Thursday 24 December 2009

All the best for the Christmas season and the New Year!

Not to mention new decade.....

Photographer: Scott Hortop
There's not a lovingly printed t-shirt in sight in this image but we like it, captured earlier this year in our village base of Thames Ditton by yours truly!

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Envision - The Truth about Youth

Envision is a national education charity that provides hands on support to young people in schools and colleges in the Uk on issues such as citizenship, sustainable development and help for their local communities. They do this through organising practical projects that will have a positive impact on these young people, their schools and communities.

We were asked by Envision to produce t-shirts for the launch event of their Truth About Youth campaign, itself entitled The Kick Off because it was held at Villa Park, the home of Aston Villa in Birmingham.

Over 300 volunteers attended the event, representing a larger network of 800 young people in Birmingham who are giving up an hour a week for the nine months to develop their own youth-led community action projects. These will tackle issues ranging from youth stereotypes to climate change - the former issue giving rise to the Truth About Youth title.

There was an important networking element to the event - all about encouraging young people and adults to actively engage with each other on important issues such as sustainability, community cohesion, social justice and climate change. The Kick Off was just the first of many other events, activities and programmes that will give a voice to the views and opinions of the young people of Birmingham. Over the course of the 2 year campaign the Truth About Youth will aim to support over 700 young people to deal positively with the challenge of growing up in an environment where there is all too often a mistrust of youth.

In the photo participants had just received our t-shirts and look well pleased with what they've got (we did not set this shot up, honest!). The ethics that go into out t-shirt printing from source to the environmentally friendly printing processes mean that the t-shirts match the principles of the campaign.

Find out more about Envision at their website.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Great Gorillas! 2009 update....

It was about a year ago when we first featured one of our more quirky clients, the Gorilla Organization who promote the annual Great Gorilla Run through the streets of London.

No client buys as many oversized T-shirts as the Gorilla Organisation does. This is where the XXL size comes into its own, having to fit over a gorilla costume worn by a participant who is often lean - and definitely fit - to complete a 7km run and entertain bemused and amused passers by on the streets of the City of London.

Last year we focussed on the race itself, but the race itself has to be promoted throughout the year to ensure that as many participants as possible run to raise sponsorship. This means that gorilla volunteers are out in their gorilla suits and our Great Gorilla Run T-shirts earlier in the year signing up new runners.

The most successful promotion of the run centred on the 4th plinth at Trafalgar Square. Yes, a supporter of the Gorilla Organisation commandeered the fourth plinth for an hour as part of Anthony Gormley's 100 day living monument "One and Other". The race participant Martin Payne took to the plinth in gorilla costume and Tshirt while dozens of gorilla suited supporters did a silent disco around the plinth, all wearing the Great Gorilla Run T. The organisers not only raised the profile of the event through the video coverage (see here) but also sold many Tshirts on the day to onlookers at Trafalgar Square, many of whom joined in the disco.

This year over 600 participants turned out for the Great Gorilla Run on 26 September. Many had been inspired by Martin's performance and the silent gorilla disco dancers of Trafalgar Square.

A new look at

Many familiar with the Pier 32 site will not necessarily be aware of our separate TShirt printing site at That site gets a mention in our blog because it has just undergone a design revamp aimed at bringing our ethical options on promotional clothing to the attention of a generally younger audience involved in the music and events industries, and the student audience in general.

Whether involved in the promotion of bands, organisation of an event or festival, running a campaign or simply promoting a student society, young people are acutely aware of ethical issues in the clothing industry but also face financial constraints. The new site will communicate with these people and present the options that Pier32 has available in a punchy youth targetted design.

The site will carry some youth oriented lines not available at the Pier 32 site. So if you are looking to promote your band or event, check out the new

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Looking forward to Autumn

It's been a while since our last blog update - the summer holiday period and other diversions (related to this business I should add!) have meant that the blog had taken second place to these other activities. But here we are at the keyboard again and what we want to do now is update you of some exciting developments that are around the corner....

