Being authentic and making sustainable products as a fashion brand starts with a mindset, but this falls and stands with a good supplier. NONO kidswear has been standing side by side with its Chinese supplier for almost ten years and is proud of the relationship they have built in these years. Fashion United interviewed brand manager Charlene Chin and design manager Karlijn Kragting and asked what this successful collaboration looks like.
You have a good relationship with your supplier: how did this relationship come about?
About 9.5 years ago, NONO was taken over by another company. At such a moment we had to reinvent ourselves as a brand and that took quite a while. Our supplier – we call him ‘Mr. Tea’- understands our handwriting like no other and they are happy with what we deliver them. They surprise us every time with the dedication and love they put into the product. It’s really nice to see how this has evolved over the years and to see the results.
Which is important if you want to build a good and long term relationship with you
supplier? Mutual respect. ‘Mr.Tea’ makes a really nice product and they always produce on time, but we always respond appropriately. We are always accurate when it comes to sending style sheets, comment sheets and orders. In terms of planning, this is great, so that they can start NONO early in the season and have enough time later to make other collections for other brands. Here’s how you get a: We’re doing this for each other’s feelings and this is crucial. If there are problems during a bulk season or any other stage in this process, we always try to find a suitable solution. We all have one goal: to make beautiful products.
When did you know as NONO: yes this is it!
At some point the numbers went up and the results improved! And of course a supplier notices that too. We all needed this to move forward and grow further.
That’s nice. What is the role of Mr. Tea and his team in this design process?
Naturally, he gets all the necessary information in full and in detail and makes sure that the product is made extremely well. Sometimes you have to make decisions quickly and there is no time to see everything in real life. At such a moment he is our eyes and ears. He also likes to give advice. Last season we picked a jersey color and Mr. Tea noticed that the jersey didn’t match well with the woven fabric. At this point we didn’t listen to him, but he was right! The longer you know each other, the more you feel it is just a suggestion or mandatory advice.
Are there any challenges you encounter along the way?
Circularity is a challenge on our road ahead. You must first think carefully about this and have a plan: this is how we are going to do it and then the supplier can step in and help to roll out this plan. NONO already has sustainable ideas, such as creating separate collections to finish off old residual materials. But if they actually join us on this journey with this whole recycling process, then we’re tapping into a whole new territory.
Sustainability is important to NONO. Does your supplier share this mentality?
10 years ago this was not a topic. Over the years, this mindset has grown with us and is part of who we are today. We are very happy that 40% of our total collection is made from recycled polyester. We are going to walk the road to recyclable parts, but then you have to keep your products in the chain and that is a challenge. We have partnered with a platform that helps us to be transparent. We have selected this supplier as a pilot. Each item of clothing is given a hang tag with a QR code on it. The end consumer can scan this and can see the complete journey of this product. You would think it would be a bit exciting for the Chinese, but they have no problem disclosing this information and we think it’s great that they can show what they’re doing for the end product. How often do they get this chance?