We didn't know we were the world's first open source apparel manufacturer. Our friends in the programming community pointed it out to us. But now that we know, that's exactly what we want to be. Nor did we know that open source could apply to making clothes as opposed to writing code. But it can. Here's how.
In the world of the computer, open source means exposing the source code rather than locking it away like the family jewels. It means, further (depending on the particular licensing agreement) that users who modify the code agree to make those modifications open source. That's how open source stays open. That's how it fosters cooperation. And that's why open source means good, robust code -- and a good cause.
The apparel industry has traditionally operated on a closed source model, source here meaning clothing source, the actual (almost always outsourced) site of production. You hid your source from competitors because you didn't want them flocking to your favorite cut-rate factories. With the advent of the anti-sweatshop movement, you especially hid your sources from consumers: you didn't want them finding out their t-shirts come from sweatshops in Indonesia, Bangladesh, or even the USA. Inhuman working conditions, fear, mandatory underpaid overtime -- these kinds of things can and do piss off enough consumers these days to permanently damage a brand.
We hereby announce a break with all that. We are the first-- we think, the first of many -- apparel maker to go open source. We will tell you about our sources, highlight them, show them off. The workers who make our clothes will have living wages and decent working conditions; they will have unions. Will that lead our competition to the same shops? Excellent. We want our sources to thrive. That's the whole point. Or a good part of it, anyway. The other part of open source apparel making is a challenge to our competitors: let them, too, reveal their sources. Let them suffer shame and loss of revenue for favoring sweatshops. Let them reap the rewards of choosing union shops and respecting workers rights.
We hear that in the digital world, this is called a virtuous circle. Our mission is to bring some virtue into the apparel industry.