Graham Kay started HolyClothing in 2001. But in reality the story starts in the mid 80s when mother Janice Kay owned a comic book shop. A young Graham showed a natural ability for business, managing the family store by the ripe age of 11.
Fast forward to the late 90s, Graham started doing well on eBay selling Backstreet Boys CDs. Having caught the ecommerce bug, he moved to Asia on a whim, because "that was where everything was being made".
His first stop was Thailand, where he started selling Silk fashions online. But how many people wear silk? He headed north to China, thinking of entering the bath robe business, but quickly left in disgust having been offered robes "made by Chinese prisoners at rock bottom prices".
Looking for somewhere more ethical to source, he headed west to India, a democratic, peaceful country. Walking through a market in New Delhi he was confronted by the most beautiful embroidered garments he had ever seen. He bought a few and soon sales of these romantic garments flourished on eBay and HolyClothing was in business!
Business grew so quickly that Janice was brought out of retirement to handle customer service and design. Graham lived full time in India and built up a dedicated team. One day Rajesh (who still works for HolyClothing), a quality control agent, was physically abused by the owner of a factory that supplied garments to HolyClothing. This, alongside the Chinese "prison labor" incident, was the last straw for Graham which led him to search for a better way.
That way was to design, cut, stitch, embroider and dye each garment, in house with no outside contract labor. Only then could he be assured that each garment was made ethically. That commitment continues to this day. All HolyClothing workers are paid a living wage and treated with respect. In fact we treat our workers with more than respect, we treat them like family.
When a staff member is sick, we take them to the hospital and pay expenses out of our own pocket. We advance them money to send to their family in times of need. We get involved in legal cases, supporting our staff who are often less educated on legal matters. We pay salaries on time, something we take for granted in the West. We pay a living wage. Since we don't use subcontractors, we can be sure that no child labor is employed. Graham regularly visits India to personally ensure standards are being met and exceeded.
Being ethical costs more. Being ethical isn't easy, for example we can't rush to fulfill an order with subcontracted labor. Being ethical takes longer. But it is the right way. The next time you slip on a HolyClothing garment, think of the men and women who created and touched it, we think you'll appreciate us having done it the right way, the ethical way.
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