Our Sustainability Journey
At Merry People, we have always aimed for transparency and candor with how our boots are made. In our quest to be a responsible brand, we have shared behind-the-scenes production Stories and videos and have always been willing to answer customer questions about our design and manufacturing process. We have worked hard over the years to grow from a small gumboot start-up at local markets to shipping worldwide. This process has not only provided more employment opportunities in Australia and abroad, but also the freedom to try new initiatives in design and logistics.
Since our start, however, we have avoided labelling ourselves a “sustainable fashion” brand. Sustainability is a broad term that can mean something different to everyone - and where do gumboots, made of rubber and neoprene, sit on that spectrum? Moreover, in the words of Patagonia, “everything we make has an impact on the planet”, so how can a new product be sustainable? While these questions are profound and a source of much conversation and debate, they also challenge us to continually improve and seek new ways to minimise harm at all levels of our business.
Merry People is centered on the values of kindness, adventure, happiness, and authenticity. These values inspire us to create thoughtful, long wearing products with timeless style and high quality construction. We build Merry People products to be worn season after season, and we stand by this with a 12 month warranty. We produce in small quantities in line with demand to ensure our products find a new home with our community, not a landfill. Reflecting the value of the process, we never go on sale and offer our customers the true value year round.
Ultimately, we know that we still have a long way to go in our sustainability journey. As we undertake this process, we would like to share more about what we are doing behind-the-scenes, where we come from, and our future aspirations for Merry People.
xx Dani Holloway, Founder & CEO Merry People xx
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To ensure Merry People products are long-lived wardrobe staples, we work with one of the top production factories for footwear to fabricate our boots. It is a family-run factory in China with whom we have built a close relationship. Through their robust supplier network, we have been able to source high-quality natural rubber, neoprene, and vegan glue to craft our Merry People boots. All our materials are certified vegan friendly.
This factory is considered one of the preeminent manufacturers for rubber boots, producing for many of the top brands, and we are honoured that they agreed to take us on - especially when we were a fledgling brand in 2014.
To this day, we work closely with them and our agent, communicating regularly to ensure employees are paid a living wage and have a safe and healthy work environment. Beyond business, we consider them friends, and you can see more on our Blog from when our founder Dani went to their son’s wedding.
We have been asked before about why we don’t produce in Australia. The reason is two-fold:
First, we did try! When we were first getting started, we sought out the Australian boot manufacturers certified by Ethical Clothing Australia. Some factories never replied to our enquiries while others declined. The reasons for saying no included being at capacity and unable to take on new brands; not having the equipment necessary to produce our designs; not having size and scale to produce our boots in quantity; or they were dedicated in-house production facilities for specific brands.
Second, tied into the above issues is the reality that like with many industries, Australian production has mostly shifted off-shore, making on-shore options expensive. As a startup, our budget was limited and we were unable to build our own production facility or purchase the necessary equipment to adapt existing facilities. Accordingly, we looked abroad and were lucky to find our current factory.
We produce our boots using natural rubber for the outer, neoprene for the lining, and vegan glue to bind. Our materials are sourced for us by our factory and we are in the process of mapping all Tiers of our supply chain to fully tell the story of Merry People from a design idea to your feet.
To ensure consistent quality, our boots are made from virgin natural rubber and neoprene, a process that bears its own innate costs and benefits (much like leather). Ultimately, we believe strongly that the consistent quality, longevity, and effectiveness of these materials make them the right choices for us.
But as we grow as a brand we are exploring the potential of incorporating recycled neoprene into our design - which would likely result in some very fun limited runs of unique boots! We are also looking into using plant-based neoprene and if that can be done in a way that is still affordable for our customers.
Our Social Responsibility
We’re always working to ensure our Merry Products are produced under safe, fair, legal, and humane working conditions. This means we visit our production factory, chatting with both the owners and our agent to monitor. While our factory is subject to international audits due to requirements of other brands they work with, we do not want to rely on the reporting of others and we are in the process of mapping our supply chain to tell the full story.
Being a start-up, we are well aware that most businesses fail in the first couple of years. We have been working to put all our financial efforts to create a sustainable business model. We have donated to charities along the journey where possible and offered our boots as a prize for local schools to raise money.
In 2019, we were in the happy position to give a generous financial amount to Hagar, a Melbourne based charity that works to stop the cycle of human trafficking, slavery, and abuse that exploits women and children in Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Following the 2020 summer of bushfires which greatly impacted our home state of Victoria, we committed to supporting bushfire impacted areas and businesses. We have donated to relevant charities, spent our strategy day in the town of Beechworth, Victoria, and celebrated affected makers though our Mothers Day competition. We plan to continue helping these communities and business throughout the year.
Further, as we continue to stabilise and grow as a business, we will (hopefully this year!) formalise an alignment with a couple of grassroots charities that align with our values.
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Our Environmental Responsibility
At Merry People, we are committed to minimising our waste and environmental footprint. We monitor sales of all sizes and styles carefully to ensure we can properly forecast demand and produce accordingly. While this does sometimes result in us selling out and going into pre-orders, this also means we don’t end up with wasted boots in landfills.
As anyone who has received our boots know, we use minimal packaging and we are working to streamline this even more. At the moment, our boot box is from Micro-Pack, LDPE Recyclable. The boots come with one Thank You/Care card, printed double-sided on recycled paper, with information on how to keep the boots lasting for years and one tissue paper. The boots are shipped in either a postal satchel or recycled postal box depending on where they are shipped from. For the Australian warehouse, we are in the process of switching to compostable and biodegradable shipping satchels. Covid-19 forced us to pause this switch over, but we plan to have it up and running soon.
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Our mission at Merry People is to craft an exceptional product and provide an experience that makes you feel inspired to be a little more adventurous in your day-to-day. This mission has not been undertaken lightly, but rather in a slow and conscientious manner that aims to do best by our community and environment. This effort does mean that our boots are more expensive than other gumboots, but we hope you are able to wear them countless times throughout the year, lowering the price per wear and the environmental footprint. As always, if you ever have any questions, please feel free to email us firstname.lastname@example.org.