We've been looking at new ranges of clothing to offer to expand our offerings to more specific industries and groups. In particular we have been impressed with the new customisable clothing that Kustom Kit have in their new ranges and we will shortly be presenting three new collections aimed at:

The Hospitality Industry - a range of clothing aimed at bars, restaurants, hotels and the catering sector. Christened 'Bargear', comfortable and stylish tailoring to ensure that your staff remain presentable, looking smart and cool in the hot house atmoshere that can often arise in these industries.

Sports Clubs - here Kustom Kit bring 'Gamegear'. Whether you run a health club or a sports team this is a new range of clothing in 'Cooltex' which looks to bring style, comfort and value into this market.

Corporate Wear - from more formal shirts to 'smart casual' the new Corporate wear collection is aimed at teams operating in public facing roles in a host of industries, with 'non-iron' cotton among the options on offer.

As you might expect from a company whose range Pier 32 chooses to promote, Kustom Kit operate under a comprehensive Ethical Code.

We are also looking forward to putting on line the new catalogue of clothing from Starworld, our Egyptian based supplier of ethical promotional clothing with WRAP certification and a great value organic range too. Starworld continues to be the best value out there for organisations whose buying considerations include price, quality and the welfare of the worker along the supply chain.

Finally, we are looking to carry out a revamp of our website. We've been listening to comments that, for example, t-shirts can be found under no less than 3 headings in our drop down menus. What we aim to do is have easy links for t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, kids wear, Hi Viz gear and many other items as well as the new kustom Kit ranges. Behind these links you will find our most popular lines of promotional clothing, whether the source is Starworld, the Continental fashion range or the many other options in our 'Clothing Catalogue'. There will also be Ethical pen pictures of the suppliers to hand with further links to our Ethical Brand Profiles in this blog. The aim, together with our fast, responsive "Quick Quote" service, always backed up with our friendly telephone advice, is to make the whole process of buying custom promotional clothing - ethically - as easy as possible for our customers.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Tomorrow is Earth Day - and a great idea from WRAP

WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) - a very important organisation to Pier 32 in our efforts to make sure that we bring our customers ethically produced clothing - announced its support for Earth Day (tomorrow, 22nd April) by offering all its staff members a half-day leave to work on the environmental project of their choice.

"In our constant communication with facility owners, buyers, trade associations, governments, labour leaders, relevant NGOs and consumers, it is clear that the term 'sustainability' for the environment and the planet means action by us all", WRAP's President and CEO, Steve Jesseph said. "To support Earth Day, our offices will close at noon, April 22, to allow all staff members to work on the environmental project of their choice. We encourage all WRAP-certified facilities, and all those with a concern for the environment, to actively support Earth Day 2009."

By the way, "The Green Generation" is the theme for Earth Day 2009, campaigning on three fronts:

1. A carbon-free future based on renewable energy that will end our common dependency on fossil fuels, including coal.
2. An individual's commitment to responsible, sustainable consumption.
3. Creation of a new green economy that lifts people out of poverty by creating millions of quality green jobs and transforms the global education system into a green one.

Want to know more about Earth Day?

Meanwhile, in looking at this news on the WRAP website we also noted that WRAP is developing an enhanced environmental program called "WRAPe" scheduled to launch this year. We look forward to being able to report more.

Monday 6 April 2009

Our client - Quad Safari

We've featured many of our clients that use our clothing to promote events, but here's something a little different in that Quad Safari not only kit out their own people with Hoodies and T-Shirts supplied by Pier 32 but also sell them on to the public as fashion clothing.

Quad Safari sell their clothing on their site and through their online shop. Visit the shop to see the huge importance placed on the fact that these garments are manufactured by Starworld in Egypt to the exacting WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) standards. The clothing's environmental credentials with Oeko-Tex 100 certification are also very important.

Charles Barry of Quad Safari told us:

"Pier 32 has been great to work with; everything from the help in designing the artwork, to delivering on time, they have been professional from start to finish. Quad Safari chose Pier 32 above the rest, because we demand high quality garments that are hard wearing, affordable and ethically sourced. The Starworld clothing is considerably better quality than other personalised clothing that you see."

