Buckle up - four of our Brand and Sustainability team members travelled to Sri Lanka to visit our Seamless fabric factory and what they experienced will actually blow you away. Alison, our Sustainability Communications Specialist, gives us the scoop.
Sri Lanka is halfway around the world. Literally. From our hometown of Vancouver, you can fly East or West and the distance to Sri Lanka is roughly the same, which made my heart flutter when I learned that I would be traveling there to visit one of our factories with three members from our Brand team for a video project. I love to travel and, for me, the further the better.
Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island nation tucked under the Southeast coast of India. With a recorded history dating back 3000 years, Sri Lanka is steeped in rich culture and tradition. It’s home to the world’s oldest living tree, the sacred relic of the tooth of Lord Buddha and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. On top of that, Sri Lanka has some of the world’s most welcoming people and, of course, delicious tea.
We went to Sri Lanka to visit our manufacturing partner, MAS Active, at the Linea Intimo factory in Biyagama, roughly an hour outside the capital city of Colombo. The letters in the name MAS stand for the three brothers who founded the company: Mahesh, Ajay and Sharad. Linea Intimo is where we produce our Seamless fabric products: our Run: Swiftly gear, our Metal Vent Tech tops, and our Ebb & In The Flow line, along with the cutting and sewing of other products like the Cool Racerback Tank.
We didn’t know what to expect before we arrived. Our sourcing and design teams know MAS well, but this was the first time our storytellers have gone to explore. It’s easy to make assumptions about overseas factory stereotypes if you’ve never been, but what we experienced will actually blow you away.
Basically, we spent five days at the factory getting to know the people and processes behind our product. The factory itself was amazing: daily transportation by bus for all employees to and from the facility, hot lunch onsite with afternoon tea breaks, a smoothie bar twice a week, extracurricular classes for employees, and even a breastfeeding bus that takes new mothers home earlier in the day.
The apparel industry in Sri Lanka prides itself on quality craftsmanship and highly technical products, and it was easy to see that everyone at MAS was proud of their work and the products they produce. The apparel industry plays a key role in building the country’s post-conflict economy, employing roughly 15 percent of Sri Lanka’s workforce. The country’s 30-year civil war just ended in 2009, although Sri Lankans don’t spend much time talking about it – they would rather focus on the present and tomorrow’s possibilities.
Through this project, we had the honor of interviewing employees at the factory and traveling to their homes after work to see what life is really like in rural Sri Lanka. We met the friends and families of Kumari, Roshani and Kuruppu (our three video stars) and were welcomed into their homes. We learned about their passions and goals, saw how dedicated the kids are to their homework, sang together (Madonna, if you can believe it), and stumbled through traditional dance moves before snacking on homemade treats. It was amazing.
After meeting many of the people who make our Seamless fabric products possible, I’ll never be able to look at a “made in Sri Lanka” tag the same way again. I think of the people, the culture, the technology, the pride, and realize that sometimes you have to go halfway around the world to fully appreciate the story behind what’s in your closet at home.
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