Nachhaltige TreeCaps aus Europa – viel einfacher gesagt als getan! - NIKIN EU

Sustainable TreeCaps from Europe – much easier said than done!

A sustainable TreeCap made in Europe. For a long time this was high on our list of goals. From now on our TreeCaps will be manufactured exclusively in Europe. A long-sought goal could finally be achieved, but it was an incredibly long and nerve-wracking journey to get here. Find out more about the lengthy development of the TreeCaps newly manufactured in Europe.

A sustainable TreeCap made in Europe. For a long time this was high on our list of goals. From now on our TreeCaps will be manufactured exclusively in Europe. A long-sought goal could finally be achieved, but it was an incredibly long and nerve-wracking journey to get here. Find out more about the lengthy development of the TreeCaps newly manufactured in Europe.

TreeCap

Summer has definitely arrived here - and when it's hot, it's important to protect yourself accordingly when sunbathing. The new TreeCaps provide the perfect remedy and keep your head from overheating. And for every TreeCap, a tree is planted in a needy place in the world.

We are extremely proud to now also be producing our TreeCaps in Europe. The cotton used for this is BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) certified and the design was entirely created in Switzerland. We were impressed by the quality and production on site in Bulgaria and are therefore looking forward to a successful collaboration with our new European partner.

The first series of TreeCaps

The first series of our TreeCaps was one of the last of our products to be produced in Asia. The caps finally made their way to us in Lenzburg and from there to all of Europe via an intermediary from Austria who sewed the NIKIN labels onto the raw caps. We had a first series produced and tested its popularity among our customers. The TreeCaps, whether snapback or 5 panel, were an instant hit; almost more TreeCaps were ordered in summer than Treeanies were ordered in winter.

Our criteria were clear from the start

It was clear to us from the start that if the TreeCaps were well received, we would strive for sustainable and fair production in Europe as soon as possible. We also wanted to implement specially designed designs and cuts for the caps. This means that we no longer have our logo sewn onto a raw standard cap, but that the design with cut and dimensions is completely determined by us and we offer “our own” cap that stands out from conventional standard caps.

Design der TreeCaps

The search began

“Unfortunately the supplier I was thinking of also produces in China. So I'm at my wits' end. I even checked out all of our Turkish contacts, they know each other. Unfortunately without success…” – Excerpt from a dealer’s email

We were shocked to discover that of the approximately 60 “European” manufacturers and distributors that we contacted, around 99% do not produce in Europe at all, but in the Far East or America. Many of them even responded with the advice not to even try and to give up looking for truly European manufacturers. One of the criteria we set, European production, was already a first major hurdle.

This 1% had to be found

We persisted and hired a Swiss trading company to help us find it. After a few weeks and long research, a glimmer of hope suddenly appeared: a Turkish producer (on European soil) had been found. We really wanted to be ready for the start of the upcoming cap season (spring/summer 2019) and since it was only summer 2018 at the time, we thought we still had enough time left to implement the cap produced in Europe.

Time began to run away from us

Of course we were relieved that we were finally able to find a European manufacturer, even though this manufacturer had never made caps before. But this wasn't a problem because he got help from other partners. It all sounded a little suspicious, but since we were under a lot of time pressure and we really wanted to make progress, we took the risk and paid for CHF 1,000.- Produce samples according to our expectations. At that time it was said that it would take between two and four weeks for the first samples to be delivered. Communication continued via the trading company, which gave the Turkish manufacturer our ideas from cut to embroidery. We didn't hear anything for a long time and we became impatient.

“We've been waiting for the samples to be delivered for quite a long time now. There was once talk of 2-4 weeks for the first samples. But months have passed now. We actually wanted to start production in December 2018 so that we are ready for spring. This is all getting pretty tight now.” – Excerpt from the email to the trading company

A setback, but we didn't give up

In the meantime, in order not to waste any more time, we started looking for producers further. At the same time, we commissioned the Austrian trader from our first cap series to help us. He apparently had contact with a manufacturer in the Czech Republic who was also willing to produce some samples for us. It was already autumn back then and time was starting to run faster and faster.

