At KOW Lifestyle, we have two main goals: (1) to provide customers with freakin’ amazing slippers that happen to be an ethical alternative to fast fashion, and (2) to provide our employees with sustainable jobs that allow them to earn a living wage AND have a job where they feel safe and appreciated.
Piece of cake you said??
Ok, let’s start from the beginning… what’s wrong with the fashion industry?
Today’s fashion industry is dominated by hyper consumerism and companies are constantly looking to reduce their costs, cutting mostly on material quality and wages. The industry is dominated by large multinationals that are completely disconnected from their supply chain. Most garment factories are strategically established in countries with very low social and environmental standards. Those are the main reasons why the fashion industry is the second largest polluting industry in the world!!
Obviously, there is a LOT to talk about on this topic, and it is easy to find very interesting articles and documentaries on the internet. If you are new to the issue, you can start by watching “The True Cost” (https://truecostmovie.com/). But enough with the depressing news and let’s look at the solutions!!
Creating dignifying jobs to get out of poverty
KOW Lifestyle started with the observation that the city of Siem Reap was in need of more sustainable jobs and that Cambodian women are eager for more autonomy through work. So, we started with the objective to create long-term (non-seasonal) jobs that provide an empowering and fun working environment.
The social aspect: a priority
All KOW employees are provided with health insurance, free lunches and have access to daycare on the premises. Working hours take into consideration the importance of a work-life balance and many decisions are made collectively. Employees receive training on topics from health and security to reducing the use of plastic: because knowledge is the key to people empowerment. The company also offers small loans without interests and encourages its staff to develop new skills such as driving or continuing their formal education.
All KOW slippers and espadrilles are handmade. There are no chemicals and very little electricity used to make our products. Any cut-offs of leather and yarn that we have is used in zero-waste projects: as such we have a very low impact on the environment!
Being responsible is a continuous process.
We are aware that some areas need improvements such as the use of acrylic, the origin of our leather, our carbon footprint, but we will always be transparent with our customers about our situation. Let’s face it, being a small company makes it harder to achieve all the green goals in the same time. For now, our next objective within 2 years is to use 100% of biodegradable materials and thus replace our acrylic yarn by a natural substitute. The first batch of wool-bamboo slippers will be available in Germany via www.avocadostore.de this winter!
So is it possible for a small company to operate ethically? The short answer is YES! But it is not easy… but that is a topic that we will deal with in a next blog!