Our aim is that every aspect of production, from the cotton growers to our clothes being sewn in Carterton is traceable, tested and controlled for quality.
Even though Thunderpants is a fun and creative business, the realities of the garment industry can be harsh on both the people involved and the environment. Thunderpants would like to ensure that it is doing all that it can to improve the lives of everyone involved, at the same time ensuring minimum impact on the environment. To do this we are constantly reviewing what we do and how we do it to strive for the most sustainable options possible.
Currently we can successfully trace 100% of our fabrics and garment manufacturing plus 95% + of sundry components, of which we use very little.
We are all about longevity and building relationships so we are very proud to say that we largely use the same suppliers and makers since we started in 1995.
We have added Australian grown cotton and the fabulous ABMT knitting mill based in Australia, when we no longer had an New Zealand option. ABMT are committed to providing the best quality while treading as lightly as possible.
Let us take you through the process...
Sophie and Josie Bidwill (directors of Thunderpants) work alongside the five other staff members (4 FTE) and several dogs at Thunderpants Head Quarters, 42 Naples street, Martinborough.
The garments are designed and sampled in our workroom before being sewn by our manufacturers. They then head back to us for further checking, packaging, marketing and dispatch.
The fabric designs are either done in house or more commonly by the fabulously clever and creative Greta Menzies.
Thunderpants is a living wage accredited organisation which means all our employees, including all contractors, our sewing crew and our fabric printers are paid a living wage or more.
Thunderpants uses both regeneratively farmed, carbon positive, Australian Grown Cotton
and Fairtrade Certified Organic Cotton yarn grown in India.
KNITTING AND DYING
The cotton yarn and lycra are knitted together and dyed if required at ABMT textiles, 100-128 Ferris Road, Melton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia to create our unique fabric.
The people at ABMT (60 employees) are passionate about their work and have the ability to produce quality products while addressing the issues of environment, sustainability and social responsibility alongside developing innovative new products with increased life expectancy.
They have their own settling ponds and recycle 85% of their water plus they separate the dye solids which are composted.
They have many certifications including processing organically grown and milled cotton and as they are an Australian company they are governed by the Australian labour laws. ABMT employees are well represented by the Australian Textile and Footwear Union. We have visited this factory, which is amazing, and enjoy a very open and transparent relationship with the company.
Once the fabric arrives in New Zealand it heads straight to Auckland Fabric Printers ( AFP) Auckland - these guys cover all our continuous fabric printing requirements. AFP use only water based inks (colourtrend liquid pigments) for Thunderpants and do not use any printing techniques that use non environmentally friendly products. AFP is owner operated with one or two employees as required. We have visited this factory often and love to do so. They are the last of their kind in NZ so we are very keen to continue to support them.
Link to Colourtrend info.
General Products strip cut our fabric bindings and send them to our manufacturers. They have 10 employees and the directors also work in the company alongside their staff. Everyone earns above minimum wage and are covered by NZ work, health and safety standards.
Webbing and Tapes supply us with our knitted, branded, boxer elastic. They are the only company left in New Zealand that does this. We buy around 4000m a year so we are very small players. They import their yarn through Bruce Smith Agencies based in Auckland who imports the yarn from Asia Fibre. We have spoken with the guys at Bruce Smith who have visited the factory in Thailand and they were very positive about the factory and the conditions for the workers. Asia Fibre are a very large organisation and they have a lot of certifications around CO2 emissions, harmful substances, CSR and more.
The rubber in the elastic comes from Rubberflex a Malaysian based company who supply Webbing and Tapes.They have some certifications on their website around harmful substances and other things but nothing around CSR so we are picking it is is not high on their list. Natural rubber is exactly that, naturally occurring, it is biodegradable but can take up to 50 years to degrade. Luckily we use very little.
Cordall supply us with some cotton tapes and bra elastics used in a few styles occasionally. They also import their yarn through Bruce Smith Agencies based in Auckland who imports the yarn from Saif Textiles and also Vardhman. Both of these are massive international corporations with strict codes of conduct and independently audited certifications.
Patersons labels supply us with all our garment labels. They are based in Auckland and Christchurch and are one of the few NZ based label printers left in the country. As it is a New Zealand company it is governed by NZ health and safety and employment laws. We understand they often sub-contract work and sometimes to Asia for our printed sew in labels of which we order approximately 50,000 units each year which equates to an account of around $4000 a year. Our care labels they print in NZ. We hope to find a more transparent source of organic cotton printed labels in the future - we are constantly looking.
We use zips very occasionally and when we do we opt for the YKK recycled version where we can.
Finally all the fabric and components arrive at our manufacturers, SS clothing, Carterton who are 20 minutes up the road from us. They work 8am - 3pm, five days a week and only sew for Thunderpants. We have been working with this crew for 23 years. We pay them a set price per garment and that price is periodically increased to keep in line with their rising costs and living wage rates. The workers stay with them for many years. There are four FTE at SS clothing.
These highly skilled sewers are masters at making Thunderpants and take great pride in the quality of their work checking regularly that they are meeting the criteria that makes sure the unique design works.
SS clothing use Coats thread for sewing.
We use regenerated nylon ECONYL® for our swimwear.
The garments are developed with the help of Stirling Cutting in Papakura who also cut the garments. The cut items are then sent to Stitch Perfect to manufacture.
Lamb Peters Print in Greytown is 10 minutes up the road and prints all our packaging and promotional stuff. We use unbleached brown card and water based black ink for our packaging and keep all printed promotional things to an absolute minimum.
Lamb Peters employs around four staff and do a lot of free printing for the community.
Being a mail order business it was very important for us to find an alternative to plastic to send our orders.
After many years of searching for a suitable option we have settled on Eco-Enclose, a USA based company that makes 100% recycled naturally biodegradable brown card mailers. We bring them in by the pallet load as there is no viable NZ based option for ethical packing for mailers.
We purchase our fairtrade certified organic cotton drill from RCM organic
It is then printed as required in Auckland at AFP and then sewn in our workroom by Ngaire.
SUPPORTING NZ MANUFACTURERS AND SUPPLIERS
As we are based in New Zealand we need to weigh up the benefits of NZ based manufacturing and suppliers over the potentially more financially viable overseas options.
NZ has a diminishing manufacturing sector but we wish to support NZ manufacturing while we are able. For this reason we have chosen to continue making Thunderpants in NZ (along with the added bonus of being able to keep a closer eye on ongoing quality) and also to utilise the suppliers we have left in NZ. We consider this is super important as every factory or plant closure sees further skilled workers unable to use their skills in the field of textiles. Our knowledge base is shrinking and our supplier options diminished. This is especially critical to start ups and small operators who are unlikely to have the funds for the minimums and processes involved in manufacturing and sourcing offshore.