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Outerknown Sets New Bar for Transparency by Disclosing Supply Chain, Sharing Suppliers’ Stories

Chen Feng Apparel in Jiangsu Province, China, and is a fully-accredited supplier member of the Fair Labor Association (FLA). Chen Feng makes some of Outerknown’s jackets and woven shirts. | Image credit: Outerknown

Just one year after the brand’s launch, eleven-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater and menswear designer John Moore’s clothing company Outerknown has publicly released its supply chain. The young brand is taking the public ‘inside the factories’ for a closer look at their practices; the website details Outerknown’s suppliers’ locations, employment figures, which products they produce for Outerknown, and other information. Customers are also now able to ‘shop by factory’ which filters products by supplier.

Declaring that “sustainability starts with transparency,” the company explained the changes are intended to increase awareness about using sustainable, responsible supply chains to produce products, particularly in the fashion industry. Only a handful of large, global companies list their suppliers online, and Outerknown suggests it has “taken this to the next level,” by enhancing their disclosure with storytelling.

Outerknown’s website tells the story of the history and its relationship with seven suppliers, including two in Lima, Peru, and one in each of Jiangsu Province, China; Valladolid, Mexico; Penang, Malaysia; Vernon, California, United States; and Sri Lanka. For example, one of its Lima-based suppliers, Bergman Rivera, “were farmers first,” and manage the entire supply chain for Outerknown’s 100 percent organic cotton Soujourn Tee’s from the organic cotton field to the shirt sewn at the small, family-owned shop Serflex. Both Bergman Rivera and Serflex S.A.C. are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-approved. The brand’s hemp and organic cotton Outerknown Tee’s are made in Mexico by Hong Ho.

Their full supplier list is also available from the brand’s website, and includes 11 factories. There are two in China, including one which has not yet been profiled for the website, called Chuang Sheng Knitting Co. Ltd. in Shenzhen, and four in Sri Lanka, which are all operated by the same supplier, Smart Shirts (Lanka). Smart Shirts is one of the biggest woven shirts manufacturers in the world, and many of its factories are in satellite areas around the villages where the workers live, which is the reason it has four locations tied to Outerknown.

“It takes a certain amount of comfort in yourself and your partners to be able publish your supplier list,” Outerknown’s Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer Shelly Gottschamer said. “We hope that by taking this important step that others will choose to follow as very few brands of our size are transparent about their suppliers.”

The brand asserts that it has set its standards “incredibly high, especially for a startup brand,” with an “extremely robust code of conduct,” and has invested “a tremendous amount of time and research into identifying sustainable, responsible suppliers who have a story worth telling.” The company has extended this mentality to its materials, as well. For example, Outerknown uses ECONYL®, a nylon fabric created from reclaimed fishing nets and other nylon waste materials.

“We have a sourcing policy in place to insure that our suppliers will achieve all of our metrics; quality, delivery, social and environmental responsibility,” Gottschamer explained. “What other customers a supplier produces for tells us a lot, if their customers are brands that have invested in responsible sourcing, then most likely there is good alignment.”

To further reduce the environmental impact of its products, Outerknown recently partnered with Avery Dennison for the production of its care labels and tags, which are made from materials such as dissolvable paper, yarns from recycled bottles and Grand PE Polybags.


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