Know The Origin (KTO) is one of a growing number of companies driving much needed change in the clothing industry. Offering a range of high quality, Fair-trade organic tees, hoodies and sweatshirts, KTO has a completely transparent supply chain, which has helped in reconnecting a producer consumer trust in shared values.
I spoke to Charlotte Intone, Founder and CEO, to find out more on Know The Origin.
Q. What is the story behind Know the Origin?
CI: I was studying at London College of Fashion, learning all about how to make clothes from design, through to shop floor and I knew it was what I wanted to pursue as a career.
Then 2013 came and a factory in Bangladesh called Rana Plaza collapsed, killing over 1100 workers, and out flowed all this information about the fashion industry’s profit-over-people mentality. I could no longer ignore it. I knew I was passionate about producing clothing, but I refused to be a part of the current system.
It compelled me to look at fashion in a new way and I decided to channel my passion into something radically transformative. So the idea of a transparent, fair-trade and organic brand emerged and now we have Know The Origin.
In the photo: The KTO office front in London, (Charlotte far left) Credit: KTO
Q. How do you make sure that the origin of all items is known and that sustainability is implemented?
CI: The first stage of ensuring transparency and sustainability meant a lot of research!
We traveled around India meeting different producers and co-operatives, from seed to garment, until we built a supply chain of producers who are equally as passionate about values of transparency and ethical practices.
All of them are certified fairtrade and organic, as a minimum, and on top of that, they constantly strive to support their employees and communities in new ways from pensions to medical care to training programmes. It’s these relationships and their commitment to transparency that means we can be confident in the origin of our garments and their ethical standards.
In the photo: Women cotton-pickers in India Credit: KTO
Q. What are the major challenges regarding sustainability in the consumer goods industry? How do you overcome these challenges?
CI: Unfortunately, I think it is the lack of transparency. The secrecy of the consumer goods industry means that there is a disconnect between customers and the processes of production which allows for human rights and environmental violations to go unchecked.
There is research showing that customers trust brands less and less whilst increasingly demanding more from their products in terms of ethics. Customers want sustainability as a part of their purchase. Without transparency and companies held responsible for their practices, customers won’t be able to ensure that their money is supporting their values and businesses will continue to cut corners.
At Know The Origin we are encouraging transparency by not only showing our entire supply chain on our website, but also working with other brands to do the same.
In the photo: Indian women, part of KTO’s supply chain, folding material Credit: KTO
Q. What is the situation looking like on the suppliers’ side and how is their cooperation going?
CI: It’s fantastic! The people who run our supplier companies are people who have been raised in the countries that are most affected by unsustainable business practices. All our producers are in India, the country with some of the highest pollution rates from the fashion industry, suffering horrifically high suicide rates due to farmers debt in GMO cotton production and a hub for trafficking in to sweatshops.
The solutions to these issues in production practices are being born out of the communities most affected, now the next stage is getting big companies to cooperate!
In the photo: Couples’ garments by KTO Credit: KTO
Q. How does the future of Know The Origin look like?
CI: It looks pretty exciting. KTO’s future is constantly shifting as we learn how we can improve our sustainability and what our customers value. We have found it so exciting meeting other people and brands who are passionate about changing their industry so we have decided to start a platform to celebrate that.
In April we are launching our platform filled with fully transparent brands who support the people and environment in their supply chains in new and exciting ways. Watch this space to discover new pioneering transparent brands.