Uniform opportunities.

10 May 2016

As part of Fairtrade Fortnight, we caught up with Samantha Jones from corporate uniform supplier Little Yellow Bird to find out how she’s helping empower women through ethical employment.

What’s the story behind Little Yellow Bird?

I grew up living in communities in developing countries including Indonesia. During that formative time I witnessed a lot of the disadvantages in these communities and realised how lucky we are in New Zealand. After school I joined the military as a logistics officer in the Airforce.  My uniform was supplied to me, so I didn’t ever have to think about where my clothing came from.

That all changed when I left the military to get a corporate job. All of a sudden I had to buy my own work clothes but I couldn’t find anything that was Fairtrade or organic. It made me think about where the clothes we buy come from.

I’d just finished a Masters in International Security, so was very aware of security issues in the fashion industry. The idea for Little Yellow Bird came as a solution to help solve these issues.

What is Little Yellow Bird’s goal?

Our goal is to empower women by providing ethical employment opportunities. We do that through our range of clothing which is all made and procured in Fairtrade factories. We also support the communities where our raw materials and products are manufactured, so we reinvest and sponsor girls through education and training.

We teach people about supply chain issues and transparency around fashion. We connect our customers with the people who make their clothing. One of the ways we do this is by having hang tags signed by them. We provide regular updates on the progress of projects and the people who make our clothes.

Watch this video of shirts being made at Little Yellow Bird’s factory in India:

What is an ‘ethical’ garment?

It’s something that has been made under fair conditions where workers across the entire supply chain are respected and paid for the work they do. All our workers receive fair wages, have safe working conditions and have access to affordable education and healthcare.  

All our factories and suppliers have Fairtrade certifications. We’re just in the final stages of becoming B Corp certified, and we’re hoping this will be complete in the next couple of weeks.

What stage are you at now?

We’re selling to about half a dozen companies at the moment, including Woo Hoo Tax Refunds, SAFE, CommonSense Organics and Coupland’s, and are negotiating with another dozen. We’re part of the Lightning Lab XX business accelerator programme run by Creative HQ, and are focused on sales and bringing more customers on board.

What type of uniforms can you make?

We can either match a company’s existing range of uniforms, or we can do a complete redesign of a corporate uniform.

How do the prices stack up?

Our prices are comparative to other good quality uniform products. Our t-shirts cost between $20 and $35, depending on quantity and printing requirements, and our business shirts start from $70.

Where does the name 'Little Yellow Bird' come from?

A yellow canary was used in the mining industry to warn miners of the presence of methane gas. It’s a symbol of survival but also of freedom and hope, something which we aim to provide for workers. 

If you’re interested in finding out more, or having Fairtrade uniforms, get in touch with Samantha at info@littleyellowbird.co.nz

Samantha and Hannah will be speaking at SBN’s event Celebrating Fairtrade Fortnight in Wellington on 18 May.

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