If you, like Quad Safari, want people to go on wearing the clothing because of the promotional benefit it brings then we think that our design service is just what you need helping to turn a potential promotional throwaway into something that you'd want to wear again and again. With the WRAP and Oeko-Tex certifications, and their hard wearing characteristics, Starworld garments also provide that all important "keep me, I'm special" feeling that you get when you are given or buy something with a little more value than the crowd.

Quad Safari are happy that they are getting clothing that will be of long term promotional benefit to them; contact us at Pier 32 to find out how we can help you.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

Met nicked! (our idea)

With our background supplying a range of charities and groups such as Stop the War Coalition, Global Justice and Student Action for Refugees, it was no surprise when we were approached by the Met Police for advice on the best clothing to wear to police today's demonstrations in the City of London to coincide with the G20 global summit.

The brief was simple - to come up with clothing that would minimise the risk of violence so that the whole day would go off as peacefully as possible.

We sent our design team to New Scotland Yard and there, in consultation with some of the front line officers, we came up with our masterplan. The police we argued, were as impacted by global warming and the collapse of the banks as many protesters. By avoiding wearing riot gear and dressing in our simple fluorescent t-shirts - and their regular hats of course - they would be able to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate their intent to avoid any nastiness. Further, we suggested that the t-shirts should carry slogans to demonstrate their affinity with many of the views of the protesters - slogans such as:

  • Bring peace to the streets - hug a masked hoodie
  • My patrol car's a Prius, my other car is a police horse
  • I bank with RBS, and
  • It's a fair cop - Fair Trade Now!
We also suggested that as many of the protesters would be carrying flowers, the police should carry daffodils rather than truncheons.

Those of you looking at the scenes today can see our disappointment that our idea did not get carried through. But they did nick some of our ideas! At the time of writing there is no sign of riot gear and all the police are wearing fluorescent yellow!

But we don't mind, right now things are relatively peaceful - and let's hope it stays that way.

Friday 27 March 2009

High tech meets fair trade

We could not help but notice this article "Ethical Sourcing - Securing Values as well as Value in the Supply Chain" in our travels around the web. It seems that the revolution in the clothing industry, with fair trade, eco friendly and organic products taking up more and more shelf space, has been spotted by those outside the industry in the consulting speak worlds of ERP and PDM.

For those not in the know, that's Enterprise Resource Planning and Product Development Management. Wiser now? Maybe. Let's put it another way. The writer of the article would have you think that the romantic vision of the buyer from a fashion store getting on a tiny single prop plane to some remote Indonesian island to sign a contact to supply garments to the UK high street on the verandah of a colonial style 19th century home is well and truly dead. This vision is replaced, yes, by a computer which at one end measures what's shifting off the shelves and at the other end evaluates the supplier options in terms of ethical credentials and price to automatically order just the right amount of clothing from the right supplier at the best price and move those garments to hit the shelves in teh High Street just before they become empty.

"User configurable fields allow you to input information regarding aspects such as a supplier's child labour avoidance, management accountability, wages and working hours. From this data Syscom PDM calculates a colour-coded ethical trading rating for each supplier".

It goes further in trying to make sure that big companies are not cought out my the odd rogue supplier:

"Having software in place that provides.... traceability is crucial. Choose a system that offers multi-dimensional item coding.... allows goods and materials to be traced through variable sourcing, manufacturing and finishing processes, creating transparency across the supply chain".

It will be some time before Pier 32 installs an ERP system. We'll be using good old human contact for a while yet. But we're fascinated to see how changes in the clothing industry have been noticed outside that industry and the importance of ethical issues spreads to suppliers not normally associated with high ethical awareness.

