Interview by Ellen Tirant
Our Everyday Advocates Series is dedicated to showcasing legends that both inspire us and help us to meet our potential. Working directly with businesses and individuals who are committed to creating a positive impact is important to us at Dorsu - allowing us to bring others along on what we believe is a necessary journey to drastically alter the nature of the fashion industry. We want to use our Journal as a space to talk about how everyday people and businesses can, and are, doing great things by challenging the status quo.
Introducing Kanekta, a digital wholesale platform designed to connect eco-ethical brands with sustainably minded retailers.
Kanekta kicked off at the beginning of 2018 showcasing a selection of pioneering brands, and is fast becoming a go-to sales platform for wholesale ethical merchandise in North America.
We were lucky to be a part of the first batch of brands on the platform, receiving an exclusive view into how much time and energy goes into creating something so big, from scratch.
The Kanekta team is made up of a group of skilled individuals who chose collaboration and connection as their way to create impact in the industry, and we couldn’t agree more with their mission. We inherently believe that collaboration is to key to success - with so many great minds and shared resources we are bound to achieve bigger things, especially within the ethical fashion space.
Our go-to girl from team Kanekta is Priyanka, co-founder and absolute boss at life. From day one, she has guided us through a unique and incredibly transparent process, ensuring that as brand, we actually do what we say we do, matching us with buyers who share our values.
It’s honestly been quite refreshing to work with such a creative, dedicated and open-minded team - who have tirelessly worked through their challenges, shared their successes with us and are continually striving to improve and be better at what they do.
We caught up with Priyanka to get the low-down on what inspired Kanekta and how we can hope to see the platform grow.
What was the inspiration behind the creation of Kanekta?
As everyday consumers trying to shop our values, my co-founders and I found it quite difficult to find brands that prioritized ethics and sustainability throughout their supply chains. After doing some deep research into an increasingly complex industry we recognized the gap that existed on the business to business side of things. The issue wasn’t availability but rather accessibility, how might we expose more of these brands to retailers, the main point of purchase for the majority of consumers. On the flip side you have an ever increasing numbers of amazing brands spread across the globe working towards building a fairer future, yet they lack easy access to new markets. Kanekta is our way of bridging the gap between the creators and curators!
As a start-up, what are some of the key challenges you have faced so far?
As with any start-up there are ups and downs, whether it is operationally or personally. When you are trying to change a system and shift a segment of society’s way of thinking, the path is never simple. The toughest pill to swallow is realizing that things take time, especially when you are fighting for a cause so dear to you but at the same time so distant to the majority. Lucky for us we have been surrounded by amazing partners like Dorsu from the start that constantly remind us through their own journeys that hard work and grit pays off. We are a long way from a world that values communities over compensation but together we will get there!
Can you give us a breakdown of the vetting process for brands and buyers? Are you able to link us to anything that shows this process?
At Kanekta we define ethical sourcing as the process of ensuring the materials and products being made are obtained in a responsible and sustainable way. Where all workers involved in making them are safe and treated fairly and that environment impacts are taken into consideration throughout the supply chain. We realize that many of our partners are not formally certified by a third party. This is why we require each seller to either provide proof of a third-party certification or go through a vetting process to ensure transparency and fairness throughout their supply chain. We have partnered with the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) who have been kind enough to lend us their self assessment which we have brands fill out prior to joining Kanekta.
I always like to preface this with it is 100% impossible to be 100% perfect, we don’t chase perfection but rather look for the intent to run a mission driven business built on strong values. We created a system so that retail buyers know exactly what they are buying into; every brand profile page has icons that represent their individual ethos. I am always happy to talk more about how we build relationships with the brands on Kanekta so anyone can feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat more about this!
In your unique position as a go-between for brands and buyers - how do you see the future of ethical fashion as an industry playing out?
I would actually love to see it not be so separated from the rest of the industry, how amazing would it be to just have fashion as a whole be ethical without the need for labels or segmentation! I am a true believer in collaborative action and I think that we are on the path to getting there. Retailers stock what their customers demand, it’s as simple as that. As consumer conscientiousness rises so do the number of questions being asked before committing to making a purchase. By having eco-ethical brands represented at boutiques, gift and lifestyle stores, etc stores can cater to those who care about the story behind a product AND also those who just want a great piece to add to their wardrobe, it’s the best of both worlds!
Do you have any advice for individuals or businesses thinking of entering the ethical fashion scene?
Diversify your sales strategy and go into it with an open mind about what that could look like. Direct to consumer models are great but they are not the only way to get your brand out there. Especially if you are just entering the market you need your products to be put in front of new customers, wholesale is a great channel for that! As a conscious brand it is often challenging and costly to reach larger audiences but it doesn’t have to be that way and that’s where Kanekta can come in.
What can we hope to see from Kanekta inthe future?
We are constantly growing the number of brands and stores on Kanekta building up a community of conscious businesses. Our goal is to continue to nurture existing partnerships while building new ones to reach our goal of every store stocking at least one Kanekta brand on their shelves! With that said we encourage stores to join the retail revolution and open their eyes to how they can be instrumental in changing consumer mindsets about the power of their purchases.
