Mantis World Changing Lives For Tanzania’s Workers

Mantis World creates job opportunities in Tanzania

Clothes going through inspection at Mantis World

Mantis World manufactures basic t-shirts, hoodies etc using GOTS certified cotton under fair trade conditions.

Delivering the world, not costing it. That is the tagline of a clothing brand called Mantis World  which strives to give something to the community. The brand  supports Tanzania’s textile sector and economy in its own way.

Founded by Prama Bharadwaj with a desire to change the lives of workers in Tanzania, Mantis World employs more than 2000 people in the country and buys over $6m worth of Tanzanian cotton each year. The company has been around for more than 10 years now and manufactures basic t-shirts, hoodies etc using GOTS certified cotton under fair trade conditions.

Mantis World is partners with a well established local clothing manufacturer in Tanzania. It promotes organic cotton and other sustainable fabrics and is a member of Textile Exchange and Ethical Fashion Forum. It was in news recently for partnering Gossypium and Textile Exchange to produce limited-edition organic cotton t-shirts to provide funding for cotton farmers to attend the 2011 Textile Exchange Global Conference in Barcelona.

Prama Bhardwaj, Director Mantis World, answered a few questions asked by Make Cotton Sustainable.

How did Mantis World start?

Mantis World was founded in 2000. I studied Development Economics and spent some time working for my family’s business; manufacturing cotton t-shirts in Tanzania. Soon, I realized that business and trade was a powerful force to improve the lives of workers in Tanzania and so I started Mantis World – a clothing brand of “blank” imprintable tees with the focus on high quality, women’s styles and fashionable cuts. Now Mantis World produces a range of Men’s, Women’s, kid’s and baby garments along with offering a Special Production service.

You work with your factories through a ‘Trade Not Aid’ model. What is that?

We believe that rather than relying on aids and handouts, people working in developing countries are best able to lift themselves out of poverty with dignity through trade that is fair. This is particularly true in Africa where a large proportion of the national income is aid money which can have unforeseen negative consequences.

Please tell us more about the recent project you are working on, along with Textile Exchange and Gossypium.

We were contacted by the Textile Exchange to collaborate with them and Gossypium to produce a range of organic t-shirts that would be sold to raise money to bring Organic Farmers to the Sustainable Textiles Conference in Barcelona and to raise awareness of the benefits of organic cotton. Gossypium came up with three designs for men, women and children. As often as not, these projects are always done last minute and we had next to no time to turn it around. Luckily we hold blank organic t-shirts in stock in the UK and we had them printed, made the swing tags that told the story of the collaboration. We also printed the story of the t-shirt into the back neck explaining the origins of the organic cotton in Tanzania and how the garment came to be here. It’s a great project as it emphasizes traceability at every stage of production and collaboration between like minded organisations.

What are the steps you take as an eco-friendly clothing company, to conserve water?

We believe water is a precious resource becoming increasingly scarce – especially in the context of increasing population levels and climate change. We look at water usage in all stages of production – our organic cotton for example is all rain-fed rather than irrigated. We work with our dye houses to ensure they are using high quality dyes and are operating efficiently to ensure high right-first-time ratios. In Tanzania, waste water is recycled to wash down machinery and in the plumbing. We only work with dye houses that have functioning ETP (Effluent Treatment Plant) to ensure the water returned to the environment is done so safely.

We provide high quality, long lasting clothing to avoid the “throw away” mentality of cheap clothing.

Where do you source your organic cotton from?

We work with BioRe who have organised over 2000 organic cotton farmers in Tanzania. They work on a fair trade principle, paying the farmers a premium, offering finance and investing in community projects.

 Mantis World has been around for almost a decade. Is the textile industry more responsive to sustainability now? How?

Actually we’ve been around for 11 years! When we first started, people thought green or ethical clothing was confined to a small niche of well-meaning but uncommercial, hippy types. It was hard to be taken seriously talking about sustainability with customers. Today it is very different – everyone along the chain now realizes that sustainability issues must be grasped and discussed. Of course there are many who are simply paying lip-service, and some of the green-washing we’ve seen has actually been very funny.  However most serious players – and most importantly – big buyers with a lot of power in the market are taking sustainability very seriously. This will pull the entire supply chain along too. We’ve always believed that to be sustainable as a business in the long run, you must take care of the environment and the people around you. Today we’re glad to see more and more businesses agree. Scientific research and the growth of new technology will drive the industry further down our journey towards sustainability.

Photo Courtesy: Mantis World

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