An unexpected glimmer of hope

Suddenly we receive an email from one of the manufacturers we contacted earlier, who replied to our inquiry and claimed to actually produce caps in Bulgaria.

“Thank you for your inquiry about the snapback caps. We are familiar with this type of hats, but it will be difficult for us to offer a better offering than Asian manufacturers. But please give us more information regarding the quality, colors, etc., so that we can clarify our offer.“ – Excerpt from the translated email from the Bulgarian manufacturer

It's finally moving forward

A reputable and suitable manufacturer has finally been found. But one hurdle was that he only worked with conventional materials, polyester and acrylic. After a lot of back and forth, we were finally able to convince him to look for more sustainable materials. The material we were actually aiming for was certified organic cotton, but we first had to make a compromise. We were then able to agree on certified cotton (BetterCottonInitiative; www.bettercotton.org), with the clear goal of switching to organic cotton soon if the collaboration had a future.

We wanted to know exactly

A European producer who came pretty close to our ideas has now been found. But to be absolutely sure, we wanted to check and make sure that our caps are really European, because there are apparently many companies that sell “European” products but actually manufacture them in Asia. We asked the Bulgarian owner, George:

"Just to be sure, the production of these caps takes place in Bulgaria, right? Does your company have international certifications?" – Excerpt from the translated email to George

"Production takes place in our factory in Bulgaria. We do not have international certification, but we are SMETA (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit; www.sedexglobal.com www.sedexglobal.com) certified to guarantee good and ethical practices." – Excerpt from translated answer from George

We also requested a video evidence that would show us the conditions in production, as well as all other information about this company.

Finally the samples appear with us

It took a few weeks again and shortly before Christmas we received samples from Turkey and the Czech Republic, although these exceeded the deadline by several months, and a sample from Bulgaria that arrived on time.

We examined the various samples carefully according to our criteria and noticed that our satisfaction with the first two samples was quite limited. The Turkish sample was not of bad quality, but our wishes were not taken into account at all and it then turned out that its production did not even take place on European soil. The Czech cap didn't look promising and was far from what we expected.

We were only satisfied with the Bulgarian producer, who we noticed really tried to get a good sample.

Our further decisions

Before we placed a large order, we decided to request another sample from all three producers and tell them about our improvements as accurately as possible.

Designanpassungen

Many of the samples were far from what we wanted and so further adjustments had to be made.

Time continued to pass quickly and became increasingly scarce. We had announced the release of the European TreeCaps for spring 2019 and since all three producers reported further delays, we had to decide on one of the three producers before the requested samples arrived. After weighing all the factors, we decided on the Bulgarian manufacturer. A spring release was already very close, but since we now only focused on one producer, it sped up the process.

“Thank you for choosing our company. We agree that there will be some customization to the patterns and we are waiting for the details from you. This morning I requested the color samples from the factory, we will have a deadline to receive them in the middle of the week. In response to your question about a weekly broadcast, I confirm that this is possible. Once I have the price for the thicker fabric I will send you our final quote. I hope to have the prize before the end of the week.“ – Excerpt from George’s translated response to our commitment

Of course he was happy that we chose him and from then on we started to build a good partnership, further adjustments were made to the cap and the material still has room for improvement, but it is already a lot better than before. We can be very proud of being possibly one of the only brands that produces its caps in Europe.

A long and nerve-wracking journey with a happy ending

The journey up to this point was hard and, as we were continually disappointed, often depressing. But we didn't give up and always believed: a cap produced in Europe must be possible! We've done it, even if European production costs us significantly more than it would cost us in Asia, we are now offering our completely self-designed cap, produced in Europe, made from sustainable materials and at a fair yet affordable price.

Visit to the TreeCap production in Bulgaria

After the long but successful search for a suitable European producer of our TreeCaps, we wanted to get an on-site impression of production in northwest Bulgaria. The owner, George, showed us around his facilities, demonstrated every single production step and left a really great impression. We look forward to a successful collaboration with our new European partner. Check out our visit in the Video!

Besuch in Bulgarien

The visit to Bulgaria was a great success!

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