Photos: Amit Sihag
Last spring changed everything for us, as it did for so many others. When times get tough, they force you to make hard choices. And those are the choices that define who you are.
Surviving this past year has been about sticking to our core principles and being flexible with the rest. We doubled down on looking out for our team and community, using our platform to amplify voices that we think matter, and making the best clothing we can - informed by heritage and driven by curiosity.
This is our first season that has been completely shaped by the early months of the pandemic. With our main factory shut down indefinitely for months, we had to find new ways of making things. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re excited to bring you the fruits of our discovery alongside some new things we’ve cooked up with our long-standing factory partners in California.
Welcome to the first in a series of posts about the journey we’ve been on.
In Search Of...
Our aim is and always has been to provide customers with the best product possible at a price that makes sense. We’ve done this by working with the top manufacturers we can find while developing or sourcing fabric that excites us. The key to maintaining this momentum, to us, is an attitude of never being satisfied. As such, we are always searching for long-term partners to help get us to that next level. If the work itself is strong, and is being done by people who are treated well and who care about what they do, it’s worth our attention - no matter where the factory is located.
In the past, this quest has led us to work with one of the best fleece mills in the world in Canada, one of the best denim mills in the world in Okayama, and to the factory where our jeans and tees are still made in San Francisco. And this past year, it’s taken us to new destinations like Portugal, where we can now make in-house leather accessories and home goods at a level that we’ve always dreamed of. This fall, you’ll see us expand our knitwear collection with a new producer in Peru. With regards to SS21, you’ve probably following along closely with what our new partner in India has been able to offer us, namely an unparalleled capability for artisanal dyeing and printing matched with a thoroughly modern production capability. What each of these locations has in common is a deep expertise in what they do, the result of decades - if not centuries - of developing a craft.
We think our latest delivery highlights the breadth of where our search has led to, and we specifically want to call out our Floral Leisure Shirt. It might be the best summer shirt we’ve made so far. It’s also hand screened in five colors, which we can’t wrap our heads around, even though we have pictures.
Silk screening is a process that most of us are familiar with as it pertains to tees, sweatshirts and other printables. An image is burned into a fine mesh screen and then ink is then passed over the screen to leave a design on the finished garment. When it comes to printing large quantities of fabric for bulk garment production, though, fabrics are typically printed with a mechanized process where screen placements are automated and ink is passed through perfectly to yield an extremely consistent end product - or in other cases, fabrics are printed on via a digital ink process. The technique that is used to print our Leisure Shirts this season, though, is completely done by hand. And given that the design features five colors, exact screen placement must be achieved for each color on the shirt. It's a high-touch process that gives the finished product a bit more life and character than something that was printed by a machine.
Beyond being a heritage craft passed down from one generation to another, it’s a way of working that brings people together. The process necessitates two individuals due to the size of the screen; the artisans have to work as a team to get the print exactly right. Teamwork is something we can get behind. We've always strived to stand by our factory partners, which means not just viewing them as companies who serve our business needs but as individuals too.
In our line of work, people matter. Even as we’ve expanded our partnerships, our approach remains consistent: every manufacturer we work with becomes part of the 3sixteen family. They’ve supported us in hard times and, when necessary, we’ve done the same. We share meals. We celebrate the joy of our life achievements outside of work. We share relationships that are deeper than simple business transactions - and as such, we are deeply proud of this extended family we’ve built and will continue to build.
By treating our partners as the people they are, we can look past stereotypes. Great factories abound all over the world and sweatshops exist in America. Our job is to find manufacturers who approach their craft seriously and treat their people well, so that we can offer you a product that we’re proud to stand behind in every possible regard. It’s a constant journey, but we’re excited about this delivery. We hope you are, too.
Note: If you’re following the news, you've probably seen that India is currently fighting through a devastating wave of COVID-19. Last week we took a percentage of the cost of each garment we produced this season in India and donated it to Rapid Response, an India-based disaster relief organization that is running vaccination awareness campaigns, providing PPE support for health care workers and distributing dry food to the poor and marginalized across the country. Flip through some photos to see the critical work that they're doing on the ground, and please consider donating to support their efforts.