Daft Punk helmets, two factory visits and a wedding.

Date: March 2024

A few weeks ago, I travelled a few thousand kilometres to visit Mihir and his team at their Fairtrade factory. It was a wild trip. Touring factories and having my senses blown at Mihir’s wedding.

If you haven’t been to Delhi before, it’s a place of extremes. You can buy sparkling water from the Himalayan mountains for £6.50 and drink it on a 10 minute Uber ride that’ll set you back just 60p. Traffic is mental. Beeping is constant (and encouraged). Bikes cycle into incoming traffic down one way streets. Blatant poverty on one side of the road and high rise luxury around the corner.

We arrive at the airport at midday, get in a taxi, and the driver, who was probably in his 50s and driving a brand new hybrid SUV, took us 40 minutes into Delhi, proudly showing off pictures of his sons whilst speaking English he’d picked up from countless trips to and from Indira Gandhi International Airport.

The next day we arrive at the factory and are greeted by Tanvi (our merchandiser). Her and a colleague have laid out flowers ready to steal a trophy at the Chelsea Flower Show and have written Yes Friends in flaming hot orange and white sand. I then plant a tree (a tradition they’ve built at the solar powered factory), so we can watch it grow each time we visit over the years to come. They know how to host.

The factory is only four years old. Mihir’s Dad dreamt it up after being in the garment game for over 30 years. It’s beautiful. Red brick on the outside and an atrium, complete with water fountain, runs through the middle of the building, allowing daylight to stream in from both sides right the way down to the basement. They’ve thought about every detail. This is where Yes Friends bulk production takes place.

We start the tour on the basement floor meeting the workers who knitted our sweatshirts and fleeces. We work our way round the factory seeing master cutters and pro tailors at work. Each line of workers are making a single product, perfecting each part of their garment before handing it to the next person to work their magic, until at the end of the line is a completed garment. Each one is measurement checked, ironed, loose threads cut, and packed ready to head to the other side of the world. The sheer amount of work that goes into every single product is incredible.

12:45pm hits, a bell goes, the lights turn off and everyone immediately heads to the canteen for lunch. There’s no waiting around. As it should be.

Mihir’s Mum had made us chickpea curry. Based on my very British tikka masala taste buds, I thought it would leave me in a pool of my own sweat, but was pleasantly surprised to find enough heat to keep me on my toes whilst not leaving me sitting on white porcelain for days. TMI Sam.

The next day we head to another factory. It was Mihir’s family’s first Fair Trade USA certified factory. It’s much older than the solar factory and could do with a lick of paint or two. But despite that it’s still the preferred factory by lots of workers. It’s closer to where most of them live and has better food options nearby. Some of the workers have been there for over a decade. This is the factory where Yes Friends fabric is checked-in after dyeing, patterns made and the pro tailors bring Yes Friends samples to life before bulk production.

We end the day on Mihir’s family terrace, with his Mum giving us a tour of her garden-turned-full-time-hobby of nurturing potted plants. She’s known in the family as "Delhi's Queen of Orchids". For good reason.

The whirlwind continues, as the following afternoon I’m back on the terrace. This time putting turmeric paste all over Mihir’s face as part of the wedding festival. He’s clearly hating it - and his cousin’s loving it - encouraging everyone to cover him in as much bright yellow paste as we can get our hands on. We drink wine in the sun all afternoon, and the colour of my face starts to resemble an overripe tomato.

The day after is the main wedding event. It’s non-stop dancing. Music is everywhere. Trumpets in one ear. Drums in the other. My ears were ringing after 10 minutes. The music is constantly changing. Imagine Disneyland but at a wedding.

At one point, one of the singers gets me to sing on the microphone to hundreds of guests and tells me my Hindi’s atrocious. They pass the mic to someone from Scotland and she gets slightly better treatment. There was enough food to feed a small town, open bar and just about anything you can think of, including two hype men on the club stage wearing rainbow sequin suits and Daft Punk style diamond embossed helmets, seriously.

A tradition (that we should definitely adopt in the UK), is that periodically throughout the DJ set, they would put on kids music and people would get their drink of choice and dance with it on their head. Unbelievably, there was only one smashed glass.

Here's Mihir's bride, Drishti, nailing her dance (and one of the hype men in the background).

After probably the biggest night out of my life, I slept for two hours before heading to the airport to fly back to Heathrow, my head spinning and my heart grateful for the previous few days.

Mihir and his family are running an excellent business in India. Taking serious care over what they do. Complying with the highest social and environmental certifications out there (Fairtrade, GOTS etc) and working to make their factory as sustainable as possible, recycling 100% of their water and powering 50% of the factory with solar panels. We’re really proud to be working with them.

We were also reminded of the reality that, despite all the best certifications and legal standards, garment workers still aren’t highly paid and living conditions aren’t what you or I would want. So I left knowing that what we’re doing at Yes Friends is a good thing. Giving a bonus to garment workers for every product we make, to directly increase the wages of the people making our clothes. And we know that if every other brand followed suit, we would in fact, transform the fashion industry.

Thank you so much for joining us on the journey 🧡

Sam, Director of Yes Friends


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