New from TAMMACHAT: Sweatshop-free Clothing

For years we’ve been looking for a tailoring group in Thailand – one that could make clothing with the handwoven cotton and silk cloth that we buy from weaving groups in Northern and Northeast Thailand. At the end of last year’s trip, at a special juried craft fair, we met Kumpor, whose name means “sufficiency.” We loved their unique, “fusion” designs, so we bought a few pieces and found these sold quickly in Canada at our Fair Trade Textile events.

It came as no surprise that we found this group in Chiang Mai. This large and vibrant northern Thai city is home to many highly skilled tailors, dressmakers and small factories that sew the many garments produced in the area. But we wanted to find a group that shares TAMMACHAT’s values of offering fair wages and benefits to the sewers, as well as protecting the environment. This worker-owned co-op fit the bill!

So, this year we looked for their retail outlet. There we were able to make arrangements to visit Kumpor’s headquarters and workshop. Once we had the address, we had no trouble finding it, as it’s based in the community where Alleson first lived in Thailand 20 years ago.

Our visit to their headquarters allowed us to learn about the group as well as see their designs. Unlike the other groups with whom TAMMACHAT works, Kumpor colours its cloth with low impact chemical dyes from Germany and the UK that are certified “environmentally friendly.” This year, they received “Green Product” certification from the Thai Department of Environmental Quality Promotion, one that’s available only to small textile producers that use environmentally responsible processes.

Kumpor co-operative includes:
  • 6-7 pattern-makers and sewers who work at the community workshop
  • 28 home-based sewers who work with Homenet Thailand's support and oversight
  • a group of 26 dyers and 18 handweavers, living in a community about 2 hours away, where they  produce the cloth Kumpor uses for its garments. They are in the process of adding local farmers to the group to grow heritage varieties of cotton. This will allow Kumpor to add new designs that will feature handspun, handwoven, indigo-dyed fabric.
Most of the indigo cloth we have found comes from Sakhon Nakhon in Northeast Thailand. Interestingly, the indigo Kumpor will use for its handspun cotton clothing grows wild in the north of Chiang Mai province. Karen people (one of the “hilltribe” groups in the North) gather it and make dried dye cakes that the co-op will buy and send to the dyeing/weaving group.

This year our visit resulted in an order for cotton blouses and jackets in 3 distinctively different styles and 3 appealing colour ranges, using designs and cloth produced by co-op members. These will be available in spring 2011 when we return to Canada.

We look forward to working with Kumpor on future projects. We hope you look forward to seeing their unique line of sweatshop-free clothing.