Head over to Kanekta to learn more or register as a buyer or brand.
If you are in North America and are interested in purchasing Dorsu wholesale, or know someone who is, you can register your interest directly with Kanekta. If you are outside of this region, please get in contact with us directly via our wholesale page.
We collaborate as an entire team, combining design and production priorities
Our design and sourcing processes are inter-linked. Sometimes we design and then source fabrics we wish to produce in, and other times we discover fabric we love and can create accordingly, quickly.
Meticulously designed for everyday wear, focusing on quality above all else.
You inspire us -- our #DorsuCrew. We love talking to you and learning about what you do, what you need, and how clothing fits into your life. Every day, we meet fellow travellers from around the globe, visiting us during their holidays in Kampot. They buy Dorsu for our quality; withstanding weeks or months of adventures. When they return home, they have their go-to essentials for work, weekends, and holidays.
We make our own rules and don't abide by trends, mass consumption or over-production. By investing our time and talent into thoughtful design, we'll create pieces that will be mainstays in your closet.
Our patterns are made in-house by our Co-Founder and Head of Production & Design, Kunthear. With years of experience and training, she opts for the traditional method of measuring and cutting paper to transform concepts into complete, graded patterns.
Each year, we release new collections of carefully-selected, exciting designs in limited edition colours. Sitting alongside is our Core Collection, available year-round in beloved neutrals.
The first step in the cutting process is washing the fabric, to test shrinkage and colour fastness. Our cutter, Samorn, cuts paper patterns from the originals, laying them on the material in a way that minimises wastage. Cutting up to 25 layers at a time, we bundle each piece according to size.
The cut and bundled pieces are then moved into the production room and delegated along the production line. It’s fast and straightforward, ensuring we create consistent end-products.
The sewn products are washed and individually measured against their specifications, checking they’re true-to-size.
The final step in production is ironing and the second check for shrinkage, warping, and construction or fabric faults. The final garments are folded, packed and stored for sale. Some are moved directly into our studio store (located at the front of our production space), while others go to our flagship store in Kampot, or sent to Tasmania for international retail.
All production staff undergo extensive training and skills development to ensure safe, efficient and quality work by all team members. We train all new staff on our internal Human Resources policy, including occupational health & safety procedures, fire safety and evacuation, and child protection. We update and renew training annually, with ongoing instruction on equipment safety and maintenance, as well as the protocols to assess risk and responsibly address incidents in the workplace.
Fair and safe employment is the responsibility of all companies, and we prioritise the physical and emotional wellbeing of our employees above everything else.
We have two storefronts in Kampot, Cambodia: at the Old Market and the front of our Road 33 production studio, led by our Retail Sales Manager. All team members take part in quarterly training on our new ranges -- design, material, and styling -- and relay customer feedback to the design team.
Also, if you live and work in Cambodia, our In-Store Retail Team are the people organising in-country delivery, answering your messages, and calling couriers to make sure your package arrives safely and timely.
We ship our Australia and international orders from Australia. However, our E-Commerce Manager works in our Kampot production studio, making sure our international customers can have the same experience as you were to visit us in person.
We welcome your feedback and are open to answering any questions you may have about sizing, construction, material, or our production practices.
We ship all bulk orders from our Road 33 production studio. Most of the time, these are made-to-order. As a result of having a close-knit team, we can offer a seamless buying experience. Our sales staff speak to our Production Manager, face-to-face so that you can have the most accurate updates on the status of your order.
Our fabric is remnant cotton jersey sourced from independent suppliers in Phnom Penh.
Remnant fabric (also known as "deadstock" or "surplus") is unused and unwanted leftover rolls of cloth in its original condition.
As a result of Cambodia’s pervasive garment manufacturing industry and issues that occur along the fashion industry’s incredibly complex supply chain, vast amounts of fabric are deemed unusable by brands on a daily basis. This waste arises due to reasons such as incorrect or oversupply of cloth, last minute changes in production schedules and the ever-increasing need for brands to be immediately responsive and adaptive to fashion trends.
These fabric leftovers are sold on from brands and factories to a local fabric supply industry, who then sell on through the Cambodian supply chain. We scour the warehouses of our preferred suppliers and purchase rolls of fabric per kilogram. When sourcing for our collections, we buy up to 100 kilograms of a collection colour (like burgundy) and up to 300 kilograms of a core colour (like black and navy).
Due to the nature of sourcing factory remnants, we can't guarantee consistency in the fabric blends. Consequently, we burn-test every fabric we buy to ensure it has very little or no synthetic fibres.
We pre-wash a sample of every new fabric, testing for colour fastness and shrinkage.
We know that using factory remnants has limitations. We know we can’t trace the true origins of our material. But, we are doing what we can, within the context in which we work. Cambodia doesn't have cotton mills or weaving facilities so, we are limited by access. As a small brand, we experience financial barriers of meeting minimum order quantities of suppliers outside of Cambodia and then importing fabric into the country. We are acutely aware of our impact on the local economy, and we choose to place our money where it has the most significant impact.
All Dorsu team members are required to read, understand, sign and abide by our internal human resource policy that is inclusive of: