There’s a cozy coastal city nestled between the Pacific Coastal Range and the expanse of the Olympic Mountain Range. A place where western and north western Pacific Ocean winter swells travel from thousands of kilometers to be focused into the straight of Juan de Fuca and the Salish Sea.
Shielded from the rawness of the Pacific winter, open ocean swells are manicured on perfectly groomed points, peaks and slabs. It is a place where surfers share their picturesque environment with bald eagles, black bears, orcas and sea lions.
Here, in one of the most bio-diverse places on the planet, the Sitka seed was sown. Named after the majestic Sitka Spruce, Sitka’s early days were much more humble. Born out of a garage just blocks from sea, two Canadian entrepreneurs learned to shape their first custom surfboards while managing the responsibilities of earning university degrees. Since the creation of those first surfboards, Sitka has grown into an all-encompassing line of men’s and women’s clothing, surfboards and skateboards.
Sitka is a collective of like-minded individuals; A lifestyle brand designed by the sea and woven by a common thread. At the centre of our collective consciousness is a reverence for our environment – both our natural and urban surroundings that we have created for ourselves. Sitka is a product of those environments; of THE environment, where we find ourselves so at home.
First and foremost, Sitka’s key values are derived from our reverence for the natural world. As such, our business model is an extension of these values with a keen emphasis on environmental and social responsibility. While we understand these are two loosely coined terms, we strive to consider them in all of our business decisions. We are striving for a ‘sustainable business model’ but we’re not all of the way there yet, and neither is the textile industry.
Do we think we’re perfect? No way. But, we’re committed to changing and adjusting as we learn new things.
Do we believe that we’re doing our part to advance technologies and push the envelope of alternative textile manufacturing? Yes.
We believe that Sitka is cut from a different cloth than most other brands on the market, both metaphorically and literally. In the interest of complete transparency, the following provides a look into Sitka’s values and provides some reasons for the decisions that we have made at the core of our business.
The seed was planted in the fall of 2002 by founders Rene Gauthier and Andrew Paine. With their shared passion and vision for making surfboards, they decided to take their hobby out of the garage and offer a new option to the local surfing population: Sitka Surfboards was born. It was not long after the iconic Sitka spruce tree design was branded onto their first custom-made surfboards that clothing was also being designed under the Sitka flag.
Since then, Sitka has grown into an innovative and cutting-edge lifestyle brand. Currently, Sitka soft goods are sold across Canada, North America and the world in skate, surf and snow shops, fashion boutiques and other like-minded retailers.
Sitka also runs three flagship shops; the original Flagship Store at 570 Yates Street in Victoria, the Vancouver location at 1864 West 4th Street, and our most recently opened doors are in New Zealand at 6 Osborne Street, in Newmarket, Auckland.
By fostering a multifaceted approach to our business, Sitka aims to achieve long-term viability and relevance as a brand equipped for the future. Our goal is to understand and thoroughly consider the broader consequences of our business decisions and their effect on the planet.
Our view is that we must remain in a constant state of change in order to keep up with the research and environmental progress in textile manufacturing. We strive to understand all the factors that come into play when manufacturing our goods, but we understand that we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible and what will be possible in the future.
This is why change is our friend, and, why we are consistently changing. We embrace it like we embrace the waves – ever-respecting its power and ability to move us forward.
From a quick glance at any of our catalogues, it is obvious that Sitka reveres the natural environment that surrounds us – after all, our logo is an old-growth tree. What may not be as evident are the day-to-day choices we make to do our part in helping the planet.
From the very beginning we’ve strived to use efficient shipping options, heat our spaces with bio-fuels, make use of biodegradable bags, encourage customers to make use of our reusable shopping bags, print on recycled materials, all while reducing and recycling the waste we do produce.
We’ve built our store fixtures and tradeshow displays with reclaimed wood from the Rain Forest Alliance, an organization that harvests wood that has been persevered underwater by the creation of dams. Our Vancouver location also boasts one of the area’s first living ‘green walls’. For the most part, all of our location’s fixtures, cases and racking are repurposed from this reclaimed wood or from what would have been trash.
Recently, we replaced our garment packaging with 100% corn-based biodegradable packaging. We’re now proud to say that none of our garments use polyurethane packaging in their trip from our factories to the retail floor.
Even though we are striving towards a green way of living, we sincerely believe that there is always more that can be done in our daily routines. This is why we are committed to change and why this section of our website will probably be outdated by the time you read it.
