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“400 MANGOLA T-shirts, 3810 km of transport and 1.5 tons of CO2 saved.”

It all began over an after-work beer together

It was an ordinary Thursday when we held our weekly team-internal online date, called “Thursday Night Drinks”. As always, business and pleasure topics were mixed as we relaxed in front of our screens and sipped our drinks. When Aline, operations manager, mentioned rather casually that the seam at the neckline of her MANGOLA T-shirt had torn, no one seemed to take her too seriously. Well, according to her own statement, this happens to her quite often. But then another team member, Zino, reported that the same thing had happened to him. Now one or the other in the team became a little bit suspicious and it was decided that the matter must be investigated.

Issue was downplayed and action taken too late

A few weeks and tests later, we got closer to the cause of the problem. To our surprise, the problem was not per se with the cotton yarn itself, which is much less stretchy and resilient than, for example, yarn made of polyester. The cause lay in its application and workmanship. Nowadays, most production facilities work exclusively with polyester yarns in production. Its massively lower cost and easier handling meant that few still have the expertise to work with natural yarns. This factor was underestimated when we designed our new MANGOLA shirt, although we had to face exactly the same challenges when we developed the LEGNA shirt.

So the realization came too late. 400 finished MANGOLA shirts were already on their way from our producer in Portugal to our warehouse in Switzerland. It was clear to us that the products neither meet our quality standards nor lead to sustainable customer satisfaction. Hence, we cannot sell them like this. Often such “faulty designs” in the textile industry lead to the products being disposed of and produced again, as it is hardly worthwhile to repair the products for cost reasons. Not an option for us, of course. Fortunately, a solution for repairing the T-shirts had already been found, because we knew where the cause of the problem lay. All we had to do was adjust the processing, i.e. remove a decorative stitch from the neckline to prevent the seam from tearing in the final product. So we decided to repair the T-shirts – but where?

Portugal and back – or not?

At first glance, there was only one solution: The T-shirts have to go back to Portugal. Because no one knows the material and the processing of the products as well as our producer. But the long distance back to Portugal somehow didn’t feel right to us. A better and more environmentally friendly solution was needed. Franca, our product developer therefore started researching nearby tailor shops to evaluate a local option. The closest tailor shop was – what a coincidence – right across the street. So Franca and Aline hopped across the street and inquired. Rather skeptically the products were examined… Neither the handling of this material nor orders in such quantities belong to the daily business of the tailor shop. By explaining the situation and being persistent, a few T-shirts were kept for testing. A few days later, we received the repaired products back and were delighted. This is exactly how we imagined it. Now we had to decide, do we take the risk and repair the T-shirts at a new partner with less experience at a higher price in Switzerland, but can save time, travel and logistics, or do we play it safe and send the parts back to Portugal. We decided to go for the local solution.

The solution: costly, but worth every cent

The whole back and forth has not only cost us some nerves and time, it has also increased the production price of our T-shirts by over 50% per piece. So, from a financial point of view, this is not a very recommendable way to go, because basically the T-shirt would have to be sold a lot more expensive now. One could now discuss for a long time whether the whole thing was worth it and what could have been done better and differently. For us, however, it is clear that we would act in exactly the same way again in such a situation. Not only were we able to ensure the quality of our products and make our customers happy in the long term, we were also able to support local businesses and prevent valuable raw materials and products from being disposed of.

All in all: Luck in misfortune

Looking back, it’s easier to laugh about such stories, because you know what you learned from them. In our case, there were a lot of learnings. We will pay more attention to the following points in the future:

  • Agility: The development of a garment is a continuous learning process. Particularly in the niche sector of circular clothing, in which we are, a lot of knowledge still needs to be acquired and each product must be designed individually. Being able to react flexibly to incidents and irregularities in product development and always acting in a solution-oriented manner is a central factor for us as a growing company.

  • Communication: Communication is key. It is better to ask and check again instead of one time too little. If you are unsure or have concerns, ask again. If we had communicated better as a team, the problem with the decorative seams could have been identified earlier and addressed in time.

  • «Out of the Box»: Especially in the dynamic and fast-moving everyday life of a start-up, it’s easy to get lost in the details and forget to take a step back every now and then and look at things from a different perspective. Instead of settling for the first solution, it’s worth breaking out of the tunnel and taking a quick look to the left and right – or as in our case, across the street.

  • Trust: By trusting in an unconventional solution, we were able to save nearly 4000 km of travel and 1.5 tons of CO2, in addition to supporting a local tailor shop that was severely affected by the pandemic. At the same time, the trust placed in the local tailor shop helped it to expand its own competencies and win us over as a long-term partner.

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