RITUAL began as dream to create beautiful, eco-friendly, world changing fashion. Part of looking at the future also requires looking at the present and looking at the past. I hope you will allow me the time to explain how this has all come to be...
As a model I consistently saw and felt how many clothes in the traditional fashion industries did not quite fit me correctly, both literally and on a deeper more spiritual level.
Especially in the years before the internet the truth was easier to hide, deception ran rampant throughout the industry. On an energetic level certain things never felt quite correct to me. As a participant and a worker inside the industry I knew the only way to make change was from the inside. I wanted to make a difference in the world and help change things for the better.
After many years working as a professional model I finally realized that I had the power to make choices about how my work would go into the world. It was challenging at the time but I decided to make a difficult and conscious decision to focus on art modeling instead of retail modeling so that I could be sure I felt personally aligned with my work. This was the first step of the marathon journey toward making a better future for both myself and the community I cared so much about.
As an art model my job was to help create art on a deeper and more spiritual level. This change was very fulfilling, and also came with new freedom to participate in the creation. I felt like I had come alive as an artist and fell in love with my career all over again.
As my creativity was allowed to grow it also impacted my other creative endeavors. I was able to channel this new energy into my musical aspirations and other creative goals, and not feel like I was asked to be just a pretty but mute face in a photograph.
My work as a singer and musician helped propel my personal mission to a new level. I was able to fund my own creations through performing and modeling so I was able to create freely and say what I felt in my heart. I had an opportunity to travel around the world to see things from new perspectives. I discovered both beautiful and terrifying things along the way, and was inspired to look deep within myself to see what I could do to make this world a better place to live for everyone.
As the music industry changed in the new digital era my manager warned me that music would become a free commodity. Fans did not feel the same need to purchase music in the ways they once did and so in order to keep my freedom and expand my creative world I needed to consider other ways to incorporate the financial aspect of my creations.
I had already been creating my own merchandise as a musician, and at the time my romantic partner was a couture costume designer with big dreams like my own. We inspired each other on many levels from music to fashion and beyond. I began to see a future where we could create a hybrid company that included music, clothing, and many other art forms along with my dreams of creating something centered on eco-friendly, fair labor, sustainable practices. This was the first spark of the fashion company that RITUAL has become today.
As with many times in my life embarking on a new creative journey I was told that what I was trying to create was impossible. It was too big, too different, and there was no blueprint for success in the business world with this type of concept. And just like with many times in my life I had to try anyway.
We originally attempted to produce the prototypes and samples for the first version of the clothing collection in Los Angeles where I was living at the time, but struggled to find the perfect fit of talent, production, and resources needed to go beyond small run custom orders. I turned to my friends and mentors in the fashion and festival realms for help and many of them suggested that we look at overseas options to bring this dream to life.
I looked into global production of fashion throughout the world and with a hope and a dream we set off to try to find a solution to our production dilemma. My research led me to many places, but eventually I found myself deep in the jungle on the other side of the planet learning about the reality of the worldwide textile industry.
With my first try at working with the international production houses I ran into situations more complex than I had ever had to deal with before. After careful consideration of the options we found a company that we were led to believe shared our values and standards, so we hired a team to create a test run of designs for us. But right from the beginning certain aspects of the process were just not adding up properly.
We were up against important commitments for these garments and with our completion date being pushed further and further I had to figure out how to save the company before we had even completely launched it. So I decided that I would start going to the workshop after hours to inspire the tailors to work together with us to complete our deadlines.
With the help of google translate I started to get to know each one of the team members and learn about their lives. After some time getting to know each other they would invite me to see their homes and I was stunned by what I learned.
- Image: Designer Jillian Ann meeting with other creatives, visionaries, and advisors trying to create a better future. -
The tailors at this production company were mostly living in poverty and only able to see their families 1-2 weeks out of the year, all while creating things that were being sold around the world (by other companies in addition to mine) for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Most of my new friends and people I considered co-workers were living off $100 - $260 USD a month.
So I continued my research into the garment industry and discovered that for many production companies the standard expectation was for garment workers to be on the clock 6 days a week often 10 or more hours a day, and many were working for less than .75 cents an hour in factories creating fashion around the world.
I learned that the factories often classified these people as “garment workers” instead of tailors, and were limited to doing the same thing over and over. I remember one of my tailors who only had one job told me that his job was to hammer in rivets. This work was making him incredibly depressed and I couldn’t help but think I would be sad too if I was making barely enough to eat, doing nothing but hammering in rivets over and over and over. I remember despite our language differences I could see that he had so much more potential, but I learned the way a factory controls it’s cheap labor is limiting the workers to one task in a factory or workshop.
[Photos from a factory in Bangladesh by Casillas for DailyMail.co.ukThis is NOT a production house we worked with but an example of the global standard. ]
Soon after this the production house I was working with suddenly informed me that they were doubling their prices after I had placed and paid 50% up front for a large wholesale order for a well known boutique in the United States. By doubling the rates we would not only lose profit but would actually go into the negative to create the items. But the factory had already received a deposit from us and delayed production until we agreed to their new fees. I had to face the reality that if I could not change the course we were on I could lose everything I had worked so hard to create. I had to search to create another way.
