Exposé: DEM Collective

What’s behind DEM Collective? What’s the scoop?
This women-owned clothing store in Gothenburg, Sweden is definitely more than meets the eye.  While their hot style of simple t-shirts and beautiful dark blue jeans may be appealing, it is the business practices which caught my attention and ultimately earned this business of being worthy of Exposé!

Why?
DEM Collective monitors the entire process of production, from the picking of the cotton through the dying of the fabric and the assembly of the clothing.  Owner Annika Axelsson is on the ground in Sri Lanka and knows what’s happening every step of the way and is therefore able to make sure that no one is mistreated during the process.  Owner Karin Stenmar manages operations in Sweden.

Waste
Excess from the manufacturing process is currently turned into reusable bags that customers are given to take their purchases with them.  What about when the t-shirt’s life is over? Well they can be returned to the store and recycled into the same bags or other products that are in development.

To me, the justice in the working environment is evident in this creative and fearless development process.  You see, the factory workers are the ones who come up with additional ways to re-use extra scraps.  While at the store Annika showed me two repurpose possibilities.

And why is this important?
Because most of clothing produced today takes advantage of the workers and pollutes the environment.  Before you say – pollution and injustices on the other side of the world don’t affect me, think again.

But back to DEM Collective…
Annika had her life change on a trip to Sri Lanka to visit a penpal at age 13.  While there, she visited a factory while bringing her penpal’s sister lunch at the factory because she couldn’t leave the factory to eat.  The factory’s poor conditions inspired Annika to revolt against the clothing industry in colorful and not so colorful ways over the years eventually landing her as the owner of her own factories and business in Sweden.

One in a thousand…
The hot, new, handwoven, numbered jeans that DEM produces were brought to existence after some frustration that Annika couldn’t own a pair of new jeans without doing harm to the environment or others.  The jeans they sell are currently the only environmentally friendly pair available.  The dies are non-toxic indigo and the pants themselves are handwoven.  Possible the coolest part about them is that the reason they are numbered is so that their sustainability can be tracked through a local university.

So is DEM Collective a fair trade company?
No, they consider themselves more than fair and don’t think the fair trade standards are enough.

And DEM? It stands for Don’t Eat Macoroni an anti-fast and junk food slogan from Jamacia.

Currently available in New York at Ekovaruhuset it appears that with effort you can also make purchases at DEM Collective’s online store (no Swedish language skills necessary.)

In case you are interested in more…
An article on Treehugger talks about where this company was in 2007.
An appearance by the Company in EcoChic Magazine which goes more into some of their great practices.

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