Manufacturing options are diverse and all have their inherent pros and cons. Sitka is constantly looking to improve its material quality while reducing our carbon footprint. For clothing materials, we currently use a combination of bamboo and organic cotton blends while striving to use other organically grown and sustainable materials, as they are made available in the marketplace. We’re committed to keep looking for new materials and processes, and evaluating them as we go.
We carry these same principles over to our surfboard production where we’ve been experimenting with a variety of ‘green’ resins and foam cores. Our latest skate deck series was made with no solvents, glues, varnishes, inks or paints that contain combustibles; everything is water-based and non-toxic here on the west coast of Canada. We’re committed to keep trying new technologies, as they become available and to providing diverse options to our customers.
Sitka is proud to be involved with a number of organizations that aim to protect the environment and bring awareness to issues affecting the health and well-being of our ecosystems. A few of the major organizations that we support are the Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Gybe Expedition and the Pacific Wild Foundation.
The Ocean Gybe Expedition is a global sailing and surfing expedition whose aim is to promote ocean conservation and protection. They began with a circumnavigation of the globe over a three-year period, which was completed Summer of 2010. The expedition involved long-standing Sitka Surf Team rider and BC-based activist, Bryson Robertson, his brother, Ryan Robertson and their friend, Hugh Patterson. While on their journey, these three licensed engineers gave presentations to bring general awareness to the pollution of the world’s oceans and coastlines. Now that their physical journey is complete, the team continues to give presentations and promote their cause. Find out more at: www.oceangybe.com
The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 90 chapters worldwide. Find out more at: www.surfrider.org
We’ve also collaborated on projects with the Pacific Wild Foundation, a non-Profit conservation organization that is committed to defending wildlife and their habitat on Canada’s Pacific coast by developing and implementing solution-based conservation strategies. Find out more at: www.pacificwildlife.ca
Most recently, Sitka has been heavily involved in Pacific Wild’s Great Bear Rainforest and Northern BC conservation efforts. Notably, Sitka’s awareness film, ‘Tipping Barrels’, is a unique combination of surfing and environmental journalism. The film follows Sitka team surfers, Arran and Reid Jackson, on a trip into the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest. The protagonists learn more than expected about the region and the issues confronting it, namely the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project. This project would bring super tankers to BC’s north coast risking a catastrophic oil spill in a very ecologically sensitive area.
Check out ‘Tipping Barrells on Sitka’s Vimeo here.
For nearly every season, event, or project Sitka is involved with, we aim to collaborate with an organization like Pacific Wild and donate proceeds to an important cause. As we grow, so too does our commitment to partnering with these various organizations committed to preserving the health of our planet.
Social Responsibility & Initiatives
We realize that the choices we make affect more than just our business. Our decisions have an impact on the employees who work for our company, our customers and society as a whole. The social implications of our choices are considered whenever we make a decision, no matter how big or small it may be.
We all feel very fortunate to have a roof over our heads and clothing on our backs. Millions around the world are not this lucky and we feel it is our duty as a clothing producer to offer something to the global community. Sitka donates clothing to diverse organizations, including World Vision & UNICEF. We also aim to encourage the charity of our retail customers by offering discounts in exchange for donations to food banks and other charitable organizations.
Sitka is involved with other social initiatives as well. One such initiative is Power to Be, who’s mission is to enrich the health, education and quality of life for vulnerable youth, adults and families. We contribute to Power to Be and other charitable organizations, by donating product, participating in various events and by adding a charitable aspect to many of our events.
We also keep clothing on the backs of our peers who are doing great things. These specific initiatives change on a monthly basis, so be sure to check out our blog, to find out all the happenings and impressive things our friends and family are up to.
With the growth of our surfboard, skateboard and clothing lines, an ever-expanding family of employees, athletes and artists extend concurrently.
Sitka does not sponsor ‘names’; we sponsor people. The Sitka team consists of individuals that are role models in their respective communities – no matter how big or small. These role models set positive examples of how to live and enjoy life.
The Sitka family likes to go outside and play – we work hard and play hard. We skateboard, surf, bike, make and listen to music, make art, ski, snowboard, travel, camp, climb mountains (and mole hills) and we happily acknowledge that if you are checking out our website, you are inspired by these pursuits as well.
Check out our team pages for more information on our contributing artists, musicians and athletes.
