From the outside looking in, it may seem preposterous that Child Free Labor certification is a thing.
Sadly, child labour is a very real evil of the global garment industry and with many designers taking production offshore it makes it tricky business to ensure everything is above board despite best intentions.
It is estimated that 168 million children globally are engaged in child labour, of which 73 million are between 5 and 11 years old. You might want to read that last sentence again!
So when Karen Walker recently became the latest in a growing list of pioneering brands committed to supporting socially responsible supply chains, it was definitely something Good applauded. By adding their voices to an international movement to tackle the issue, New Zealand Child Labor Free (manufacturing level) labels Karen Walker, NOM*d, Kate Sylvester and Hailwood are making a difference and an important stand.
To gain full accreditation is a three stage process. And it’s not an easy road.
Manufacturing certification which means products are put together with no use of child labour.
Component certification which applies to the manufacturing of both the product and the elements used to make a finished product. This could include packaging, zips and buttons being child labour free.
Source certification is the final stage, which means the materials are all sourced entirely in a way free of child labour. For example, right back to the cotton fields.
“We’re committed to constantly reviewing our entire chain of supply,” says Walker. “We’ve really enjoyed working with Child Labor Free and encourage all fashion brands to work with them to gain certification.”
Child Labor Free has been engaging with the Karen Walker team since late last year. “Their next step is tracing the origins of every material they use - that is every fabric, button, zip, trim, thread etc. Over the next 12 months, they will focus on the traceability of the materials they use by working even more closely with fabric mills and trims suppliers. An inspiring brand to be working with,” says Child Labor Free marketing manager October Conway.
Karen Walker is no stranger to ethical fashion space. The brand has been part of the Ethical Fashion Initiative for many years, working with communities in Africa by helping to provide a sustainable livelihood as well as a vehicle out of poverty. Earlier this year Walker released a range of limited edition artisan bags through EFI.
“Working with the EFI enables artisans to receive a fair wage, to learn new skills and improve living conditions for their families and community,” Walker says.
Walker scored a C in the 2016 Australian Fashion Report (also known as The Baptist Report) for which the lowest score is an F and the highest an A. While it is far from being a disgraceful grade in the context of the fashion industry, it is a grade that Walker is committed to improving. It is also worth noting that the brand had the balls to put themselves out there by volunteering to be included in the report. Walker is encouraging other New Zealand fashion brands to do the same so watch this space.
To find out more about Karen Walker’s social responsibility policy click here karenwalker.com/social-responsibility