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Responsible Manufacturing - a forum discussion

The topic of the August 'Last Wednesday' event held at NEST was Responsible Manufacturing. Rachel Speth, Carol Chyau of Shokay, and Grace Liu, owner of Asianera joined together for an interesting insiders perspective on producing ideas in China to a full house crowd at NEST in Taikang Lu, the retail project started by bambu founders, Jeff Delkin and Rachel Speth along with Trine Targett of Jooi Design.

To start things off, we set up to differentiate product design, from product design for production. It's one thing to develop a product idea. To create a concept. It's quite another to make a 100, a 1000 or more, consistently, month in month out to specific standards and of a high quality.....particularly in China.

For instance, there is some brilliant thinking on display at the recent London Design Festival. A selection of highlights from Inhabitat are presented here. Some wonderful ideas. But a very different challenge to take an idea and replicate it over and over again. And to do that affordably. And how do you do that in an environment that is safe and just?

How do you define

Responsible Manufacturing

There were a number of descriptions. But it all came down to this - Being accountability for every step of your design and production process - even the stuff nobody else sees. Taking account for the work conditions. Being mindful of the materials you use, and thinking about the impacts of every decision you make.

While all three businesses had unique challenges to share, it was a shared view that 'you have to be at the source' to fully ensure the proper production processes were being followed.

It was agreed that agents and brokers in China can be untrustworthy and will tell buyers whatever they think they want to hear. So the message to the group, Seeing For Yourself, is mandatory.

And for these three business owners, that is not an issue. Shokay produces beautiful cashmere textiles from free roaming yaks. They work directly with the yak herders. Asianera has set up their own production facility to manage the entire process in a way that meets their needs, and the needs of the workers. And as for ourselves at bambu, we continue to work with the same producer groups we started with five years ago. We have our own people on site - we inspect each and every order. And we have our manufacturing facilities audited by an independent firm.

While Not Perfect, we are all trying to Do The Right Thing, and have a positive impact at every step. It's an on-going task at the center of everything we do.