ALCHEMIST FASHION makes high-end fashion. Beautiful clothes skillfully tailored and well-made from materials of sustainable sources.
Fashion is about more than looking beautiful on the outside. Alchemist makes clothing with a focus on people and the environment. As much as possible, we work with sustainably produced materials. So they feel good in more ways than one.
It goes without saying that we don’t use AZO dyes in the production of our clothes. Nor do we work with phthalates (plasticisers), perfluorinated and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) or nonylphenol ethoxylates.
In 2016, Alchemist signed the SER (Dutch Social Economic Council)’s International Covenant on Sustainable Clothing and Textiles. This is a robust covenant containing legally binding agreements between companies, government, trade unions and other stakeholders. We have high hopes about the ability of its hard-hitting pledges to improve the fashion industry, and the SER’s annual audit is certainly very thorough. Read all about the five-year plan of the covenant.
Finger on the pulse. Prior to 2016, we had set ourselves the goal that 90% of our production be by producers who have a certificate for social-ethical business practices. Since then, all the factories with whom we work have one or more such certificates, and undergo annual audit by various NGOs, such as BSCI, FWF, SA8000, GOTS and Smeta.
As a signatory to the Covenant, every year Alchemist undergoes a thorough mandatory audit by the SER. This means we allow two independent parties to look over our shoulder and make sure we do what we say we do. We believe this makes our sustainability claims credible. The analyses that come out of these audits also help us identify where we can further improve our sustainability performance.
We visit our producers at least once a year, but usually more frequently, to monitor the conditions on site. Since 2015, we have engaged a part-time employee to help us achieve our stated goals and to help Alchemist further improve its sustainability performance. In the first quarter of 2016, together with another FWF member, we commissioned an audit on the minimum wage policy of one of our most important suppliers in Portugal.
In our annual reports, you can see exactly what percentage of our collection is made from which sustainable materials. Alchemist produces two painstakingly assembled collections every year. Making sure our designs can easily be combined with those from previous collections. Our quality standards are high, because what is well-made lasts a long time. And that, too, is all part of being sustainable.
A few years back, we set ourselves the goal of reducing our CO2 emissions. To achieve this, we wanted as much as possible to bring our production back to Europe. This we have done. We now produce some 80% in Portugal, 5% in Macedonia and another 15% in Delhi, India.
Using these locations means our transportation routes have become much shorter and we now use air freight only from Delhi. Moreover, we combine freight shipments of various different suppliers abroad, so together we can fill just one truck and avoid multiple smaller shipments. We work together with production studios, laundries and dye works that are located close to each other in order to reduce local transportation.
Our Austrian fabric supplier, Lenzing, who make our Tencel, Modal and Lyocell, generate 80% of their own energy locally and sustainably.
Our commitment to sustainability extends right into the store itself: we ship our clothes in biodegradable packaging, so we can minimize the environmental impact right through to the end of the chain. We supply shops who sell our clothes with our own organic cotton carry bags to give their customers.
In our showrooms and our offices, we use LED lighting.
We are stringent about the number of magazines and showcards we produce. If we do choose to use paper, it’s always paper carrying an FSC label (sustainably sourced paper).
Once you’ve got your garments home, you can prolong their life through proper care. Don’t wash them too often, or at too high a temperature. Check the labels carefully, as fibres such as wool, silk and linen sometimes require different treatment.
Are there clothes you don’t wear hanging idle in your closet? Rather than just throw them away, give garments like this a new life via a second-hand fashion shop. Damaged clothes are also still very usable, as the textile can be recycled. For example, we make new clothes out of recycled denim, wool and linen.
Tencel ® is a highly durable man-made fibre. It is made from eucalyptus wood from responsibly managed forests. The production process is environmentally friendly, as the solvent and water needed are used and reused in a closed cycle. Put simply, it starts out as wood, becomes pulp, then fibres, yarn and finally the lovely fabric, Tencel ®.
The other good news is that the fabric is silky smooth to the touch, absorbs moisture better than cotton and feels cooler than linen. Ideal for those of us who appreciate comfort. In our collection 15,3% is made of Tencel.
We use mainly natural materials, like wool, leather, cotton, linen. in our collection 9,1% is made of a linen/cotton mix, which keeps you cool in summer and warm on chilly days.
The reuse of clothes is, of course, sustainable, as we then don’t need to use additional raw materials or water. Which also makes it energy efficient and less damaging to the environment.
We work with recycled linen, a fabric that feels cool in the summer but keeps you warm in cold weather. Recycled denim produces beautiful yarn in gorgeous colours that are a joy to work with. For our winter collections, Alchemist also works with recycled wool, which we mix with a bit of polyamide to make the wool more durable and better able to withstand moisture. In our collection 3,7% is made of recycled denim and 6,1% is made of recycled linen, making a total of 9,8% of recycled yarns.
Our organic cotton clothes are made using GOTS-certified cotton. The GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) is the world’s leading standard for the production process for organic textiles. They guarantee the entire production process for responsibly grown cotton, including the environmental and social aspects of cultivation. This means no hazardous chemicals are used, the farmer is free to choose which crops they grow, and to grow their own food. Organic cotton uses less water and energy because it gets more time to grow. The land also gets more time to recover after harvesting, so the soil doesn’t slowly become infertile. GOTS sets strict conditions for factories where hand-picked cotton is processed: good employment conditions and a good working environment.
36.5% of our collection is made from organic cotton*, and we are striving towards only using organic cotton. Happily, new techniques are bringing with them a growing and increasingly varied assortment in organic cotton, as well as in composite fabrics that contain organic cotton.
The controls may be strict, but that means you know things are in order. Cotton may only have the GOTS label if it contains 95% certified organic cotton.
We prefer using merino wool because the wool is extremely fine, very strong and doesn’t itch. Moreover, merino wool is non-mulesing wool. Merino sheep have deep creases in their skin where flies can easily lay eggs. The larvae penetrate the skin of the sheep causing myiasis, an infectious disease that’s very painful for the sheep and can even prove deadly. To avoid this suffering, many sheep farmers cut away skin from around the sheep’s buttocks. This so-called ‘mulesing’ process is also very painful for the sheep, and generally done without anaesthetic to reduce costs by shearers lacking the necessary surgical skills.
Fortunately, we don’t have to choose between two evils, as there is also non-mulesing wool. This is wool involving no mulesing and where the sheep owners have made every effort to prevent infection. For example, through alternative feed, medication and thorough skin inspections. Many of these wools come from sheep bred to have less deep creases (and produce less wool), so that flies have less opportunity to lay their eggs. This site provides more information on mulesing and describes in detail the alternatives.
Just like Tencel®, Modal® is a natural fibre, in this case made from Austrian beech wood. Here, too, the production process is extremely environmentally friendly. The fibre is exceptionally smooth and requires very little energy during later steps, such as colouring and spinning.
Modal® falls very lightly and feels soft as silk. It is ideal for combining with other fabrics.