You're invited to tour our factory

Julia Bland, Feb 02,2017

Not an email title I receive often. Immediately intrigued, I read on and soon discover that I’m getting a sneak peek into the Hanoi factory that Seattle-born brand ‘Girlfriend Collective’ uses to create its new take on ethical, socially responsible sportswear. Black leggings to be precise. Each pair of which is made by 14 pairs of hands and eyes and is created out of 25 plastic bottles – some compelling statistics from the off.

Shown to me by a friend a few months back, I immediately fell for this brand that’s striving to make open, meaningful change by moving away from the landfill-guzzling ways of other fast fashion houses. Working in branding myself, my eye can oft be critical and sceptical as it scans through websites, social media profiles and customer testimonials of brands new and old. Like my savvy peers, I’m wise in the ways of empty promises and exaggerated punchlines made by brands, even in this day and age where you’d think they can’t get away with it… Then enter Girlfriend Collective stage left.

What’s particularly striking about their website is the very lengthy FAQ page, covering topics ranging from ethics to manufacturing, to each HQ employee and to their SA8000-certified factory in Vietnam. The very same one that the email newsletter I’d signed up to was inviting me to take a look at. In doing so, I’m invited into the very heart of their brand. No skeletons in the cupboard, no dodgy cost-cutting corners and poor conditions that their fashion peers have often fallen victim to. A truly transparent business that’s thought of every angle and every possible criticism they could face and has answered it in advance. That wants to do things differently and wants to tell the world why.

Instead of spending money that a small start-up simply doesn’t have lying round (as they share openly in their ‘About Us’), their aim is to harness the power of word of mouth, creating networks of digital advocates who will do the sharing for them. Indeed, if you take a look at their Twitter and Instagram, it’s full of happy customers delighting in their new purchases, overwhelmed by the quality and value for money. Their brand is getting ever stronger and for me, this can be traced back to their no holds barred honesty and people-centricity, whether you’re in the factory, Seattle HQ, or in your bedroom in London, debating whether to buy a pair.

They’re succeeding in creating a brand that’s truly shaped by many and that’s learning and growing with each day that goes by. And it really couldn’t be more engaging. Seattle-born, now increasingly world-conquering (10,000 orders were made on its first launch day one!), Girlfriend Collective is a textbook case study for a brand that genuinely believes in forging an open, transparent relationship with its potential customers and communities and seeks to fulfil this across everything it turns its attention to.

Now to obsessively track the shipping of my own pair…