In my carefree and dippy twenties, I performed with a sketch comedy troupe in New York City, and we ambitiously wrote a brand new show every week. I created a character for myself: an alter-ego named Chen-Li, who could slide into a panoply of scenes. Boy, was she versatile! On any given Wednesday, Chen-Li could be found working at a gas station, dispensing therapy as an overnight disc jockey, and of course, managing a sweatshop in China. It was funny back then, but now as I’m building the Mamachic supply chain, I’m learning more about the manufacturing processes and lack of infrastructure and regulation overseas.
It’s not so funny after all.
I can’t even look at these photos of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, without a huge lump forming in my throat. This may be the deadliest disaster in garment factory history, but it certainly isn’t the first. Yes, this image is horrific and sensational, and while gross negligence isn’t the case in 100% of the factories abroad, it made me positive that I needed to make my product at home, right here in the USA.
Why is it so important for the Mamachic to be manufactured domestically?
1) Accountability. So, you’re talking to Control Freak #1 here. If I can’t meet and speak to those whose hands are literally cutting the fabric, sewing the seams, punching the snap buttons on the Mamachic — then I can’t be sure that my scarves are being made with the utmost care, attention and intention that each one deserves. And that’s a chance I’m not willing to take.
In overseas manufacturing, responsibility can be diluted throughout the many tiers of an often convoluted supply chain. With so many steps between intermediaries and contractors, oversight and quality control simply can’t be managed as well. It’s just crucial for me to be hands-on, especially in these early stages.
2) Proper working conditions. One summer during college, I interned at a major network news station in New York and it was brutal. The newsroom was a perpetual haze of cigarette smoke (so illegal!), the producers constantly derided the interns, and I was sent to fetch ridiculous items at odd hours of the day and night. I can’t really say I learned much about the actual news. I was not paid a cent. After those few disheartening months, I vowed that if I ever had employees of my own, I’d treat them like gold.
I’m not saying that my internship experience even equates to the poor factory conditions in places like Rana Plaza, but seriously: it doesn’t matter whether you live in the U.S. or Bangladesh (or China, Vietnam, Canada or India), you should be paid a living wage, you should work in a safe environment, and above all, you should be treated with dignity. When you wear a Mamachic scarf, you can be confident that the people who crafted it have experienced all three.
3) Sustainability. My bamboo fabric is supplied through a company in Canada. From there, I wanted the supply chain to be as efficient as possible, so my production partner COsewn will receive the fabrics at their location outside of Denver, sew the Mamachic, check for quality, and package it up for a fulfillment house right in their business complex. I am trying to minimize the negative impact of my product ecologically, economically, and socially.
Setting up my supply chain is still a work in progress, as I’m still finalizing labels, hangtags and packaging. When the day comes that my business is flourishing financially, I hope to be able to knit and dye my own bamboo fabric so that I can have end-to-end control over production flow. It’s exciting to create a product and an experience which represents who I am and what I care about. Transparency, accountability and regulation ensure better working conditions and higher quality products. We may pay more for products made in the USA, but what we’re getting in the long run is worth it.
At Mamachic, we aim to create products that make mamas feel good and look good when wearing them. The softness of the sustainable bamboo fabric does feel incredible against my skin, but it’s the knowledge of where and how this scarf was made that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. There’s no lump in my throat — just an awesome scarf around my neck made ethically here in the USA. I made sure of it.