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The joys of factory auditing. 

The recent news that a factory in Turkey was found to be using Syrian children to manufacture garments for UK retailers saddened me and had me reminiscing over my factory auditing days. Good, Bad and Ugly.
I have to say, I had mixed feelings about this part of my job, it was an opportunity to get off the beaten track and be involved in the manufacturing side again but it came with many challenges. The need to turn into an investigator and maintain a relationship with the factory was one of many.

However, I admit, I don’t really miss some aspects of the job, in particular, the culinary treats served up in China. The lively bowls of insects welcoming you at restaurant entrances, the puppies sold on street corners (not as pets), monkeys in cages, snake soup, chicken heads placed in front of you as the “honoured guest” occasionally locking eyes with it in anticipation of the next course.

I thought of the factories I audited with my very fine technologist “tooth comb” in hand, birkenstocks and mini magnet. In search of signs of child labour, abusive factory owners, poor food and drinking facilities, overcrowded dormitories, and loosely controlled needles, as well as insisting on implementing some stringent quality systems and metal detection procedures.

I can honestly say the technologist wasn’t the factory managers favourite person as the visit generally involved them needing to make changes within THEIR factory. Changes their other customers didn’t require! (allegedly)

“No one else asks us to do this”

Implementing systems and asking for change can be a tough negotiation process but if approached from a financial gain point of view it can happen. The best advice I was given was “don’t go completely native but be appreciative”.  My strategy was to keep a psychological advantage and ensure no one loses face, which basically involved eating anything they served me up in true bush tucker trial style. Just don’t ask what it is!

My factory auditing days took me to Portugal, Turkey, China, Hong Kong, Mauritius as well as the UK, each country having its own particular manufacturing challenges to overcome. The determination to address any ethical or quality issues were on occasion met with phrases such as “you need to go home and bond with the egg” (not women’s work apparently) and such like. Always a good sign as it means progress is being made and they are ready to make the changes. (Back to that losing face again)

The problem for retailers and suppliers is that the factory know you are coming. They prepare for your arrival so any unethical practices are given the day off.

The only way to completely ensure your factory is ethically above board is to visit during production or hire private detectives…… Now some retailers do have 3rd party visits carried out on all production runs and this will ensure peace of mind for that product…but once you/they leave, what then?  Also just how practical is it to stand over every style being made, counting to ensure nothing has been outsourced..and can you trust the 3rd party not to be persuaded to turn a blind eye? Now no gasping! Yes it happens.

But let’s not bash the factories. Many I audited were incredible places to work and I spent days in some sorting out production issues. The pressure they are under to deliver on time within tight leadtimes or face penalties will force them to problem solve and potentially outsource to a cousins, brothers, sisters or friends factory. It’s normal practice. The outsourced factory will most definitely have not been audited. Will there be kids working there? Who knows?

When I read of children found working in factories I ponder over the obvious questions.

Is education available and free for all kids in this country?

If not, what do the children do all day if the parents have to work?

Can the mothers take them with them to work? What do they do while at the factories with their mothers…there ain’t no creche facilities, that’s for sure!

What is the alternative? Prostitution? Begging?

What are the circumstances of the children working?  None are acceptable but the one situation we can sympathise with is the mother doing her best for her family. We can’t control what people do to stay alive, the basics of food and shelter can be a struggle to be met and that creates the situation for exploitation amongst the unscrupulous factory owner.

The Ugly, Victorian work house situation.  It’s unthinkable to be wearing something next to our skin or our children’s or our  babies that may have passed through the hands of a child in forced labour.

It’s a sad sad situation. Yes retailers absolutely follow the ETI base code as well as ask that the countries own labour laws be adhered to as a minimum. This is checked during an audit with clipboard and never ending tick sheets.

So why does it happen?

Price?

Greed?

Short Lead times on fast fashion?

The reality of how tightly production is managed and how that late approval of a print strike off, lab dip or bad communication re fit and pattern changes can force you out of your production slot….think flying and how that one passenger holding up the flight means you can’t take off on time as your slot has been taken! Delays, delays delays…but thankfully we don’t all immediately grab our phones and call the pilot asking for a discount or call in a penalty ……in which case he might be forced to head “off piste” and to hell with the runway let’s just head over the grass to keep on time and if we are still not quick enough….everyone out and push, children included? An odd analogy I know but it’s all about keeping production running. Factories can’t afford any down time. Their workers are piece paid in many of these countries and if the work dries up they pack their bag and head to another factory. So any factory manager worth their salt will get your production out on time, just perhaps not having taken the path you hoped and asked for.

In short,  you can do everything possible to ensure best practices by using auditors, accredited 3rd party companies and agents but this is an industry which involves a lot of problem solving and how a factory manager in a country with a 8 hour time difference decides to solve a production issue is not always within your control.

So as an ex tech who has started designing and making for myself I can honestly say that being all too aware of the many pitfalls and difficulties that can arise in garment manufacturing, I prefer to make as locally as possible. My knitwear is knitted in Hawick in the Scottish Borders.

