The Road makes decent-looking basics for basically decent people. We treat our workers well, use material that won’t wreck the planet and make clothes that last.
In our world ethics is no longer a luxury – it is the new order. We are The Road. We’re here to shake it up.
The fashion industry has taught us that when it comes to good design, strong ethics, and an accessible price, you have to pick two and not worry about the third. We’re calling bullshit on that. We build our clothes to look good, and we build them to last, but we don’t view either of those things as a luxury.
More importantly, we build them with sustainably sourced cotton from GOTS and Fairtrade certified farms and mills and dye them using a zero liquid discharge system to stop wastewater run-off. We pay our makers in India a living wage, with health care benefits, a retirement fund, holiday leave and a housing programme – exactly the sort of things you’d want in a full time job. And we certainly don’t view that as a luxury. Making clothes that don’t further mess with our already messed up world is essential.
The reality is, you can’t feel good in your clothes if you know behind the seams, they’re stained with workers’ blood. You can’t feel good in your clothes if you know the dyes they used to achieve that colour literally poisoned the earth. And we want you to feel good in your clothes. Well, actually, we want you to feel good in our clothes. We are not a fast fashion brand, but we do believe ethics in fashion should be mainstream. We are not a luxury brand, because we believe everyone should be able to access high quality clothes at a price they can afford.
We are not a fast fashion brand, but we do believe ethics in fashion should be mainstream.
Meet Nikki McAllum, designer and director of The Road.
The story starts on 22 February 2011 with me sewing costumes for a theatre production. I was sitting within the hum of sewing machines, the smell of instant coffee and the disconcerting gaze of mannequins. That’s when it struck. In seconds a normal working day was swallowed whole by natural disaster. When the Christchurch earthquake hit, I learned what it felt like to have the building you’re in crumble around you. I felt the rubble, confusion and despair. That day transformed me forever but I would never know how deeply and profoundly it affected me until many years later.
I took a job in commercial fashion – it was an easy decision. Christchurch sadly had little to offer after her devastating fall. I found myself in Sydney, designing product that was generating millions of dollars worth of sales every year, for a multi-million dollar retailer.
The clothes we were making were fun and affordable – the kind that make you feel good. At first, I didn’t think too much about how we got them so cheap. I’d fire off emails to far away places asking for better rates and faster deliveries.
When I heard that the Savar building had collapsed in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh – killing 1,129 and injuring twice as many – I was shaken back to Christchurch in an instant. I could feel exactly how these women and men must have felt. Just like me, they’d been hunched over sewing machines as the building betrayed them. I’d survived but so many had lost their lives or had their bodies broken.
But unlike the Christchurch earthquake the Rana Plaza disaster was preventable. These workers died because of our constant push for lower prices. They died because of emails like mine asking for a faster delivery or a cheaper rate. It was awful. I felt responsible.
And so, for a while, I quit. I stopped making clothes and the fashion machine kept thrumming along, unchanged. Kept underpaying, kept polluting. I wasn’t a part of it but it didn’t make a difference.
So, I took a deep breath, let go of my disgust and decided to put myself back into the centre of one of the dirtiest businesses on the planet.
This is my experiment. A test. A plan to make feel good clothes; basic, fashionable, fun – the kind of clothes you can create a character in – without making others feel bad. Without polluting the planet and contributing to a system that creates more tragedies.
The fashion industry has to change if we’re to live sustainably.
I believe it’s possible.