This post was written by the wonderful Holly from Leotie Lovely, one of my absolute favourite people in the sustainable space. After posting about the beginnings of Hannah’s factory project at the start of the year, I was keen to keep you updated, and here it is!
I’ve known Hannah Theisen since I began blogging. We’ve never met in person but skyped and written long winded emails to one another as we navigated our former shared careers. She’s a forced to be reckoned with, one of those rare people who blooms brightly with benevolence in a real and wonderful way, turning words into action and transforming the lives of women while she’s at it
About two years ago, Hannah and her husband packed up their home in Minnesota, sold their cars and nearly all their stuff, and moved themselves to Manila to invest their lives in A Beautiful Refuge, a sewing and screen-printing business created to offer sustainable and flexible employment opportunities to women in crisis.
While this small scale business made a difference in the lives of the women who worked there, it could only provide sustainable employment solutions to that small group of women. To make the monumental difference the fashion industry needs, Hannah had to think bigger, so she and her husband gathered their strength and their community, and came up with an idea that might change the face of fair fashion forever.
How TELAstory’s truly fair factory came to be
Hannah was a blogger before she became a business owner in the Philippines, and has a deep understanding of the ethical issues in conventional factories, as well as the ‘ethical washing’ sometimes seen in ‘ethical’ brands.
Garment workers in the Philippines are generally paid between 7000 and 20,000 Philippine pesos per month ($131.00-$375.00 USD), a wage which is beneath the cost of living, especially for those who are parents. A recent survey found that only 1 in 4 workers in small-scale garment businesses are paid the legal minimum wage, and only around half receive government-mandated benefits.
The TELAstory facility was created to give more power and better profit to Filipino garment workers by paying full benefits and a real living wage, while manufacturing clothing in a responsible and environmentally-friendly way.
A cut above the rest
TELAstory will provide ethical manufacturing services to conscious fashion brands, as well as producing an in-house line. In an unprecedented move toward transparency in an industry where worker abuse, dishonest marketing, and poor working conditions are rampant, TELAstory’s website will include a real-time view into the factory as garments are made. Each client will have a login portal where they’ll be able to “track” their order, see which staff are working on assembling their garments, and see photos from the day’s work in the factory. Some of this information will also be made available to end users.
Considering circular in a way that goes full circle
TELAstory’s inaugural line of 100% Philippine-made, natural and sustainable garments are being made available through Kickstarter. Each garment is proudly created from biodegradable, sustainable fibers – including cotton, pineapple fiber, and abaca fiber. The items are dyed with indigenous plants- turmeric, talisay leaves, and mahogany bark, protecting the planet and the workers who come in contact with each creation every step of the way.
“We wanted to create garments that were not only proudly Filipino made- from the cotton seed being planted in the ground to the finished, ready-to-wear garment- but eco-friendly enough to compost!,” Hannah shared, “We’re even using coconut shell buttons to ensure that every detail taking into account the garment’s life cycle and impact on the earth.”
A future model for a fairer world
Conventional clothing production has a myriad of problems built into every level of creation: from the genetically modified seeds used to create our garment, to the pesticides used in the fields causing health harms, to the harsh chemicals used in dyes, the toxic waste from fashion factories which pollute waterways, to the chemically treated clothing which finds its way to our landfills, to the slave like conditions most workers create each garment under. It’s a hot mean mess, and the only way to change it is to transform it completely. Which is what, in my projected view, TELAstory will do, leading by example and fuelled by heart and justice.
How you can help make this dream for many a reality
You can help make this factory a thriving reality by pre-ordering one of the beautiful ethical and sustainable products they create, like the ones pictured below, through Kickstarter. By doing so, you will be investing in three sacred things: empowering women in the Philippines, a fairer and greener model for the garment industry, and a piece of biodegradable ethically produced clothing to carry with you through life which will remind you of the day you helped create conscious change.