Do you know where your suit is really from?
Words by Nathan Irvine
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The experts at Benjamin Siggers say you might be wearing a lie.
It's a valid question: do you know where your suit is really from? No, we're not talking about the name of the shop where you purchased it or label name that's sewn inside. We mean how the materials were sourced and who put it together? It fits fantastically and you look great in it, but are you wearing something that is ethically sound or not?
You hear about ethics and sustainability all the time within the food industry. Sustainable food is why plant-based vegan diets and organic produce have become more popular with the environmentally-conscious masses.
Slowly but surely other industries are making changes. Adidas is creating shoes from ocean waste, while Ralph Lauren plans to become 100% sustainable by 2025.
While these titans of the fashion game are taking steps towards positive change, one Dubai-based brand is basing its entire business on it.
Benjamin Siggers, the luxury menswear specialist, prides itself on being "ethically bespoke". It's more than just a throwaway slogan for Matthew Benjamin and James Siggers. It's a way of life to the pair, which is why they travelled to Argentina to select the perfect farm to produce the materials for its tailor-made suits.
We spoke to Matthew Benjamin about the importance of sustainability, why you might be wearing a lie and much more.
Even as a small company we like to pioneer the niche of sustainability. We do it because we feel it’s the right thing to do. The industry will need to swing this way too.
Sure, 99% of our clients don’t come to us because we use organic cotton or recyclable wooden hangers, they use us because we add value to their lives by saving them time and giving them quality clothing. When we tell them about it though, they do show an interest in sustainability.
It actually costs us more to produce suits that are sustainable, but this is both a personal and company focus that we feel is important. We can, of course, make more profit by being more ethical in making suits.
We have the advantage over bigger companies as we can implement these changes now. But they have to look at the complete supply chain and work out every little tweak they need to make.
The whole point of us going to purchase the organic wool in Argentina is because it's traceable. Merchants don’t tend to tell you where the wool is dyed or where it comes from.
The supply chain is usually so long that by the time it reaches the shop, the person selling it can’t tell you where any of it is from. With Benjamin Siggers, we can tell you it came from this farm, went to this particular mill, this is where it was woven, here’s where it was dyed, and then it went to this manufacturer to make the suit.
There are companies out there that will tell you “this is a Super 160” – a really high-end fabric… and it’s not. The average man of the street wouldn’t know that it has been mixed with polyester and can’t feel the difference.
We once went to a mill in the UK and saw what was supposed to be Super 220 and we couldn’t believe our eyes. The guy there said “actually, it isn’t a real 220, but the client purchasing the material asked us to put 220 on it.” Because there aren’t any current regulations to prevent this, it comes down to whether the company selling the suits is ethically sound.
They could eventually bring in a law to tax companies that practice these unethical and unsustainable practices. If they don’t, there’s no reason for these big companies to change their ways.
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