Friday 20 March 2009

Ethical production spreading in Asia

With much of the globe's clothing production being concentrated in Asia it's good to see signs that many ethical and environmental values are being focussed on by many producers in Asia. And this, it seems, is a reaction to the general trend in the USA and Europe towards a more ethical outlook rather than as the direct result of Western companies intervening to force production. It's in anticipation of the market moving that way.

We particularly noted this trend in an AFP article "Eco Concerns Slowly Turning Asia's Textiles Green" which to note a few points:

  • At the Paris Texworld textile trade fair it was noted how in China, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, South Korea and Taiwan the production of natural fibres and organic yarns under fair trade practices and clean processing had been subject to a sharp increase
  • Eco-Friendly is the buzz word - it apparently adds 15% to production costs but this is more and more seen to be a price worth paying
  • Companies are gearing up towards increased production of organic cotton and hemp
  • Even in China the message is hitting home
Producers accept the increased cost of eco-friendly production - but a worry is the additional cost of accreditation without which eco-friendly claims are viewed with submission.

Here at Pier 32, aside from the even more stringent organic certifications, it is the Oeko-Tex environmental standard you will find on much of the clothing we sell. Look out for it when ordering your next printed t-shirts.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Gospel with no limits

Every year the King's College London University, Gospel Music Society put on an end of year concert to showcase all the songs that the choir has learnt and all the dances that their dance troupe has practiced. They also invite the local
schools that have participated on a volunteering project to perform all in the aid of raising money for a charity.

The aim of the society is to spread the good news of the Jesus Christ on Campus through Gospel music and this event is the centrepiece of their year.

When they were looking for a company to print T-shirts for their concert, they found Pier 32. They were very excited at the prospect of using us - not only were we extremely competitive in our prices but also they liked our environmentally friendly and ethical credentials. They were thrilled even more when they found out that we could sponsor them!

They were pleased that while we were volunteering and raising money for our charity this year in purchasing our concert T-shirts we were also choosing an environmentally friendly company.

But it went further - they worked with our design team to get the T-shirts, bearing the "No Limits" slogan and artwork, right and felt that Pier 32 really brought their design to life - they were exceptionally pleased with our end product.

Judging by the photo from the performance itself, they and their audience had a great night!

Monday 9 March 2009

Recycle your plastic, wear an EcoCap!

Yes it's a baseball cap, but a short time ago, the material from which it is constructed might have been helping refresh you when you needed a cool drink.....

It's our newest line in eco-friendly clothing, the EcoCap is constructed from recycled PET plastic bottles, the sort that contains bottled water or fizzy drinks and which would take thousands of years to decompose if sent to landfill. You may imagine that it is simply recycled into more plastic bottles but, no, it can undergo a metamorphosis into something you wear on your head!

To the right is a great illustration of what goes into the recycling process. You might imagine that labels etc are carefully removed before the plastic is processed but in fact the bottles are shredded whole and then processed to separate undesirable elements and produce pure 'PET flakes'. From this point the PET flakes are used as the raw material for a range of products that would otherwise be made of polyester, and that includes clothing.

About three-quarters of the PET flakes are used to make polyester fabric products. Much of the remainder is extruded into plastic sheet to construct containers, or be compounded for moulding applications. For clothing, the PET flakes are spun into yarn which is then woven into cloth before becoming a baseball cap to carry your printed or embroidered custom logo.

Go to our regular site to see more examples of this new recycled eco-friendly baseball cap which is available in two styles and a huge range of colours.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

London Fashion Week goes all eco....

My attention was grabbed by an article in the Guardian (reproduced here) which featured a whole slew of names showing their latest eco-friendly and/or fair trade designs on the catwalk this week. You could be excused for getting the impression that the whole British fashion scene has gone ethical (it hasn't) but nevertheless the breadth of designers showing their ethical fashions is truly encouraging.

Whether in a "eco-collective" such as the Conscious Designers Collective (it would be rude to suggest that London Fashion Week designers by nature spend most of their time unconscious) or Esthetica (a London based sustainable fashion initiative) or a snazzy underwear producer "Pants to Poverty" or ultimate recycled fashion in the shape of Junky Styling, there's clearly a lot going on.

