SJ Clothing Official was created in August 2018 by Sandeep Bansil.

Introduction

I found myself at a crossroads with my career and began looking at starting my own business. This is where I met Jagjit Singh and conversed over a mint tea at Damascena Coffee House. The take away from that conversation was motivation, passion and legacy… figure those things out and the business idea will follow. From this, the research began.

The Problem

There are many things I care deeply about but some in particular include poverty alleviation, animal welfare and the environment. Simply “Googling” the issues around those topics led me to research into plastics, pollution, the textile industry, the effects on the environment and so on. I hadn’t even begun looking into animal welfare until I stumbled across an article stating most textile printing inks contain animal by-products! 

My research led me to some incredibly sad facts about the fashion industry and that alone made me want to firstly change myself, but also educate others in what seems to be an ignored area. I hope the following can also make you think twice about your purchasing habits, as it has done with me. 

The Garments

  • Child Labour - There are an estimated 218 million children around the world (aged 5-17) that are working, 70% of which are considered victims of child labour
  • Exploitation - In West Africa, farmers have small patches of land, that provides just enough income for the basics such as food, school and healthcare. A small drop in cotton prices means they cannot afford these basics... and millions of them are paid less than a fair price
  • Death - it is not a well not known fact, but 20,000 people working on cotton farms die every year from pesticide poisoning. Pesticides are used to speed up growth due to supply and demand. Cotton grown organically does not have this issue
  • Illnesses - 100,000 people working on cotton farms are diagnosed with cancer, dementia, birth defects and asthma every year due to inhaling these pesticides
  • Suicide - More than 270,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves from 1995 to 2014. In an average person's lifetime (81 years) that equates to over 1.1 millions lives

Printing Inks

  • Poisonous Inks - plastisol is the most commonly used printing ink and contains 4 main ingredients; PVC, plasticisers, filler and pigments. These contain phthalates (cancerous, cause reproductive issues and affects testosterone) and dioxins (alters thyroid hormone and can cause impairments, hyperactivity and lower birth rates). It's also linked with breast cancer
  • Headaches - The above chemicals are triggered at temperatures of around 20 degrees so if you wear these types of clothing on a hot summers day, it can give you headaches and migraines, which most people blame on the sun!
  • Animal by-products - many garment printing inks contain animal by-products which is why they cannot be sold as organic or vegan approved. 

The Challenge

Whilst I seemed to have  researched the problems, the challenge was far more difficult. Whilst I had found my passion and motivation, I was acutely aware of the incredible number of t-shirt companies appearing on social media every week, so competition was high. However, looking at many “ethical” clothing brands, I found too many anomalies to ignore.

For example, a company would have either organic materials or Fairtrade or equivalent certification but few had both. Those I did find with both would use harmful printing inks; harmful to the person and to those applying the inks in the warehouses. The few who passed those ethical tests failed at the next hurdle by using unethical swing tags and/or plastic poly and mailer bags. Not one simple company ticked all those things. This is where the expensive testing began on ordering t-shirts, testing out print quality, wash tests etc. 

Solution

My aim then became to create a brand that ticks all those boxes whilst inspiring and uplifting people through our designs. I have witnesses the rising number of mental health concerns amongst friends and peers and I felt it was largely due to the mass negativity we are exposed to on a daily basis. Such negativity is seen regularly on clothing showing machine guns, violence, offensive language or worse. When did this become fashion and deemed normal?

Story so far

So, we only started trading at the end of December 2018 and I’m so pleased to say we’ve managed to ensure the following:

  • Our garments are incredibly high quality, full organic (Global Organic Textile Standard i.e. GOTS certified) and go through strict auditing to ensure fair labour conditions of workers are met in third world countries (Fair Wear Foundation member)
  • Our printing inks are rigorously tested for harmful chemicals (Oeko-Tex 100 certified), free of heavy metals and formaldehyde (cancer causing chemicals), organic certified (GOTS) and great for the environment (fully biodegradable).
  • Our swing tags are made from either Kraft paper or 100% recycled and uncoated paper. The reason we have two types is simply because both are great for the environment and we wanted to give you a different experience each time!
  • Our Poly Bags took a very long time to find! After many months of research we found polythene bags that are 100% biodegradable and recyclable. This means, if these bags did end up on the streets for any reason, they would turn into water and minerals within 1-2 years!
  • Our Mailer Bags are sourced from one of Europe’s most environmentally friendly packaging companies and are 100% recycable and waterproof so your garment arrives in great condition

Our Aims

Our current product range on the website only extends to t-shirts. However, we have started taking custom orders now for t-shirts and hoodies via direct messaging or emails. We will be looking to increase our product range this year and supplying sweatshirts, hoodies and joggers too. The problem we have at the moment is our suppliers have a limited range which meet our ethical considerations and are not able to fully brand some products such as hoodies and sweats.

So, we are currently looking into professionally sewing on the labels ourselves with a top of the range sewing machine but at the expense of longer delivery times. It’s a difficult balancing act, but we are working incredibly hard to combat these issues and have a more fluid process. Together, we will get there.