I went to every production option I could find, and then I would go visit and get to know the staff. I quickly discovered that all of these production houses were almost exactly the same.
The owners had big houses and cars and the tailors were often almost starving, turning to working extra side jobs or doing whatever they had to do in order to survive.
I had heard other business owners talk about issues they experienced with their “garment workers” such as theft or double billing hours, but with what I had learned I thought to myself... if I was close to starving and paid so little, what would I do in order to survive? It was hard to blame people for these kinds of problems with the systems in place.
Then despite again being told it was impossible (and crazy by some) I went to one of the most talented tailors who was working on my project and said: “If you ever decide to leave this company I will hire you and pay you double what you are making now.” I did not realize at the time what I had started with this simple offer or the true impact I could have on these people's lives.
It started with one worker, and then became two, and then four, and so on. I asked them where they wanted to work and they gave me options closer to their own homes, so I decided I would travel to them instead of the other way around. We now have two production facilities, one where we design and do creative work where the creative team can thrive and one where we do construction that is closer to where the workers want to live. Now most of the tailors working with us have been able to purchase cars, motorbikes, and for some even houses of their own.
I realized we could work together to make things positive for all of us. They get to be with their families, which they have expressed to me is a very important factor for them, and I have had an opportunity to learn to drive a motorbike and live in their world. Not as just a consumer but also as a participant I have become part of their tribe and adopted as extended family.
When my partner and I went in different directions and we had to look at restructuring the entire company they did something that absolutely blew me away and that no one else has ever offered to do. They offered to reduce their salaries 1/3 while I figured out how to run the company on my own, with an option for us to pay them back as we recovered from the massive changes. When we have had errors or a slow season they work and I pay them back as soon as we catch up. The level of trust and respect needed for this to happen still blows me away to this day and I am eternally grateful.
It has now been four years now and our quality keeps improving. We are all growing together and most of all there is a small village who is learning invested in our mutual growth and our mutual success.
Rather than limit them, I created a system where everyone learns everything. Everyone learns how to sew the gowns, work with fabric, construct a jacket, create an accessory, make patterns, and every aspect of our production. I push them and they push me. They continue to inspire me every day by growing and learning.
We want you to know:
RITUAL supports self expression in all ways and all forms.
RITUAL believes all beings are beautiful as they are.
RITUAL believes in collapsing the duality that causes suffering our collective spirit.
RITUAL supports visionary artists, creators, and dreamers.
RITUAL hopes to encourage growth and support of all creators.
All of the income from RITUAL is currently invested into the following things:
Fair labor standards.
Creating safe working environments.
Supporting the artists we work with fairly.
Creating positive spaces for expansion and growth for all involved.
Creating the best, longest lasting, and most beautiful items we can.
When I took over the company I started working to improve and expand, not following any system that has ever been used before but rather developing a new one. We are making improvements every day and are still working to improve many aspects of our operation as we grow. This year has been all about expanding into more designs as well as improving our quality, customer service, and materials.
One huge development for us was realizing that our pricing structures have been incorrect for a long time and did not take into account all of the different (and rising) costs of producing fair labor, eco-friendly, sustainable fashion. We have given our workers raises at the same time that our advertising costs have gone up exponentially due to new developments in digital marketing. (PS. Unless you help to share our art, reaching people is becoming more and more expensive and truly we appreciate all of your support in the digital realms.)
At the end of the year after weeks of analyzing of spreadsheets, meetings, and calculations we realized that during our annual sale when we gave our discount code and free shipping special we had actually lost money on many of our orders due to incorrect pricing formulas. This has created some growing pains for us to improve our systems but we continue to push forward in creating this new paradigm in the fashion world.
We appreciate so many of our amazing customers for sticking with us through this trying time and helping us to identify areas for improvement. We want you to know we hear you and we appreciate all of your feedback, but beyond that we appreciate your kind attitude and caring as we work to find solutions for everyone around this particular issue.
We want to protect everyone who works for RITUAL to the best of our ability, including their families and animals. This includes our creative team, marketing, customer service, design, tailors and workers at every level. We are all currently working overtime to fulfill our orders and provide the best level of service that we possibly can, without asking our team to sleep inside the production studio or work around the clock without enough sleep.
With all of these factors in mind we must begin to increase our prices so we can support fair labor, use the most cutting edge eco-friendly textiles, invest into eco-friendly packaging, expand into more stores internationally and support our team of artists who make this all possible. With RITUAL we are a family and we are expanding and growing. Many brands charge the same or much more and are not connected to the lives of those producing the items.
We appreciate your support in this growth and we look forward to creating more beautiful fashion to bring into this world.
In the coming year we are excited to expand into Europe and Asia as well as offer more unique designs in our collections. We are also expanding on our custom work for television, film, celebrity styling, wedding gowns, and attire for shows and stages.
By supporting RITUAL you are supporting more than your own style but you are also helping us to shift the lives of all involved and everyone it touches, inspires and supports.
Thank all of you for co-creating this with us, telling your friends about us, supporting us and all those involved by purchasing from us. We hope to shift this world into a more beautiful place one creation, one life, and one moment at a time .