In amidst all this, Defra (no not a fashion label, it stands for Deparment For Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but you knew that didn't you?) launched its new Sustainable Clothing Action Plan.

"The Sustainable Clothing Roadmap has brought together over 300 organisations, from high street retailers, to designers and textile manufacturers to battle the environmental impacts of 'throw away fashion'. Companies and some of the biggest names in fashion have signed up to take actions to make a significant difference to the environmental footprint and social inequalities which blight some of the production and retail processes of consumer fashion."

It's good to see Continental Clothing (our supplier of organic t-shirts) and featuring prominently in a separate Guardian article on this initiative. Of course there's a slew of other bigger names in there, like M&S, Tesco and Sainsbury - they'll no doubt not be stopping selling throwaway clothing but at least will be featuring more prominently lines which are ethically produced and will last more than two washes.....

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Ethical brands - getting the word out, or keeping things close to the chest?

We've been contacted by a UK University student union anxious to make sure that their student societies are armed with the information they need to make ethical choices on tshirt printing and other promotional clothing.

They already read the ethical profiles in our blog and find them useful in the decision making process, with different societies having differing needs. However they've made us aware that some of the unanswered questions that we raise leave them a little nervous about certain suppliers and they have even done a little investigating themselves to try and get to answers.

In the case of Fruit of the Loom, they contacted the company to ask about getting a copy of their Ethical Policy and were told that they don't hand it out to customers. With Fruit of the Loom exercising their right to silence, and the unanswered question against them in our original article further investigation was thought appropriate. What has become clear is that their new giant production plant (based at Skhirat, Morocco) is still under construction. When it is complete the facility (producing fabric from raw cotton) should be the biggest of its kind in Africa. The issue for the University Union is whether the company can now be trusted to be ethical or not.

To recap, Fruit of the Loom got bad publicity because of its dismissal of union officials in Morocco in 2000/2001. That was before the company was taken over by Berkshire Hathaway. Since then there has been apparently no similar bad publicity connected with its operations. The vertically integrated company means that Fruit of the Loom should be able to keep control over working conditions all along the supply chain - with the exception of the raw cotton production which is out of their hands.

Even if Fruit of the Loom keep their cards close to their chest, one thing we thought one could expect from a Berkshire Hathaway company would be close adherence to the laws of the countries in which they operate and their own "Code of Business Conduct and Ethics". An issue in 2001 was that local government was strongly anti union and may have permitted Fruit of the Loom to act in contravention of Moroccan law and their requirement to comply with International Labour Conventions that it had ratified.

The new plant is in a different location, and Fruit of the Loom should be expected to act to different standards now. Even if we are not sure explicitly what those standards are, the lack of bad publicity is good news. At the same time, unions in Morocco are actively pressurising the government to enforce a new labour code put in place in 2005 - however, it seems from this article from 2007, local governments are often flouting the code. But at least there is a new code and the signs are (although I can't be sure) that the 2000/2001 issues would not have arisen under this new code.

One has to contrast the lack of communication of Fruit of the Loom with the relative openness of Gildan. Both these vertically integrated compies have had union problems in overseas countries in the past. However Gildan have worked quite publicly with outside groups to move on. Under the skin there may be little difference in how individual employees are treated, but we just don't know.

Monday 9 February 2009

Platform2 to Ghana, Peru, India... and Aberdeen

We continue to trace Pier32 printed tshirts to far flung parts of the planet and here we see them being worn by volunteers from the UK charity Platform2 which as best illustrated through its website is responsible for sending adventurous volunteers to Ghana, South Africa, Peru, India or Malawi to help aid or relief operation.

Unlike some other aid programmes, it's aimed at people who wouldn't otherwise get the chance to volunteer abroad, so it's fully-funded and free for the volunteer. Platform2 is fully funded by the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID) and is run by a consortium of charities, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and BUNAC.

