India Travel Diary: Visiting Our Makers
Reflections from Angie, our Sustainability Manager on her travels to India to visit our makers.

We stay connected with video calls, emails, and chats, but nothing can replace personal connection made through interactions and shared time together.

This past year we’ve had the opportunity to visit our global makers for the first time since before the travel disruptions of COVID-19, most recently heading overseas to see our partners in India. This trip included myself {Sustainability Manager}, Evelyn {Head of Operations}, Deborah {Head of Technical Design}, and Samantha {Junior Designer}.

From rickshaw rides through the bustling old city of Jaipur to cheeky monkeys interrupting our afternoon refreshments, nestling our way through a clustering queue to sample the aloo bhaji from hole-in-the-wall food stall, mouth-watering roadside chai served in terracotta cups, admiring the intricate details of the Taj Mahal, together we shared countless memorable experiences for the soul and senses. Yet, most memorable, and most important was the time spent with our makers.

The four of us visited India, each with our own purpose for our roles at Spell ~ we toured where our garments came to life, shared meals with the owners and learned about their work flow. These visits are particularly important to our sustainability efforts, here are some of the main things our team focuses on during these visits.

Connection + Relationship
To support our overall sustainability strategy, Spell aims to work with makers that are aligned with Spell values. Many of our makers we have worked with for upwards of 8+ years and have visited many times over the years, however we have also established some new partnerships in the past few years. Our time together gives us time to understand the business and personal values of the owners and individuals. These relationships are essential foundations to the steady rollout of improvements as we work through our annual targets on our Sustainability Roadmap.

Each of our Tier 1 makers are asked to undertake a social and environmental audit or certification of their factory each year. Reviewing the audit reports gives us a useful snapshot of their admin and operations, however visiting in-person allows us to observe, meet and interact with managers and workers, see the workflow, ensure health and safety measures are in place.

As we tour the factories we learn about the processes of each step throughout the product construction. Did you know our shoes are passed through at least a dozen hands before they land in their shoebox?! We learn about what they are doing to to optimise their processes, where the challenges are in the construction processes, and we are able to ask questions about different operational and WHS processes. We also learned about the training and different health and wellbeing initiatives that are offered to their team.

Mutual Trust + Respect
We left India with warmth in our hearts having spent time, meals, laughter, and mutual learning with each of our partners in India. Working through any challenges, not over email but in person, we are able to better understand the best way to work through future challenges together. Changes made for the sake of sustainability require a mutual trust and respect for what each of our businesses require to be efficient and thriving.

Carbon Neutral Travel
As part of our Climate Active carbon neutral certification, we offset our flights, accommodation, and transportation for each of team members who travel overseas.

Photography + Words Angie Menghini