Being authentic and creating sustainable products as a fashion brand starts with a mindset, but this falls and stands with a good supplier. NONO children’s clothing has stood side by side with its Chinese supplier for almost a decade and is proud of the relationship they have built over these years. Fashion United interviewed brand manager Charlene Chin and design manager Karlijn Kragting and asked what this successful collaboration looks like.
You are quite close with your supplier: How did this relationship start?
About 9.5 years ago, NONO was taken over by another company. At such a time, we had to reinvent ourselves as a brand, and this took quite a long time. Our supplier – we call him ‘Mr. Tea’- understand our handwriting like no one else can, and they are happy with what we deliver to them. They surprise us every time again with the devotion and love they put into the product. It’s really beautiful to see how this developed over the years and to see the results.
What is important if you want to build a good and long-term relationship with your
supplier? Mutual respect. ‘Mr.Tea’ really makes a beautiful product and they always produce on time, but we always react and react correctly. We are always accurate when it comes to sending out style sheets, comment sheets and orders. In terms of planning, this is great, so they can start with NONO early in the season and have enough time later to create other collections for other brands. This way you get a: we are doing this for each other’s feelings, and this is crucial. If there are problems during a bulk season or any stage in this process, we always try to find a suitable solution. We all have one goal: to create beautiful products.
When did you know as NONO: yes this is it!
At a certain point the numbers went up and the results got better! And of course a supplier notices this too. We all needed this to continue and grow further.
It is nice. What is the role of Mr. Tea and his team in this design process?
Of course, he receives all the necessary information fully and in detail, and he wants to make sure that the product is extremely well made. Sometimes you have to make decisions quickly and there is no time to see everything in real life. At such a time he is our eyes and ears. He likes to give advice too. Last season we chose a jersey color and Mr. Tea noticed that the jersey didn’t go 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 like it’s just a suggestion or mandatory advice.
Are there any challenges you face along the way?
Circularity is a challenge on the way forward. You must first think this through and have a plan: this is how we will do it and then the supplier can step in and help roll out this plan. NONO already has sustainable ideas, such as creating separate collections to finalize old remnants of fabrics. But if they actually want to join us on this journey with this whole recycling process, then we’re entering a whole new area.
Sustainability is important to NONO. Does your supplier share this thinking?
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. The road to recyclable parts is one we want to go, but then you have to keep your products in the chain, and that’s a challenge. We have started a collaboration with a platform that helps us to be transparent. We have chosen this supplier as a pilot. Each garment gets a hang tag with a QR code on it. The end consumer can scan this and see the entire journey of this product. You’d think it would be a bit exciting for the Chinese, but they have no problem divulging this information and we think it’s really nice that they can show what they’re doing for the final product. How often do they get this chance?