One of the important features of Platform2 is that the volunteers are asked to relate the benefits and experiences of their trip in their community - through music, art, film, photography - whatever the volunteer may be into.

Here is a video of Platform2 volunteers sporting their Pier 32 tshirts going from Glasgow to Aberdeen to promote Platform 2 to young people in another part of Scotland.

The tshirts, which carry the simple but cutting slogan "Some people wait for change to happen", often get worn by volunteers in the field but are especially intended to help promote Platform2 in the UK. One is given to every volunteer at their initial briefing day and they take them to the country they travel to. When they come back, they attend a 3-day residential course where they discuss and are given ideas on how they're going to express their experiences of working in countries where poverty is so widespread and what they're going to do to promote Platform2. When they promote the scheme, they always wear their t-shirts.

We think it's all in all a great concept and are proud that we can supply ethically sound products that work so well to support Platform2 both in the UK and abroad.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

I "heart" Y "heart" Pier32

The city of York has a thriving art scene - our client Special Day Films had the excellent idea that it needs something of a collective badge for this talent to wear and promote both art and York (and especially art in York!) to inspire more people from all backgrounds to get involved in exercising their creative side.

The I "heart" York t-shirt, printed on fair trade clothing supplied by Starworld of Africa, was perfect for their needs. The pricing hit the spot, yes, but very importantly for the artistic community, the fact that the t-shirts are fairly traded, Starworld being accredited by WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production), means that the artists wearing the shirts can make a bigger statement that extends beyond the boundaries of York.

In the image above the artist Ian Parkin makes his statement. While the concept is in its infancy, a website is already there to show off some of the talent and allow the people of York to grab a t-shirt and be part of the action.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Kids' City

Kids' City is a children's charity providing out of school play, activities and childcare in disadvantaged areas in South London. It was started by a bunch of parents and school staff in 1995 and now it works in 16 primary schools before school, after-school and during school holidays.

The organisation is a social enterprise so it operates like a business but looks to make a social change, not a financial gain. It makes a charge to parents who can afford to pay and has a range of ways for families to get involved, for example by exchanging their time as volunteers so their kids come along for free. Kids' City has a wide volunteering programme and runs its own training centre and through this it assists unemployed people, particularly mums wanting to get into work, to get play or sports qualifications.

Kids' City is a community effort with young people from 14 up to 70 offering their help in all sorts of ways. Even the children in the schemes help out with giving ideas, deciding what toys to buy and designing activities programmes.

Many adults forget that in a relatively short time, the sorts of places they used to play in as children have disappeared through heavy traffic, housing developments and general fear of crime. The streets of London are much tougher places for today's children but organisations like Kids' City offer alternatives to computer games, tv and the anti-social activities that can follow through boredom and perceived disconnection from society. The work that Kids' City does builds individual's self esteem and perhaps most importantly, good communications skills, sense of purpose and promotes a real sense of belonging.

The positive impact as judged by the local community can be measured in that over 220 local volunteers have come forward to help the full and part time workers employed by Kids' City in the running of their centres.

There are several things that Kids' City like about Pier 32. One is that we've been able to deliver the clothes they need for their staff without compromising on their ethos to do good in every way they can. There's no point in helping children today and harming children of tomorrow or children in other countries!

Secondly, over the years they've gone from ordering relatively small amounts of our cheaper lines to today's comprehensive staff uniform of t-shirts, fleeces and outdoor coats. They feel they've always received excellent service including advice about robustness, the 'right' colour yellow, and we've been very happy to liaise directly with their designers (also volunteers) in non-standard ways. They feel that their staff look good and the clothes meet their needs for functionality and practicality. And as a busy medium sized charity, they often need things in a hurry and despite this they note that "there has never been a hint of frustration in Gerry's voice" when they ring!

Of course, Kids' City are price conscious and annually review costs. This tells us that Pier 32's clothing is very competitively priced despite the benefit they get from the added value of the ethical sourcing and the excellent service. Kids' City continue to be glad to do business with Pier 32 and you can see examples of our successful partnership in their annual report on the home page at