Sustainability and ethics are huge buzzwords in the fashion industry but the manufacturing stage can often be overlooked. One person trying to change all that is Zack Sartor, with his garment development, sampling and production unit in east London, who believes that a few small changes to processes can make a big difference.
Zack Sartor never thought he’d be running a garment factory but he’s gaining a growing reputation for his fresh approach to responsible manufacturing in London’s east end. The 27-year-old Canadian has been running his growing business in Bow for the past five years, specialising in bespoke manufacturing for small start-ups and medium-sized brands, as well as larger labels looking for UK production with greater transparency and flexibility.
It certainly wasn’t what he imagined when he started his career in Paris studying Fashion Design at Istituto Marangoni, then moved to London looking for a position as a designer.
“After dozens of interviews, I realised that the market was flooded with designers, but there was big demand for sample makers, technical services and production,” he says.
“During one of these interviews, I was asked to do some freelance garment tech and sample work for a brand called HotSquash, which eventually became ApparelTASKER’s first contract.”
The company has grown gradually as demand increased and ApparelTASKER now has approximately 40 machinists with a capacity in the region of 750-1000 per week, depending on styles. Today he describes ApparelTASKER as a fashion services company, offering garment development, sampling and manufacturing from a conveniently-located London base.
The factory has been gradually expanding its floor space, in an area that is undergoing massive change. It is close to the new fashion hub Poplar Works, a cluster of other manufacturers and designers and is becoming known as the new home for fashion in London.
In addition to providing CMT services, Zack’s team can work with brands to convert ideas and sketches of designs into technical drawings. They can then offer pattern making, fabric and trim sourcing, as well as sampling charged on an hourly basis.
Production pricing is calculated on the complexity and quantities with a general minimum order of fifty per style. The company can offer smaller production runs, as Zack wants to remain accessible to newer brands starting out to hopefully grow together.
Like many of the brands he works with, Zack is focused on the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. He champions a holistic view of responsible manufacturing, which he sees as taking responsibility for the products he produces, the environment, employees and customers, while continually looking for ways to improve the overall process and business.
“We’re constantly looking for ways to use resources in a smarter, more efficient way, and use technology effectively to improve our processes,” says Zack.
“We have a tracking system that means we can monitor every step of the production process in real-time for full traceability but also to see where improvements can be made.”
“We carry out checks on the fabric and suppliers providing raw materials and trim to us via a client or third party supplier so we can optimise our processes and make recommendations if required, and we use state-of-the-art equipment to ensure the safety of our employees, as well as great garment quality.”
Recently the company has added a new band cutting machine for swim and technical garments and an automated Rouleau sewing machine for swimwear. They have also switched from halogen to LED lights along with other energy saving systems, which has reduced energy consumption by more than 85%, and are using biodegradable poly bags, recycled paper tape and natural rubber glue for the packaging they send out.
“To me there is no one single action you can take to be more sustainable,” says Zack.
“It is about continual improvement in every direction. We have zero waste in our production processes, which is something I’m really proud of,” he explains.
“The fabric arrives and we cut it in the most efficient way possible. We try to use offcuts within our supply chain first and foremost and what we can’t is collected by a company located close by, which then burns it for electricity.”
“It’s also about company culture and how everyone has a responsibility – but also the authority – to cut down on waste and ensure great quality. If there is damage, then we’ll take that piece back and repair it. I want our products to last and be loved.”
Zack says he’s proud of making in London and championing UK manufacturing.
“Having a ‘made in London’ label means something in terms of quality but also the flexibility and efficiency it offers for designers,” he says.
However, despite increasing demand, he says he has no ambitions of running a huge factory.
“I don’t want to be big. I want to stay small and nimble but keep diversifying in every direction so we can build a community where we are. It’s an exciting time because new brands are constantly emerging that want to be better for our planet. We’re trying to be part of that change too,” he concludes.