“At One Tenth, we see a space within the industry to disrupt the status quo of poverty on a global scale with something that is so simple and already embedded in our daily lives — shopping.”
We recently spoke to Angel and Sam Robins at One Tenth, to find out how they are empowering local designers all around Australia.
Tell us about One Tenth. What is the main aim of your company?
One Tenth isn’t just about ethical fashion... it also empowers local designers in Australia to use their skills for a greater good. More importantly, 10% of our profits get invested into educating the children of those working at Freeset, with the aim to end the cycle of poverty.
With this business model, we could activate a generation to care for others through their purchases, to make one decision differently and understand the massive ripple effect that one decision can make on another’s future. Everybody wants to be a part of the bigger picture, especially the younger generation who now seem more in tune with what is happening around the world. We’re experiencing a shift in our culture where we care about the effects of the things we buy by being transparent about our work and where we get our products; we believe the younger generation will want to be a part of creating a change.
What has inspired One Tenth’s aesthetic and style?
We wanted designs that were minimalist and modern. We started working with an award-winning local designer in Perth, Mira Mayne, to create our branding and logo for One Tenth. While our role in outsourcing to Freeset can change the present, our investment in education can transform the future. One Tenth has committed to giving 10% of our profits to Tamar, who provide educational programs to those who might not otherwise be able to access them.
It was important for us to incorporate “one tenth” into our branding and design so the vision of the company is easily communicated. From there, we created our first signature tees with our logo to communicate who we are and what we’re about. Future designs once Kickstarter campaign is funded is to continue working with designers in Australia with the intentions of ensuring our designs are stylistically Minimal.
What was the very first thing that inspired you to create a sustainable fashion label?
It was the trip to India in 2015 where I visited Freeset, a garment company that was creating jobs for women who were either trafficked or at risk of being forced into the sex trade due to poverty. It felt like they were broken people, but in reality, these were capable and strong women who just needed an opportunity to have an alternate job to meet their day-to-day needs. Freeset was doing just that; they were giving them an opportunity to make a choice.
It’s always baffled me why the fashion industry that generates an enormous level of profit, isn’t able to support millions of its workers. And I think it’s because the emphasis has been put on profits rather than people. Visiting Freeset helped me see that business can be done better, not just for people but for the environment too. It inspired me to return home to Perth and support Freeset and other companies like them where the end goal wasn’t just to collaborate but to bring awareness to trafficking and end the cycle of poverty.
How did you find out about the factory in Kolkata?
I visited Freeset through a trip organised by a non-profit foundation in Perth who supports them in the on-going work they do with the wider community. It was more of an awareness trip to be a part of their everyday lives and find out more about the work they do in Kolkata. I was amazed by what I saw within the walls of factory – women had clean running water, the work environment positive and it was secure. Everything we look for in a job was what was being offered there.
Why did working in this part of India appeal to you?
Sonagachi, Kolkata, is home to over 11,000 sex workers. The most populous red-light district in India. Working conditions are poor and a distressing proportion of workers are forced into the trade by human trafficking. However, I saw strength and hope in these women, and I felt Freeset was creating a choice for them - something they didn’t have before. These women were broke, but not broken. They just needed practical ways to help them have an alternative working opportunity that allowed them to leave the trade. I felt that there could be more done in Kolkata, and with more small business like mine who can incorporate Freeset’s product, we can continue to help them increase production.
What made you decide to work with Freeset?
When I returned home, I couldn’t get the images of what I had seen in Kolkata out of my mind. The hopelessness of those trafficked resonated with me, because when I was six, I was kidnapped. My outcome, however, was different. Because I lived in a country with a sound justice system and the police came looking for me. I was found. Yet it was apparent that no one was looking out for the women stuck in the trade unless we created ways for them to leave the trade. I couldn’t help but ask “What if that was me?”
After I returned home, I wanted to find a way to create a business model that supports companies like Freeset, but also invest in the future generation of the children in India. That’s really how One Tenth came about. A social enterprise that allows our profit to be stretched to have a long lasting impact on others. Freeset currently employs over 300 women and pays twice the average hourly wage compared to other producers in developing Asia. It also offers health insurance and a pension program. Crucially, employees are trained, resulting in products of export quality. Tees are also made from 100 per cent fair trade, organic cotton. They have also just purchased another building and are currently working to create another garment factory, which means more work opportunities.
What are your hopes for the future of the fashion industry?
We believe business can be done better. The actual business model existing and operating within the fashion industry is flawed; it’s unsustainable. And unless we change that model, we are going to continue to encourage the cycle of poverty. When every transaction is focused on making profits, what suffers is human rights, environment and workers rights. I see the future of fashion industry to be made up of hundreds if not thousands of independent designers worldwide working with smaller supply chains and collaborating directly with garment producers who provide workers with sustainable livelihoods in fair conditions. The willingness of these brands to experiment with alternative, and less harmful, models of fashion production will eventually pave the way for less exploitative business models.
What do you plan on using your $20,000 from the Kickstarter campaign on specifically?
Funds will be used to help us with the production of tees and totes with our signature design. The rest is going to be used to set up our company, create an e-commerce site, and give us the cashflow to create our second release of tees and totes with a brand new design. The future goal for One Tenth is to be an online retail store that catalogues ethical companies, all with a single focus - to make the lives of those around us better. The finances will help us in achieving that goal.
Our Kickstarter campaign, which ends on May 26th, elaborates on this:
Tell us a bit about the products available through your Kickstarter campaign...
Our first production of tees and totes incorporates our logos to the product. It’s a limited production where we are looking for people who want to be a part of our story by wearing our brand. This community of backers will be our social investors and storytellers.
Our goal is to create a world where giving back is the norm. I want One Tenth to be a global symbol for creating change that business can be done better. When people hear One Tenth, they don’t just think fashion label but they think of a set of people that cared enough about the world to help in any way possible.