I am lucky and safe in the knowledge that my kids are safely tucked up at school, fed, watered and clothed and know no children were used in the making of my products…ehh except when I ask my kids to try one on and let me take a photo! Exploited? They would shout “exploited? hell yeah!” A word they use , like “I’m starving”, but will thankfully, never truly understand the real meaning.

I am choosing to manufacture in the UK ..that’s not to say I won’t go overseas, but if I do, it will be with eyes wide open. Looking closely for tyre tracks across the grass and the imprint of small feet and hands amongst the fibrous dust.
Keeping it close, for me, also means a lovely drive through the countryside to arrive at an ethically sound factory where there is always on offer a good cup of tea and a biscuit, plenty of banter and no translator required.

Please note I have written this prior to the airing of the Panorama programme and may revisit the subject after I have seen it.

Stay safe

X

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When in Florence 

Eat, drink, eat, drink, smoke…maybe? 

The rarity of the ashtray these days in the U.K. made me find the arrival of this near extinct item an odd accompaniment to the wine and nibbles I ordered while on a rooftop bar in Firenze with my 16 year old daughter Morven. 

As an ex smoker I remember the “bad” ole days when ashtrays were  the norm and the coolest of designs were an item for the wedding list..for sure. It was nostalgic to see it back and I appreciated the gesture as an honest, unsaid, “welcome and have a smoke if you want”

I asked M what she thought about the arrival of an ashtray….

Her answer, without a moments pause was “well it’s really bad for you”.

I slurped my wine, stuffed some more crisps and mini arancini in my mouth and thought..yeh that’s the answer I would have given too at that age while power dragging on my Marlboro Red out of the hotel window at every opportunity away from parents. 

As it happens the ashtray remained untouched but the wine, crisps, salted nuts, mini sandwiches, cold mini pasta was demolished, and thereby I left the bar “healthier”. 

That 3.40am calling…..

Back to the blogging board.

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Julia Patton illustrates a few things for us….

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More sketches to join the artist collection of tees within the We Are Rushworth label are from Illustrator Julia Patton.

Julia was introduced to me as a friend of a friend……there is a clearly a theme developing here!

 miltaryweb site

Our British Bulldog.

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Scary Robot?

Travel _you are here.smallweb

Where am I?

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Now we know what space looks like?

To maintain the uniqueness of the We Are Rushworth label it is important to me that the Artist/Illustrator creates characters in their own styles but with a focus on our Brand values.

We enjoy finding our own way

We look at things differently

We are not perfect

We have imagination

We find honesty refreshing

We appreciate effort

We dare look over the edge

We have alter egos

We are sharp

We aim high

We have teeth

We are not for everyone

Here is a little bit about Julia

“I am an internationally published children’s book illustrator and greeting card designer with a passion for cutting n sticking *snip snip*.

My studio is an old wood-shed in Northumberland where I climb trees, grow vegetables and dream of being a long-necked-quack when I grow up”

Julia X

For more info on Julia head here:-

https://twitter.com/julia_patton

http://www.thebrightagency.com/artists/view/241

Our 2013 designs by Iain Campbell.

We are very excited to introduce you to our unique illustrations by artist Iain Campbell.

There is nothing like a friend of a friend….especially one that is as creative as Iain.

Before I introduce the sketches, here is a wee bit about the man himself.

“In Britain, as well as freelancing I worked full time for babygro Ltd producing kids garment graphics for Marks & Spencers. 8 years ago I left a secure government graphics post and moved to Northern Finland with my wife (who is Finnish) and our son, who at the time was only a year old.

We’ve since had another son who is now 5.

We live in a rickety, old, wooden house that is gradually being rebuilt through summers without darkness and winters which hit -30 degrees C.

Since moving here, I have illustrated 11 books, including an award winning series of schoolbooks, and worked on magazine covers, fabric designs and T-shirt graphics.

In my spare time I regularly amuse and confuse the locals with my terrible approximation of their language”

Love this beetle with “Da Bomb” sketched on the side..stirs up memories from childhood including cartoons such as Wacky Races, The Adventures of Herbie, Pink Panther, Top Cat you know the ones…

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Chopper or Grifter? Those were the days.

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This fiercely determined roller skating girl is clearly on a mission, although pleased to see she has all the necessary safety equipment on. One for all you lassies out there, small and big who are more this and less…well you know…girly!

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Check out Iains website at www.1000words.fi

 

Beach Art by Oliver Rushworth

Dad thought he was going to have a relaxing lie down after playing beach rugby. However, Oliver, never being one to miss an opportunity to express himself decided to make a sculpture from some driftwood and …..Dad. Always good to have a video camera on hand to capture this serious evolution worthy of the Tate Modern.

My kids love their pocket pen knives. Do yours?

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The coming of age amongst the kids has involved allowing them to choose their own mini penknives. This has freed up many minutes (sometimes hours) for us parents in search of appropriate sized screwdrivers to open up the endless number of toys, remote controls, torches etcetera and replace batteries which seem to be necessary for all kids paraphernalia these days…

The good ole pocket penknife has also come to the rescue when extracting that incredibly painful but miniscule splinter, with its tiny tweezers (which inevitably get lost). Not to mention the lemonade (lets be honest – Dads beer) bottle opener, and for those of us with sensory issues, the nail file when we half rip the toe nail kicking the can, ball or sibling who has the ball/can/last piece of barbecued chicken.

