Big YAY for the first english post on my blog. I am super proud presenting you this informative interview with Mudassar who founded the fair fashion brand organic socks of sweden. I met him during Greenshowroom and I was totally fascinated by his story and knowledge. Curtain up for Mudassar.
When was the first time you came in contact with the textile industry?
I born and grew up in Faisalabad -an industrial city in Pakistan which is also known as textile city. I came in contact with textile industry as a kid because of small weaving factories in our neighborhood. As a teenager I was fascinated of colors and prints on the textiles. It was obvious for me to study textile engineering and start career in textile sector. I specialized in dyeing and finishing processes and in my first job my assignment was to research and find cheaper colors and chemicals to lower the production cost, it was then I understood that it doesn’t matter how toxic is the colors or the chemicals that are being used in the mainstream industry, the main focus is often to keep the production cost at lowest possible.
Why did you decide to study in Sweden, 3000 miles away from your homeland?
To study a master program abroad was my dream since I was studying my bachelor. After working 8 years in the textile industry, I wanted to learn international perspective of textile Supply chain. That’s why I chose to study textile value chain management at Swedish School of Textiles at University of Borås. I choose Sweden for multiple reasons, 1) I love nature so it was obvious for me to be attracted to a country that is popular for it’s beautiful nature, also known as land of lakes. 2) I had positive impression of Sweden from my brother who was studying in Sweden (He told me about nice people, very well organized country, good welfare system, quality of education and equal rights for all).
What is the biggest difference between these two lands?
In general weather in Pakistan is very HOT in summer but in Sweden it’s not so hot and winter is comparatively longer here in Sweden with a lot of snow.
But speaking from my profession’s point of view, Pakistan is an industrial land and Sweden is a consumption land. Industry create jobs but the unfair working conditions for labor create poverty and usage of tons of toxic chemicals in industry pollutes the environment and damage the health of people. In other words consumer behavior – unconscious choices of people in consumption lands like Sweden damage the environment and creates poverty in Industrial lands like Pakistan. When people keep buying fast fashion on extremely low prices it gives signal to the chain stores that what kind of products they should produce. To keep the prices low chain stores press the prices to the limits and because of their higher bargain power due to very high volume orders, factories do every possible effort to win the orders but to meet the extremely low prices they use cheapest possible dyes and chemicals and press the salaries of workers (12 hours working shift is quite common, child labor do exist in some factories, people work 6 days a week & sometimes on weekend as well but still they are poor and have hard time to survive economically). Most amazing thing is that common people in consumption lands like Sweden are unconscious about the impact of their choices on the environment and poverty it creates on the other side of the globe.
Did you have like a key moment for the idea of founding your own label? What was your intention?
Although I have had the passion for entrepreneurship and to contribute for a better world and to do something good for the environment, health of people, education of children in the rural areas and to reduce the poverty since long. But key moment came (5 years ago in 2013) when I did some projects on Fast fashion while I was studying in Borås and learned how big damage textile industry is making on the environment. We buy a lot of fast fashion garments that we hardly use and tons of textiles go to the landfills every year.
I wanted to inquire why people have such consumer behavior and why it’s not common amongst the common to choose eco, fair and sustainable fashion. Answer that I found in my research was that there weren’t enough eco choices available in the market and available products were boring, old fashion, poor in quality and at the same time expensive in price.
I wanted to contribute to bring high quality modern products in the market on affordable prices so that people see high value in an eco product and as a better alternative to the traditional non-eco fast fashion.
Although I have had a dream to start my own business since I was studying Master in Business Administration in my home country but i never found a business idea that I was passionate to work with. For me doing business is not about earning a lot of money, it’s about the impact i can make with my business, inspire, challenge and set example for others. I wanted to lead the change in the consumer behavior and in the textile industry that’s why I implemented best standards for my label to make an impact, set an example for others and to fill the gap in the market that I found in my research.
Since I had worked for 8 years as a product development engineer in one of the world’s largest socks manufacturer, I gained good knowledge about socks quality, comfort &functional features and choice of materials. In other words socks were part of my DNA. Socks are often ignored but are very important part of one’s dressing. The type of socks i wanted were missing in the market so it was obvious for me to start with socks and fill the market gap, since I like colors and patterns so I choose to develop fun socks with high focus on quality, comfort and functionality.
What have been the greatest challenges for you during the last years?
To find a supplier who could meet my tough requirements was the biggest challenge. Even though I have had a big network in the textile sector around the globe it took me 2 years to find a supplier.
As it’s my first business, other challenge for me has been to learn to run a business. I like to work with the product development but running a business requires a lot of other skills and administration.
Unlike traditional fashion, market for eco fashion is yet not big enough to expand business, suppliers requires high minimum order volumes but it’s difficult to sell high volumes when customer group is not big enough.
Do you think that the awareness of the costumer changed over the last years when it comes to fair fashion?
Yes, I think there is a huge change since I started. I strongly believe that the future belongs to eco & fair fashion. There are more and more people engaging to spread the awareness and more & more consumers are getting conscious about their choice and impact of their consumption on the environment.
What is your goal for the next years?
To develop Organic Socks of Sweden on the global market, add more products and continue to spread awareness. Currently we are giving back 1% of our sales to help poor families and children education in rural Pakistan, I wish we can contribute more in the future and make a bigger impact.
// this Interview is rooted in my personal interest in giving inspiring people a voice. I got the Socks as a pr sample but I am not paid for this picture nor for publishing this interview