I’ve always been conflicted about ethical fashion versus second hand shopping. Second-hand shopping uses up what already exists without additional impact. But at the end of the day you’re relying on other people to shop for fast fashion. Ethical fashion supports a sustainable practice of business. Yet, no matter how brilliant the company is in terms of sustainability, creating new products has an impact on the planet.
When I discovered ethical clothing brand, Dorsu, the story behind their products made my skin tingle. Not only do they use up fabric that already exists (fabric waste and left over materials) but they also employ women in Cambodia – and they are well compensated and treated fairly. Bazinga!
Righting fashion wrongs
Founded in 2008 by Hanna, an Australian, and Kunthear, a Cambodian, Dorsu was originally a way to raise funds for a local language school. It has slowly (but surely!) become an established clothing brand. To begin with, Dorsu have kick ass values. Dorsu are all for sustainable fashion, without losing style and appreciation for beautiful things. As a traveller and adventurer, Dorsu’s well-made and thoughtful clothing designs go together with my lifestyle and ethics like peanut butter and celery.
I’m all about community and transparency, and Dorsu continue to float my boat by offering both. All Dorsu clothing is designed, produced, and sold under one roof in Kampot, Cambodia. Designing, sewing, pattern making, cutting, laughing, lunching, dreaming, packaging, sampling, and selling as a team. This means no unwanted stress and pressure on external companies to provide services like altering a pattern or design. The team can simply walk over to the drawing board and change it.
Okay, so the question you’ve all been asking: how do you create a successful clothing brand with second-hand fabric? The answer: remnant fabric.
Remnant fabric is described as unused, leftover, surplus fabric that is still in its original condition. The fashion industry is very complex. Supply chains get messy and complicated, meaning every day extravagant amounts of fabric rolls are disposed of and deemed unusable. These unwanted rolls, called remnant fabric, are sold on to local fabric suppliers. This is where you’ll find Dorsu hunting through their favourite suppliers for the best quality cotton jersey. To ensure there are no or very little synthetic fibres in the fabric, Dorsu carry out burn testing with every roll of fabric, and won’t settle for second best.
Of course, working with remnant fabric brings limitations and questions. Here are just some of the issues the eco fashion brand has had to tackle in order to produce its collections.
Sourcing leftover fabric to produce an entire collection
Dorus don’t believe in mass production and boycott the usual pressures of consumerism. Producing smaller and more thoughtful collections in smaller runs, suits them perfectly. Ignoring the trends and focusing on limited edition, exclusive pieces with clever design, enables them to utilise the remnant fabric without feeling limited.
Due to the nature of remnant fabric, Dorsu can’t trace the origins of their fabric. Rather than seeing this as a limitation, the zero-waste warrior in me celebrates their mission to use what would just end up in landfill. Every sustainable fashion brand has different approaches to positively impacting people and the planet. Dorsu have chosen to use up resources already created, and place their money where it has greater impact: in their local community.
All Dorsu products bought online and in store are packaged in up-cycled bags made from fabric scraps in their production house. It’s kind of like ‘remnant remnant fabric’! These bags can also be reused by the shopper – I use mine to keep dirty washing in when I’m travelling.
This clothing brand utilises a production model which both uses up what already exists, and supports local communities and sustainable practices. My confused feelings between second-hand fast fashion shopping and buying brand new ethical fashion are ceased with Dorsu. Their use of remnant fabric, and unique practice of having all processes completed in one workshop, totally embodies the philosophy of ethical fashion and slow living. Dorsu get it.