Since the beginning of Rebel on a Rainbow, we were always keeping an eye out for the right clothing company to align with to make our shirts. Whilst in Western Australia on a van adventure we met a wonderful person who told us about the awesome company 3Fish Fairtrade Organic Clothing Company. We were excited to find out it was an Australian business based in Victoria started by a beautiful and loving family. Marty and Natalie Dillon are truly amazing people who we were fortunate enough to visit on their property and get a firsthand look into their sustainable lifestyle and how their inspirational brand started out. Read on to learn more about 3Fish and how you get involved in supporting this wonderful business. We have also included a couple of pictures of the Rebel on a Rainbow shirts we got 3Fish to make for us. We couldn't be happier with their quality!
ROAR: How did 3Fish come to life and who are the founders?
Marty & Nat: 3Fish is the distillation of many ideas, over many years. Both of us are the founders of 3Fish. We had travelled extensively in developing countries before having children, and so developed an affinity for working with people from all over the world, a genuine interest in getting to know people in small local communities, and a passion for creating a business that created opportunity for all. Before 3Fish, life in the big pond included for Marty, working with Promotif, and Corporate Express and for Natalie, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks, Vanguard Investments and Local Government.
The arrival of children and the journey into parenthood brought all this into focus. We decided that when our kids ask us about global warming, environmental degradation, child labour and sweatshops we wanted to be able to say that we did something to make a difference. So we decided to create a clothing company – lets create the perfect tee said Marty. And so it began...we’ve been perfecting the craft of the perfect tee since then! We are married and share this journey with 3 children; Zoe (10), Jasper (9) and Ethan (7). “Our kids are growing up with sustainability as a baseline to their lives, and an understanding that there is much greater similarity amongst the peoples of the world than differences, and that we can all effect change."
ROAR: What is the purpose of 3 fish?
Marty & Nat: By establishing our company ethos as “Do The Right Thing”, every internal system, every decision, every goal we set, our entire business planning process, every improvement we make in our systems, is geared toward creating the most sustainable company we can, minimising our footprint and maximising the benefit we can create with every single item we produce.
Our goals and objectives revolve around:
- creating a commercially successful business with a foundation of social and environmental responsibility;
- providing a quality alternative for individuals and organisations who wish to purchase sustainable, ethical clothing in Australia;
- continually developing our world class ethical supply chain, free of sweatshops and child labour, with a positive environmental impact; and
- through this tackle extreme poverty through trade.
ROAR: Why organic cotton and fair trade?
Marty & Nat: After extensive research into the international garment industry we were horrified to learn the following statistics:
- 1.4 billion people live on less than $2 per day
- 160 million children aged 5-14 years are engaged in labor around the world
- 22,000 children die in employment per annum
- Approximately 1000 conventional cotton farmers commit suicide annually in central India because of the overwhelming debt cycle
- in 2008 the production of conventional cotton used over 284 million pounds of pesticides in the United States alone, with hundreds of millions more pounds sprayed worldwide. Additionally, seven of the ten pesticides most commonly sprayed on cotton are on the EPA’s list of known, probable, or likely human carcinogens.
After extensive research, including walking our supply chain to the absolute source and meeting the farmers who grow our cotton on the cotton fields of central Maharashtra, we selected India as the location to source our organic cotton because India is the perfect environment to grow cotton. The organic cotton used in 3Fish garments is 75% rain-fed by the monsoonal rains of India, which is the largest rain event on earth, and handpicked. We estimate that through the sales of our fairtrade organic cotton garments, caps and bags, 11.3 Tonnes of pesticides & insecticides have not been used in production since of first orders in August 2008. We also selected India as our manufacturing base as we could achieve all our fairtrade, and organic cotton certifications in service providers, who are also able to meet our quality specifications in closer proximity to the cotton fields, limiting the movement of our product, and thereby making achievement of carbon neutral status more commercially viable.
