A big consideration for Ong Shunmugam is to design and manufacture our garments responsibly. To lessen our footprint in small, possible ways. To make clothes you can rewear, and reuse season after season. To always take small but purposeful steps that together amount to a grand shift.
We have adopted conscientious operating principles from the day we started business in 2010. As we scale, we have had to consistently pivot across options and alternatives, but we are always holding ourselves accountable to strike a balance between principles, pragmatism and pleasure. We know that as we make improvements we will always encounter new challenges, and though this road is unending it will forever offer us room to change and grow.
We are proud to address and relay the shifts that we continue to make in our practice, and we invite you to learn and join us in becoming a little more thoughtful in our consumption of fashion.
A large portion of our Ready to Wear collections are made in our Chip Bee Gardens studio in Singapore.
Complete control of production allows us to minimise the negative impacts associated with manufacturing. Small-batch manufacturing negates overproduction or oversupply and enables reduction of waste and energy usage wherever possible throughout the production of each garment. Proximity to our design team and customers decreases the need for long-distance shipping, therefore creating a smaller carbon footprint and contributing less to pollution. Simple practices like using both sides of a paper and reusing plastic bags until torn - are house rules.
Domestic manufacturing fosters a healthy cyclical economy, contributes to national employment levels and ensures that employees are treated fairly under Singapore employment laws. In our studio, full-time employees receive Annual Wage Supplements, performance bonuses and Central Provident Fund contributions.
When we manufacture externally, our team develops close, long-term working relationships with the partner factories in our supply chain so that we always have an ear to the ground.
Every season we conduct in-person factory visits to ensure that the people producing our designs in Arita, Guangzhou, London and Yogyakarta are paid fairly, treated respectfully, and work in safe conditions.
Discarding the usual preferences for low costs or corner cutting, we pressure our partner factories for quality, transparency and traceability.
We use responsibly sourced and regenerated textiles whenever possible.
This means each material is intentionally chosen for its traceable origins. When sourcing for our designs, we prioritise natural and regenerated textiles and do not use any fur or leather.
When on-boarding a new textile supplier, we look for partnerships that are Oeko-Tex® 100 Standard, meaning that raw materials will undergo testing to ensure that no harmful chemicals are used.
When we cannot obtain a material domestically, we always ship it in by road or sea - never air freight - which causes 40 to 50 times the CO2 emissions of sea freight.
At Ong Shunmugam we use a significant amount of print in our design vocabulary.
In recent years we’ve gradually transitioned the manufacturing of the majority of our prints from traditional wet printing to digital printing to reduce fabric waste and allow the flexibility to have small runs of production.
Digital printing reduces water waste because the fabric doesn’t need as many wash/rinse cycles, and there are no screens or colourant baths that require cleaning. Instead of forcing garment pieces to fit into a print, we can adjust a print to fit our garment pieces, reducing our overall fabric use.
Artisan Support and Advancement
Ong Shunmugam has always chosen a socially conscious approach to the business of fashion - quietly supporting cottage industries, dying skills and family businesses struggling to survive the next generation.
Cottage industries are often made up of women and small producers who are based in developing countries and lack direct access to globalised markets. By integrating their offerings into the spectrum of our products, we offer direct income streams to these marginalised producers, while growing the audience and appreciation for their work.
When deciding where to manufacture, we often consider proximity to raw materials as well as each factory’s individual strengths and skills. For example, we commission our batik from Yogyakarta with studios that offer premium artisanal work, which in turn means that we can offer employment and economic empowerment to adults in those communities.
What can you do?
Enough about us. What about you?
We can’t do this alone, so let’s team up for some joint action.
Properly caring for your garments helps them to last a long time, conserve natural resources and keep textile waste out of landfills. There are some easy steps you can take to extend the life of your Ong Shunmugam pieces, as well as clothing in general.
- Cold Water
Washing in cold water is better for the environment and better for your garments. Using cold water helps reduce color fading while using less energy.
- Hang Dry
Instead of throwing everything in the dryer, try to hang dry when possible. This saves electricity and avoids fibre degradation, maintaining the integrity of your garments.
- Dry Clean Selectively
If a garment indicates to “dry clean only,” it means that the fabric or construction will not withstand washing. We recommend waiting to clean until absolutely necessary. When it’s time to dry clean, choose a certified environmentally-aware dry cleaner who avoids the use of harmful chemicals like perchloroethylene “perc.” Also, ask them to skip the plastic cover when you pick up.
- Natural Steam
Many of our natural fibres only get better with time. Avoid the iron to keep the natural, easy look. To ease minor wrinkles, hang your garment in the bathroom while you shower. The steam created is usually enough to smooth out most fabrics.