipping, with a carbon neutral shipping service and entirely recyclable packaging
I could go on and on. It’s mind-blowing and inspiring (and it throws into sharp relief some of the paltry efforts being made elsewhere in the industry).
The thing about “green fashion” is that it still needs to be good quality and stylish, in order to compete in a fierce environment. To that end, I asked ReCreate to lend me a couple of pieces from their AW18 collection so I could feel them, see them and wear them and report back to you guys.
All I can say is, organic cotton is nice. So soft! Also, the ladies in Cambodia putting these garments together know what they are doing – every seam is strong, I found zero loose threads, and the hems were straight and the construction just felt…long-lasting. I seriously put on this black sweatshirt dress (here) and wanted to live in it forever. Look at that dipped hem – it was cosy and flattering, aka the dream casual dress.
I am obviously not a natural contender for streetwear style, what with that fancy Wellington lady lifestyle/my love of insane print and colour. I’m not known for being laidback and effortlessly cool, is what I’m saying. No problem – you can see a more classic streetwear styling approach on ReCreate, but for me what makes these pieces so strong as additions to a wardrobe is their flexibility. I’ve styled both dresses for a weekend day out and about, but they’d be equally at home on a casual Friday at work (at least, they’ll be fine if, like me, you’re not model tall. If you are, wear tights I guess).
The practical effect of manufacturing off-shore – even when doing an excellent job of providing living wages and great working conditions – is affordability for the consumer. While I love New Zealand designed and made clothes, and it’s forming a larger proportion of my wardrobe all the time, I do realise that I’m in a privileged position and that not everyone is a lawyer in their 30s with no kids. That lifestyle gives me (a) more disposable income than most and (b) a life where I can wear a silk dress on a Sunday, no worries about practicality. ReCreate’s clothes are what most New Zealand women want and actually need – good, practical clothes that are cool but don’t cost so much that you’d be scared to wear them ever. $129.90 for a dress made from organic cotton, with an ethical and sustainable provenance, is pretty bloody good. You can find the Merge Sweatshirt Dress here, and the Reflect Tie Dress here (it’s also available in other colours).
I’m so pleased that ReCreate came across my radar, and that I’ve had an opportunity to try on some of their pieces and add them to my roll call of ethical and sustainable options. You can find ReCreate online here, and they have stockists throughout the country (and Wellingtonians, a little bird tells me that they're coming to Hurricane Denim and Miss Wong this September). Check out their Instagram here.
I’ll leave you with this story from the ReCreate website, which epitomises to me what this brand is about:
Our first sewing student was Somphor. She and her family of four were homeless, living under a table in the local marketplace in Dey Tmey. Somphor had employment in a nearby factory where the typical work week was 60 hours and she faced issues such as unfair pay and unhealthy working conditions. Her work was monotonous, performing the same task over and over. When Somphor heard about the opportunity to work with ReCreate, she was excited to have the chance to develop a skill. However with only a Year Four primary education and unable to read or write, she was fearful of her ability to learn. Under the guidance of our sewing trainer, Somphor slowly gained confidence and thrived as she received sewing instruction as well as literacy training, growing in skill and knowledge as the months passed.
Today Somphor is our sewing team leader and trains new students in all that she has learned. Her husband, Hiet, received full training in sewing as well as machine repair and loves working alongside his wife at the sewing centre. They now have a third child who plays and sleeps at the centre while their older children attend school. They own a beautiful home and enjoy cycling to work each day.