sustainability – not just a catchphrase for Joe
When I started Joe Merino I just knew that sustainability would have to be a number one concern. In the choice of wool, suppliers, production, packaging, transportation, and other aspects. Not because sustainability is a catchphrase these days, but because I truly believe in sustainability. To me, taking pride in our product means taking pride in how we make that product and get it to our customers. At the same time I was well aware that in the fashion industry sustainability is a challenge. Especially if it is your mission to make men’s wear of high-quality Merino wool at a reasonable price.
Let me tell it like it is. In part due to the advent of fast fashion, the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries. The upside is that there is a lot to gain. Everyone talks about sustainability – and often that’s all it is, just talk. We don’t like sugar-coating: We know we will never make the perfect, fully sustainable, pullover. But that doesn’t mean that we should not try and do everything within our power to market our products as sustainably as possible. From the choice of material – wool is fully biodegradable- , the welfare of the sheep, and using as few chemicals as possible, to the working conditions in the spinning mills and workshops, sustainable transportation and packaging methods and our free repair service and recycling scheme. But sustainability starts at home, with consumers making conscious choices in favour of sustainable clothes. And by taking such good care of those clothes that they can wear them for as long as possible. We like to help our customers by giving them tips on how to care for their Joes.
Below you can read how exactly Joe puts sustainability to practice. It is a continuous learning process. But know this, it’s not just lip service for us. If you want a high-quality pullover that is produced as sustainably as possible, at a fair price, Joe is your man!
Co Founder Joe Merino
Where is Joe’s wool sourced?
Most of the wool we use comes from farms in New-Zealand and Australia, and then some from farms in Argentina and South-Africa. We buy this wool through a German supplier called Südwolle. Südwolle is not just some price buster, but a well-reputed member of ZQ Merino.
The ZQ Merino programme was launched by the New Zealand Merino Company ‘to help people understand that their textile choices could be a reflection of their beliefs - you are what you wear and that Merino, done the right way, is a smart and sustainable choice.’.
The ZQ programme guarantees that the Merino wool satisfies ZQ’s four core values: Animal welfare, environmental care, social sustainability and the best wool quality. The best part (and that part is increasingly getting bigger) of the wool used by Joe meets all those core values. It is Joe’s ambition to have 100% of all its wool satisfy the four core values within three years.
Where is Joe’s wool spun?
Südwolle has its own spinning mills in Europe and China, where working conditions are fair. The mills work as responsibly as possibly: Dyeing is done using the most sustainable recipe and as few chemicals as possible. Every year water consumption is reduced, while waste water is reused.
Joe visits the China mill regularly. These visits strengthen trust on both sides.
Where are Joe’s pullover’s knitted?
For the pullovers (flat knit) Joe works with one plant in Shanghai. Since a year the plant’s owner holds a small share in Joe. Working conditions at the plant are good, and workers get paid some 20% more than usual. Lighting is good, toilets are clean, and workers get lunch every day. Good conditions make for loyal workers, which makes for guaranteed quality.
Craftsmanship requires time and experience. Constantly hiring and training new workers benefits no one. And the same goes for the other plant where Joe’s shirts (circular knit) are made. Five times a year we go and visit these plants, and every time we walk around feeling proud and confident.
Joe’s pullovers are made using fully automated machines, but the sleeves and collars are linked manually. A painstaking job. The pullovers are then washed, with just a minimum of softeners and chemicals, and dried on sticks in a special drying room. The results are far more superior than when drying machines are used.
How are Joe’s pullovers transported?
Whenever possible, Joe likes to ship by boat. This is not just cheaper but much better for the environment. We’ll be honest with you – occasionally we choose air freight, when we need something really fast.
Is wearing Joe sustainable?
Yes. For a variety of reasons. For one thing, because Joe is not subject to ever-changing trends. Joe is a timeless classic, and you don’t throw out a classic after just one season. Joe never goes on sale. Joe doesn’t overproduce. Overproduction often leads to dumping, which severely impacts the environment. Also, woollen pullovers don’t have to be washed as often as your other clothes. Hanging Joe out to air for a while usually does the trick. This saves energy and water. And let’s not forget the temperature-regulating quality of wool. Instead of cranking up the heat, just put on your Joe. And last but not least: Don’t cast off your Joe if he has been in the wars. Just let us lovingly repair any holes. Free of charge.
Does Joe do recycling?
Hell yes! Joe has now made a circular sweater and a beanie from his own sweater 'leftovers'. Those leftovers consist of a collection of production errors and damaged sweaters. We are constantly working to develop new applications for the reuse of worn and unusable Joe sweaters, so that we can collect them more and more actively.
With the growth of Joe, our position has become stronger and we can place more demands on our suppliers. It is our goal to let our customers follow the entire manufacturing process via webcam. You can then see for yourself where the sheep live, how they get shorn, and where your pullover is knitted. We do not hide behind certificates, like many do in this industry. We want to be fully transparent. And not just because it’s a marketing buzzword, but because we genuinely care.