Offset Warehouse is the first fabric supplier to exclusively produce and sell ethically sourced fabrics in the UK. Last week I was lucky enough to hear Charlie Ross, founder and director of the business speaking first hand about her journey into the world ethical trading at Stroud Atelier.
Charlie began by explaining the conception of Offset Warehouse. As a design student herself, she was appalled to learn about the harmful impact the industry has on both people and the planet. Documentaries such as China Blue, which highlight the sweatshop conditions of garment workers in Chinese jeans factories, motivated her to question why this form of modern slavery was tolerated and under whose authority. Environmental disasters such as the loss of the Aral Sea to cotton irrigation and news of farmer suicides caused by mounting fears over debt and pressure from suppliers similarly inspired Charlie to create change in the fashion industry. However, as a designer she struggled to find materials and fabrics that complied with her morals. As a result Offset Warehouse was born; a social enterprise that supplies the UK and abroad with ‘the most beautiful, hand-crafted and fairly-sourced fabric, trims and threads from across the globe’ at fair yet affordable prices.
The online shop offers a wide range of fabrics from cotton to silk and even some more unusual eco fabrics such as recycled polyester and is also stocked in Fabrications on Broadway Market, London. Unlike other sustainable fabric suppliers, which focus on natural and undyed cloth, Offset Warehouse has a variety of truly desirable printed and plain fabrics. Rather than sticking to a single trade certification the warehouse stocks certified and uncertified organic, fair trade, recycled, by-product, reclaimed, sustainable, co-operative, naturally dyed, azo-free and naturally bleached fabrics to cater for all audiences. Each fabric comes with its own identity tag giving information on the composition, country of origin, eco credentials and accreditors.
The success of Offset Warehouse is a testament to the dedication and passion of Charlie Ross who ended her presentation with the reminder “always do the right thing even when the right thing is the hard thing”. It is vital to support businesses such as this in order to drive further change in the industry. As designers and makers we are responsible for the fabrics we source and to encourage our employers to do the same. Transparency within the supply chain is essential to understanding and communicating the impact the fashion industry has and it is something we should push for as consumers of fabrics and as well clothes.