The scissors we are often found brandishing in cafes and restaurants which come in handy for those lethal sauce sachets. Only  “Jaws” from James bond can open these with his teeth and even then the added risk of blinding yourself with the inferior vinegar/sauce/mayonnaise is a good enough reason to keep the pocket pen knife handy when eating out.

Of course, there are the obvious needs for a pocket penknife, such as cutting industrial strength plastic ties found attached to clothing, carving your initials and perhaps someone else’s on a tree after climbing as high as you can, because its a secret after all! Peeling your apple (no one likes apple peel except rabbits), cutting the crusts off your bread (no one likes crusts except the dog, chickens, birds and those wanting curly hair)..

Oh and making spears, now you never know when you might need them. A good reason to carry a hairband with you at all times….

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Saying goodbye to a friend. I wasn’t ready.

I think it’s time to go.

Won’t you stay a little longer?

No, must dash.

But you seem to be having fun?

I am, I was, I mean it’s been great but I really must head off.

Well only if you’re sure cos we’ll miss you.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s been great, I’ve loved every minute of it…the walks, the holidays, the bike rides through the forest, the afternoon sleeps together on the sofa, the left over beef casserole.

Oh I’m really pleased you enjoyed it cos we did and we hoped you did too.

I really must go now…

How about one last walk, afternoon snooze, snack?

I wish I could but I can’t sleep well anymore and walking is really hard because I don’t see well now and eating just isn’t easy, I’ve forgotten how to….

Is there anything we can do for you?

No.  Really.  You’ve done more than enough.      I know you know it’s time I went.

I do, but it’s hard to say goodbye even when I see your head hurts and you have trouble drinking and eating, and you’ve lost your way around the house. 

Yeh it’s true, I ain’t getting any better.

But I thought you were happy.

I don’t know anymore..I can’t.

How about one last walk?

Shhh.

You like going for walks. 

Do I?

The house will feel empty without you.

Huh?

I can’t bear to see you like this!

Head hurts! Thirsty! Can’t drink!

We love you and will miss you forever!

Tired!

But I don’t think I am ready.

I am.

Goodbye Fred..

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Why we need to be curious?

Thanks Bob Sanderson http://sandersonbob.com for sharing this article with me.

Close to the W.A.R team’s heart and the root of my inspiration for the clothing brand.

Let your kids be curious, it will be messy, noisy and occasionally smelly but definitely necessary.

Asking “why” is a good thing.

http://curiositychronicles.tumblr.com/post/43000907513/guest-chronicle-curious-about-curiosity

We Are Adventurous

We Look At Things Differently

We are Not Perfect

We Have Imagination

We Dare Look Over The Edge

We Enjoy Finding Our Own Way

We Are Rushworth

We Are Rushworth - Color Film - GAF 500 (modified) hue -20%We Are Rushworth - Color Film - GAF 500 (modified)

Watch this video to find out more

http://www.wearerushworth.com/videos.html

Cheers

Victoria Rushworth

Should Meggings come with a “May contain” warning or is it all a load of boll@*&s?

WARNING, THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN NUTS AND REFERENCES TO THEM.

Is it only me or is anyone else out there a tad uncomfortable when at the Panto with the kids?

“Oh Lord…Man bumps. Don’t snigger, act your age”

I dont mean the innuendos and cheeky jokes, or the hard seats.

“Really?  What no skirt,no frills,no large belt?’

No no no, much simpler  than that…Its the men in tights who boldly prance around the stage.

“Eyes up eyes up”

This got me thinking about the supposed new craze of men in leggings, otherwise known via the urban dictionary as “meggings”.

“I really hope it doesn’t move”

And whether or not it would take off in these colder parts of the world?

” snake, budgie in a hammock, hot dog, meat and two veg..STOP”

I decided to take to the streets in search of the man in meggings.

I approached this task in a similar fashion to searching for a lost dog, with or without his bone!  A guy in leggings, they need to eat and drink, but I cant see them dropping into the local boozer, well not around these parts anyway. I blended in and hit the spots where I thought I might find them “hanging out” together. Cafes, wine bars, megging shops (couldn’t find any), museums, book shops, department stores, the nail bar, the chocolate bar, the champagne bar…okay I admit the last few were more for me.

There were some near sightings such as ladies in leggings, and some joggers in running trousers.

In one last attempt for some feedback on this I posted this lack of sightings on my Facebook page, to have a friend say ” thats northeners for you”. Sensible you mean?

Not to mention…I tentatively asked a local tractor driver if he would wear them to which the response included the words “dead” and “body”.

I am no forecaster of fashion trends but I would wager that megging wearing chaps won’t risk the colder climates of the north for obvious reasons.

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I am all for wearing what you want and being a bit out there, but some things should just NOT be out there.

Therefore, my advice to you would be this…”Life can be a bit of a pantomime…but if you are going to wear meggings in public then  “shake well after use”  and make sure there is a clear warning of “may contain nuts” across the back.

Love you. x