...behind our clothes
SHEMA is all about tuning in with your heart and really listening. And that’s how we approach our design and style - we endeavor to create styles that delight our hearts. We call it the tang - you know when you have a Starburst and that sour tang hits you just right in the back of your mouth? Well, it’s like that, but with your heart. That’s what we go for with design and style. When we put it on, it hits just right. We want to create pieces that move and flow with you - that are uncompromising in fit, feel and ethics. We wanna feel that tang when we put our clothes on in the morning and be inspired to go create new ways in the world - and we want you to feel that too.
In achieving the perfect fit, the perfect feel, and the right stylistic elements, we teamed up with talented local designers to help translate what we were feeling in our hearts into actual garments. We went through multiple renditions of drafting and sampling until we get the tang. We will continue to collaborate with the best to bring unique capsule collections in and out of season - clothing people with uncompromising and inspiring pieces - so you can get inspired and go and create and not have to compromise.
Fabrics matter on so many levels. From form and function to baseline impact - the fabrics that we choose to source and work with are a huge piece of the tapestry that is SHEMA. That’s why we are so intentional to choose and source in a way that preserves and protects the environment. We find fabrics that are created through ethical labor practices; we see this as such an opportunity for impact. Sourcing ethically is more expensive - but it means the difference between protecting and preserving the environment and empowering people or degradation and exploitation. We’ll take preservation and empowerment over that any day. We love fabrics that move and stretch and breathe and carry innate anti-microbial properties - we want to clothe people with fabrics like these - and ones that we can rest assured are a small part of the solution and not the problem.
We love Bamboo. Bamboo fabrics are incredible - unbelievably soft, wonderfully flowy, naturally antimicrobial, and are made from a quick growing, naturally renewable resource. Bamboo fabrics -however - aren’t always green. The production process can be energy and chemically intensive to break down the bamboo fibers in creating the fabric; that’s why it’s imperative that bamboo fabrics be produced with a closed-loop system: water used in the production is recycled and the chemicals are then kept within a closed loop and not released into the environment. We source bamboo fabrics that come from organically grown bamboo forests that are processed in closed loop, energy efficient way. Our bamboo rocks.
Cotton is king - and for good reason. It’s soft, breathable, durable - it’s been the staple of our favorite T-s for our whole lives. But cotton has a dark side to it. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) considers conventionally grown cotton to be the world’s “dirtiest” crop due to the heavy insecticide and chemical burden it places on the environment and communities in which it is grown and processed. Cotton covers 2.5% of the world's cultivated land, yet it accounts for 24% of the world's insecticide market and 11% of the sale of global pesticides; or $2.6 billion worth of pesticides [making it the most pesticide-intensive crop grown on the planet].
So for our cotton, we have committed to always using organically grown cotton fabrics. Cotton makes for classic, soft, long-lasting garments and lends essential light-weight durability to the bamboo tri-blend behind our signature Venture hoodie. When you feel our cotton fabrics and tri-blends containing cotton, you can rest assured it’s organic all the way through. This is an easy way we can ensure a beneficial impact in the communities where the organic cotton is grown and can continue to contribute to an industry that looks for alternatives to damaging chemical pesticides and toxic processing. We want to have the best cotton possible - and that’s why it has to be organic.
Elastane - or spandex as it’s commonly referred to in the United States - is a polymer fabric like polyester, but performs very differently. It provides a great deal of stretch, comfort, and shape retention to garments made with it - like your bike shorts or fave yoga pants. Elastane makes for a great performing garment, but unfortunately it’s impact is not great. And herein lies a growth area for us at SHEMA: we are currently using 5% of elastane in our hoodies and in our T’s. It keeps our garments moving with you, provides stretch and a little more durability than our Organic Bamboo fabrics can offer on their own. But the fiber doesn’t meet our standards for environmental preservation and sustainability.
We have yet to be able to source a viable alternative to elastane in our fabric blends. Sourcing ethical alternatives to this synthetic can be cost prohibitive and/or require us to use a mill we haven’t vetted properly. Our goal is to phase out our use of elastane for a more sustainable alternative - we will continue to keep you updated on our progress with this. We are going on sourcing trips in Vietnam and elsewhere in 2019 to broaden our ethical sourcing network and continue our pursuit of the best. At SHEMA we believe we need to start where we are at and strive to do better. It’s what we are all about.
We love nature! And we know we are called to steward and protect the environment. So we don’t want our company to do major damage in this department (gross!) but instead utilize sustainable practices and hopefully inspire others in the process.
Shipping is a huge aspect of our carbon footprint and so with the shipping aspect of our supply chain we want to transition as soon as possible *(and where possible) to a climate neutral service.
We aren’t able to utilize carbon neutral shipping at this point and have a bigger carbon footprint than we want, so we plan to partner with One Tree Planted to plant trees to help offset our footprint. Currently, we use air-cargo to get our products from the sewing centers to the U.S..
As far as packaging our garments is concerned, we are using biodegradable packaging! Biodegradable shipping labels! Biodegradable tape and biodegradable stickers! Yay! Our garments are packaged in plastic when shipped to the US and this unfortunately is not biodegradable…. yet 😉.
Whenever possible we strive to have our business operations create the impact we want to see; and to this effect our fulfillment centers we are partnering with are themselves organizations that give back, created to support and further “freedom businesses” - businesses that function to fight human trafficking and empower and aid survivors. So when your garment is being handled, labeled, and shipped out of our fulfillment center in Colorado or California, the costs of this is actually doing good work.
Where we can improve
Elastane. Plastic shipping bags. Lots of shipping. The ink on our hang-tags. The thread in our garments. The drawstrings on our hoodies. Our carbon footprint. Co-founder Adam’s use of ziplocks for his lunch. And of course we all have blind-spots - we don’t know what ours are. If we did, they wouldn’t be blindspots.
We are going to keep going and we invite you to do the same.
1. Comparing conventional and certified organic cottonsupply chains: the case of Mali.Salem Y. Lakhal*, Hamadoun Sidibé and Souad H’Mida