Inside the high cost world of an ethical clothing brand

Jessica Satherley
Inside the high cost world of an ethical clothing brand

Many facets of the clothing industry can be cheap and easy - if ethics and organic fabrics aren’t your priority.

Someone who’s decided to take the harder route is founder and CEO of Little Yellow Bird Samantha Jones.

For Jones, expensive raw materials and suppliers on the other side of the world are just a couple of the costly challenges she faces with her sustainable and ethical clothing brand.

“We can’t do small and fast sample runs because we only source 100% organic rain-fed cotton and our suppliers are in India. Our supplier’s minimum order runs for organic fabric are huge,” she says. 

Saying no to cheap synthetic fabrics and plastic packaging has earned the two-time Women of Influence finalist respect in the New Zealand clothing industry, as well as leaving a positive environmental impact.

“For the first couple of years all of our products came individually wrapped in plastic, as this is how most brand products arrive, which seems crazy.

“After much negotiation and deliberation from our suppliers about insuring the stock wasn’t damaged, we agreed to send our products tied in twill tapes. This meant that last year over 183 kilograms of plastic was prevented from entering New Zealand,” Jones said.

Sam Jones

Samantha Jones

Jones was inspired to set up Little Yellow Bird, which specialises in hospitality and corporate uniforms, after leaving the military.

“I was so excited to finally have a choice over what I wore for my corporate wardrobe but found there were really limited options,” she said.

She started the business in 2015 while studying at the University of Canterbury and now has over 400 clients. The business has also branched out into baby wear and an online e-commerce store for basic T-shirts and dresses.

“I travel to India a few times a year but we have someone working there full time as a quality controller. In New Zealand there are only three of us working full time on the business and most of our team and advisory board are women,” the Westpac customer said.

Ethical Factory

Inside Samantha Jones' factory in India

Little Yellow Bird is in the stages of expanding their business and is aiming to raise $300,000 through a PledgeMe campaign and have already raised over half of that.

The company is offering part ownership of the brand for as little as $500 and full voting rights on all shareholder decisions for anyone investing $35,000 or more.

Jones said there have been times when she thought her business would not work but says the belief in her ethical product is what keeps her going.

“For anyone waiting for the perfect time in their life to start a business, there will never be one. Just start now,” Jones advises other aspiring entrepreneurs.

Cotton Tree

Sam Jones inspects a cotton tree in India

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