Producing our products sustainably and ethically is about so much more than simply using sustainable materials in production. We decided that instead of the traditional trade-off between People, Profits and Planet in conventional supply chains, we would aim for a balance of these 3 elements:
- People – ensure people are paid fair price for their labor and that they are employed in decent conditions
- Profits – a more even distribution of profits along the supply chain
- Planet – manufacturing as sustainably as possible to protect the planet
We demonstrate this by treating the owners of factories as business partners with the universal principals of trust, respect and integrity, paying deposits in advance, including pre-ordering of fairtrade organic cotton yarn; we want our factories to make profit on our orders. 3Fish prides itself on selecting and working with supply partners who treat their employees with respect, pay them a fair price for their labor, provide safe and hygienic working conditions and are in no way involved with child labour.
We also decided to set our goals at achieving the absolute best standards possible to contribute to solving these. To that end we set our garment standards as the following:
- Fairtrade Certified, FLO ID 20301
- Australian Certified Organic ACO Licence No.11058W
- Only use GOTS certified Dyes and Inks (Global Organic Textile Standard)
ROAR: What types of clients do you provide clothing for?
Mart & Nat: The 3Fish client is atypical. Overwhelmingly, they are lovely people with their heart in the right place, with a commitment to quality and a design aesthetic, set amongst a strong world view. We work with large and small companies and organisations that seek their merchandise to reflect their values. We work with both fledgling brands and some well known names to create fabulous garments that are great on every level.
Some people come to us because they’ve heard we make a fab tee. Some people come to us because they love the way our organic cotton tees and hoodies feel – they might have bought a tee at a concert, or come across us on the necklabel of an event tee or a company they admire. Some people hear about our design focus, that we love creating garments that range well or engage and support their campaign or brand message. Some people come to us because they might of heard about us in a University Supply Chain management Case Study! A friend of my parents was at a U3A lecture and 3Fish flashed up on the big screen!
We also do a lot of work with not-for-profit organizations who look for their brands and campaigns to be well represented through quality garments and great designs, but who also understand the ripple effect of their choices and who also have the desire to inspire and empower their staff by walking their talk through what they wear. Often times, companies and organizations come to us because of the passion and vision of just one person within their organization, someone who says “fairtrade is important” or “organic cotton is better for the environment”, and who stuck their neck out to make their point.
ROAR: How has doing 3 fish changed your life and your outlook on the world?
Marty & Nat: Through the work of our clients we are continually left breathless by the enormity of some of their work. Our world view is continually expanded and coloured by the magnificent people we get to work with every day. Of course working with our supply chain partners means that as a business we are intrinsically linked to happenings around the globe and so we are continually reminded how interconnected we are. 3Fish has enabled us to work in a manner that reflects our values both personally and professionally. And it means we can create a work life that is flexible with the ebbs and flows of family life.
ROAR: What are some exciting things happening in the future for 3 fish?
Marty & Nat: These days, commercially speaking, 3Fish is at the forefront of sustainable business practices, and is a leader in creating and facilitating change and inspiring innovation in environmental, social and economic sustainability across a wide variety of channels. More and more we understand the need to help people, companies and organisations undertake this journey, to help them take the first step, to have a positive experience and gradually expand the reach of their ethical purchases. We get excited every time a new client comes on board and makes that change. We get even more excited when they get excited about how much their customers or staff love their new fairtrade, organic cotton merchandise.
Why is every single one so exciting? – because every single one, is part of the picture that gives consistent demand to our factories, and thereby the cotton farmers along our supply chain, who then lead lives of opportunity and dignity. Its the sound of healthy happy communities, educating their own children, boys and girls, for fabulous self determined futures. We’re pretty happy doing that every day!
Below are pictures of our Rebel on a Rainbow shirts which 3Fish made for us. We are so happy with the quality and feel of these shirts and everyone who has purchased them always comments on how much better the quality of 3Fish shirts are compared with others.