As a company, our aim is to inspire people to wear our two brand labels: Dark Sentinel and DSent. We achieve this through having distinctive, recognisable casual and fitness designs that strike the balance between high quality and affordability and are produced with the highest regard to the environment and business ethics. The rules we set ourselves in delivering this aim are derived from our values. These are:
- we demand that all workers involved in our supply chains are treated respectfully and paid fairly;
- we ensure that practices are ethical and materials used are produced and printed in the most environmentally sensitive way;
- we seek innovative ways to improve what we offer;
- we treat each order is if it were our only order.
Taken together, these values are what we mean when we talk about being ethical.
Ethics in clothing companies
We love clothing, we love designing great clothes and wearing great clothes. Clothing companies, though, have a lot to answer for, whether it's environmental damage, workers' rights or the insidious marketing ploys so that people buy far more clothes than they need simply to stay 'on trend'.
When we started as a company, we knew we could play along with this, follow a well-trodden path to profit or do things our way, which meant doing it ethically. It was an obvious choice.
For us, ethics isn't some pretend statement. It's not a tickbox exercise to meet stock market rules or shareholder expectations; we've built ethics into every strand of our operations. On a practical level, this means that:
- many of our items are made when a customer places an order. This means higher unit costs (it's cheaper to produce in bulk) but less waste and less environmental damage;
- it means using sublimation printing (on items like leggings and hoodies) and eco-friendly printing on-tshirts. Some of these methods have minor drawbacks (e.g. some kinds of printing requires a fixative that sometimes smells of vinegar and can leave small yellow-whitish stains - the smell and splash marks both disappear with the first wash, and clothing should always be washed before wearing for the first time, but unless a customer understands this it puts us at a disadvantage next to less environmentally-friendly producers);
- it means more handling for us and lower profit margins;
- it means only using accredited partners and those we can personally verify, adding to our administrative costs;
- it means we use high quality material, whether ringspun cotton or polyester that's been manufactured to the strictest environmental standards;
- it means not using popular third party marketplaces to sell our clothing because they have dubious practices or near monopoly power. This means we have a resticted online presence.
We regard each of these as the cost of operating ethically. Sometimes we ask our customers to accept the cost (such as a faint vinegar smell on items before they're washed, or waiting an extra few days for their items because each gets printed and sewn only when ordered) but mostly the cost is hidden, behind the scenes, felt only by us. We could reduce or eliminate these costs but that would mean cutting corners, jumping on the bandwagon, pretending to care. The high street is full of brands doing that already.
Fortunately, our values and approach resonates with the community we're building. Many people are frustrated by brands operate, by their pretense of caring while behaving unethically, by companies that only do the right thing once they're caught doing wrong. More people who share our philosophy are finding us, and they like what we do enough to wear what we produce; it is for this reason that we'll keep on doing it.