Toolbox / Local Industry
The garment manufacturing industry in New Zealand is incredibly important, and we are committed to supporting it to thrive.
The reality is however, the industry has a skills and equipment shortage. Many of our local makers have past, or are approaching, retirement age. Currently there are no formal apprenticeship schemes for school leavers, or those who are new to the industry to train and learn the highly technical skills the industry so desperately needs.
There are some excellent design or design / construction mix training institutions, but we need a programme for people who want to learn and work (and be paid) at the same time. Bulk production machinists in New Zealand are typically paid minimum to living wages, and living wages are not common. So for budding machinists or cutters who want to complete a formal qualification, the current system does not make it easy for them to do so.
Some of the reasons why cutters and machinists in New Zealand are paid relatively low wages are:
- New Zealand-made pieces are competing against products that have been made offshore with more efficient systems and technology. Over the past 40 years, as the manufacturing industry in New Zealand has been shrinking, there has been low investment in new technologies and machinery to help make the manufacturing process more efficient.
- Often the minimum wages in countries where New Zealand outsources its manufacturing (i.e. China, Bangladesh, Spain, Turkey, India, Vietnam, Italy, USA) have a minimum wage which is much lower than New Zealand, along with lower requirements for health, safety and taxes.
- Typically when making in New Zealand, manufacturers will do smaller production runs, which from a manufacturing perspective is less efficient than a larger production run.
- In addition, we need to increase the perceived value of the incredible skill required to make beautiful garments, so that we can increase what machinists are being paid.
The key way for us to help support the New Zealand garment industry is through our work with Mindful Fashion.
Alongside Kate Sylvester, our General Manager Emily Miller-Sharma founded Mindful Fashion New Zealand (MFNZ) in 2019. It is a collective of 80+ businesses in the New Zealand garment industry, and its vision is to create a clothing and textiles ecosystem in Aotearoa, New Zealand where business, nature and people all thrive.
The work that MFNZ does is based on a two-pronged theory of change:
By providing services to members, the organisation can help them work more rapidly and collaboratively on making meaningful change.
By the member organisations making more rapid change, and through successful communications and advocacy, MFNZ can influence the wider industry in New Zealand.
Emily is the Vice-Chair of the Board and RUBY actively participates in the work MFNZ does. By doing this, we are contributing to a strategic vision that is agreed upon by members which we think will have a more impactful change, than us acting in a silo.
Some of the projects MFNZ is working on are:
- Developing a formal apprenticeship scheme for machinists
- Workshops on designing out waste - see some of the initiatives we have actioned on reducing waste here
- Linking businesses that can take excess fabric from production with designers to minimise use of landfills
- Climate action programmes - see the work we have done on this programme here
The work and care we put into our product so that each piece is loved for a long time and by many.
We believe in strengthening & educating our local community whether that be those in our team, Rubettes that frequent our stores or those we haven’t met yet.
Insights into our carbon footprint and the plan to reduce our emissions.