This is how a factory in Jordan is changing the high street…
When it comes to the high street, most of us are trying to change our behaviour to become more ethical shoppers.
And despite the word ‘factory’ sparking cynicism when in relation to fashion, there’s one in Jordan doing things differently.
Oryana Awaisheh is a champion of women’s rights and executive manager at Jerash Garment Factory in Jordan, a pioneering women-only factory that has provided 500 new jobs and opportunities for local women.
They’ve recently collaborated with The North Face to manufacture their International Women’s Day collection of t-shirts and tote bags, cementing the brand’s dedication to supporting women around the world.
The whole initiative is completely female-led, from the design stage - led by The North Face design manager Annaleigh Hockaday - right up to manufacture.
We spoke to Awaisheh and Hockaday to find out what you need to know about the factory.
“Jerash has an excellent reputation for quality manufacturing,” says Hockaday.
“But it wasn’t until we spoke with Oryana Awaisheh that we realised how our designs could positively impact a community of women who had an incredible amount of potential but no opportunities to achieve their goals.
“Oryana has worked with Syrian women fleeing war and Jordanian women in areas lacking opportunities to build a new factory focused around empowering and supporting women in the work place whilst manufacturing premium apparel.
“For us it was the perfect partnership and embodied everything we want to celebrate on March 8th.”
“We have women from all walks of life working with us,” says Awaisheh.
“Our staff is made up of a diverse group of women and we are very proud of them.
“Their background spans seven countries and the women range from being illiterate to university educated.
“We employ refugees who now can support their families and provide for their loved ones.
“Every woman can find a place to belong at Jerash.”
“We ensure that local and foreign women are treated equally,” explains Awaisheh.
“They are protected and they know their rights. We empower them to pursue their dreams within our work environment.
“We do this in different ways, from flexible working hours to equal pay and opportunity, training and childcare provision.
“We want to make our foreign team feel as if they’re in their second home, so we encourage them to decorate and paint the factory in themes from their hometown.
“Female students are given the means to continue studying and working to encourage financial independence.
“Counselling and awareness on mental health are provided to the employees and we have scheduled listening activities to better understand the needs of our immigrant women.
“For example, the illiterate women asked to learn how to read and write, so we arranged to bring in a teacher and a curriculum in their own native language to help them learn to read and write.
“That was really empowering.”
“The North Face is supporting our factories by trusting us with their International Women’s Day orders,” says Awaisheh.
“The main factory is in Amman and we have a secondary one in Al-Hasa - a rural area where the percentage of unemployed women is very high.
“Trusting us with this business is enabling us to create a sustainable working environment in this area.”
“Fabrication, colour (inspired by the suffragist movement) and cut were key to the project being a success,” explains Hockaday.
“This is a new enterprise and many of the women are still learning their trade.
“By choosing a classic tee design and timeless tote bag style we were able to provide a great starting point for the workforce to hone their skills and create impactful pieces that tell a beautiful story of collaboration, determination and empowerment.”
“We are venturing into becoming a green environment factory in partnership with our buyers,” says Awaisheh.
“We are seeking to expand and grow together in the future.
“The North Face is a responsible brand and Jerash is a responsible manufacturer, so by uniting our vision and mission we can create a promising future for workers, employers and the customer.
“We can confidently say the future is bright.”
The North Face have supported women for more than 50 years. Shop its International Women’s Day collection now.