Durable, manufactured locally and transported in paper or cardboard packaging, this shirt from Perry Uniform appears sustainable from the outset. It seems that this company is sustainable in some areas, such as packaging and reduced waste, but what the product is made of really pulls its planet rating down. Perry Uniform is transparent in many areas of the manufacturing process but uses unsustainable natural resources. Further advancements should be made regarding the cotton used to make their Cambridge Blue Shirt as the limited information on their website about where they source their cotton from suggests that it is inorganic and therefore harmful to our planet. When other companies in the same industry are offering garments made of organic cotton, it is not hard to see why this company’s sustainability efforts could be viewed as disappointing. Nevertheless, Perry Uniform cares about the reusability of their products which is a sign of a company that has some commitment to sustainability. In an era rife with low-quality fast fashion items, it is promising to see a company that cares about the durability of its products. Hopefully, owners of a Cambridge Blue Shirt will have this garment hanging in their wardrobe for years, ready to be worn over and over again or passed down to fellow students.
Perry Uniform does not appear to be particularly eco-conscious in this area. The company lacks transparency when it comes to stating where they source their cotton from and what dyes they use. We can conclude from the available information that the materials used to make this shirt are not as sustainable as they seem. Perry Uniform’s 100% cotton shirt seems sustainable at first because we often associate natural materials like cotton with sustainability because they are biodegradable. However, ordinary cotton production is harmful to our environment as it requires the use of toxic chemicals and excessive amounts of water. Perry Uniform is not transparent about where their cotton comes from. All cotton has to be grown in warm climates so cannot be grown in the UK. This material needs to be transported overseas which comes at a large cost to the environment. Whilst the company states that it uses the “most suitable” fabrics for their garments, they do not seem to be outwardly passionate about using the most sustainable fabrics. The use of chemical fertilisers leads to pollution and not only hurts wildlife, but also the workers cultivating the cotton. This product would be much more sustainable if Perry Uniform opted for organic cotton that has a lower impact on the environment. Organic cotton cultivation requires less water (a valuable resource!) and less harmful chemicals.
On the more positive side, this t-shirt does not contain any polyester whilst many other similar products do. The problem with using materials like polyester is that these synthetic fibres can only be coloured using synthetic dyes. Perry Uniform uses natural fibres to make t-shirts for Cambridge University which means that they have the potential to use natural dyes that do not release harsh chemicals into the environment. The company is sadly not transparent about the dyes they use. This could just be an oversight. However, the company boasts about their range of options when it comes to the colour of embroidery thread they offer. Offering a large range of colours is likely unsustainable. It is very difficult to create a wide range of colours using only natural dyes yet very easy to do so using synthetic dyes. Unfortunately, it seems that this company is only transparent when operating sustainably and perhaps more secretive when it comes to its more unsustainable practices.
Perry Uniform is fairly transparent about some parts of its manufacturing process and even shares videos of its workers making the garments in UK-based factories. This company states that it uses traditional craftsmanship (which is evident in videos that they share on social media) such as embroidering designs with thread. This process is done using sewing and embroidery machines which likely use electrical energy (placing high demand on fossil fuels!) as the company has not disclosed information about using renewable energy. It would be nice to see this company start considering what forms of renewable energy they could use to power their machinery in order to be more sustainable. This company is not very transparent when it comes to the manufacturing of the actual shirt which could suggest that the process is very energy intensive. Whilst the whole process is not fully transparent, this company does focus on manufacturing durable items of clothing which is positive as they encourage consumers to look after their purchases in the hope that they will last a long time. The clothes are made to a high standard and there is advice on the company’s website on how to look after their products. This is a very positive initiative to see given that many other customised clothing companies do not actively encourage their customers to make their purchases last a long time.
The company also uses local materials. The cloth used to make their garments is woven in Yorkshire in Britain near the factories where the products are manufactured. The cloth does not have a long way to be transported until it reaches the factories so the carbon footprint is smaller than usual for a large company. The company has also recently abandoned single use plastic delivery bags and replaced them with recyclable paper bags and cardboard boxes. In 2022, plastic pollution is a major issue. Single-use plastic is one of the greatest threats to our environment. Perry Uniform has made a small commitment to sustainability as they have moved away from using harmful single-use plastic that ends up in landfills as soon as it ends up in the hands of the consumer. Biodegradable packaging is a good step towards becoming a more sustainable company. Whilst there are clearly small steps being made, there are no sustainability goals on the company’s website. It would be good to see this company open up about their manufacturing process and how they are planning to minimise its effects on the planet.
The human labour used for assembling and customising the t-shirts takes place in factories in the UK in Armley, West Leeds and London. A provider of Cambridge University merchandise, Perry Uniform manufactures products locally. Items manufactured locally are usually a more sustainable option and this is the case with Perry Uniform. This company is able to make many of their items to order, rather than having to predict customer demands due to a complex global supply chain. As a mostly locally based company, Perry Uniform is able to react faster to customer demand. Producing garments to order is a large positive for the planet as it means that less excess waste is produced like unsold garments which often get thrown away to landfill.
Perry Uniform asserts that efforts are made to ensure that they use ethical suppliers who follow local and international environmental and human rights legislation. This is what they state on their website but they do not go into further details about codes of conduct or how much they pay their workers. There is a slight lack of transparency here about the treatment of workers but ethical responsibility is highlighted as one of the values of the company. Whilst this seems fairly positive, it is questionable whether the company really produces its garments ethically as it supports the harvesting of inorganic cotton which releases harmful chemicals that can make workers on cotton farms unwell and pollute our environment. I would expect a truly ethical company to use organic cotton or even better, an organic and biodegradable fibre that can be grown in the UK. What this company needs is a bit of innovation!