Clothing & Fabric Production Choices
Overseas Production 101
Sitka has chosen not to make policy decisions based only on the bottom line – but rather the triple bottom line or 3P. We acknowledge that these terms are often over-used, misused and exploited. As a company, we do aim to reduce our impact on the Earth and it’s eco-systems, make responsible social decisions while remaining an economically viable company.
Most of Sitka’s clothing is manufactured in China or India for the main reason that it gives us access to the best fabric markets in the world. These markets give us the option to mill our own fabric blends and mixes – which, in many cases, are unique to Sitka. We do not consider manufacturing overseas a bad thing. If we didn’t manufacture our clothing overseas, in most cases we would still need to mill our fabrics there, and ship them to Canada (or elsewhere) as raw fabric.
We aim to have our production facilities as close as possible to where our fabric, hardware and fixtures originate in order to reduce the environmental impact of shipping. The truth remains that many other countries simply do not have the infrastructure to produce cutting-edge custom fabrics. We have chosen the some of the best places in the world to produce our garments; the skill, quality and workmanship is top-notch.
Our fabric-knitting factory in India is one of the most advanced in the world. Numerous certifications, including OekoTEX, Disney and GOTS, certify the products produced there as free from harmful substances. The facility also has a waste water treatment plant so advanced that the wastewater is essentially drinkable.
With that said, we are constantly searching for alternatives to our current systems. If there’s a better way, we’re committed to finding it. Recently, we’ve teamed up with Granted Knitwear in Vancouver to produce special edition knit wool sweaters. And, we’re also working with Love Jules Leather in Whistler, BC to create custom, hand-made leather pieces and accessories. Furthermore, we are also now completing production of some capsule collections within Canada; where everything from pattern making to final stitching can be completed within North America.
We are always striving to find the best solutions for our clothing manufacturing. We’re learning as we go and striving for constant improvement. In the future, and as the processes and manufacturing abilities improve, we aim to produce more Sitka products completely within Canada.
The majority of clothing brands source their clothing through a large network of trading companies. This means that many companies are unaware of who is producing their wares or the working conditions in which their goods are produced. Unlike these other brands, Sitka has chosen to establish a team that maintains a keen eye on our factories. This is the only way that we can ensure that the workplace standards of the people producing our goods are just and fair. This means having staff overseas charged with the position of managing factory and manufacturing standards and working conditions.
When choosing factories, Sitka has chosen to follow the SA8000 Standard. The SA8000 Standard is the world’s first auditable social certification standards for decent workplaces, across all industrial sectors, based on conventions of the ILO, UN and national (international??) laws.
The SA8000® Elements Are as Follows:
1. Child Labor: No use or support of child labor; policies and written procedures for remediation of children found to be in a working situation; provide adequate financial and other support to enable such children to attend school; and employment of young workers conditional.
2. Forced and Compulsory Labor: No use or support for forced or compulsory labor; no required ‘deposits’ – financial or otherwise; no withholding salary, benefits, property or documents to force personnel to continue work; personnel right to leave premises after workday; personnel free to terminate their employment; and no use nor support for human trafficking.
3. Health and Safety: Provide a safe and healthy workplace; prevent potential occupational accidents; appoint senior manager to ensure Occupational Safety and Health (OSH); instruction on OSH for all personnel; system to detect, avoid and respond to risks; record all accidents; provide personal protection equipment and medical attention in event of work-related injury; remove and reduce risks to new and expectant mothers; hygiene- toilet, potable water, sanitary food storage; decent dormitories- clean, safe, meet basic needs; and worker right to remove self from imminent danger.
4. Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining: Respect the right to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively. All personnel are free to: organize trade unions of their choice and bargain collectively with their employer. A company shall: respect right to organize unions and bargain collectively; not interfere in workers’ organizations or collective bargaining; inform personnel of these rights & freedom from retaliation; where law restricts rights, allow workers to freely elect representatives; ensure no discrimination against personnel engaged in worker organizations; and ensure representatives access to workers at the workplace.
5. Discrimination: No discrimination based on race, national or social origin, caste, birth, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political opinions or age. No discrimination in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or and retirement. No interference with exercise of personnel tenets or practices; prohibition of threatening, abusive, exploitative, coercive behavior at workplace and company facilities; no pregnancy or virginity tests under any circumstances.
6. Disciplinary Practices: Treat all personnel with dignity and respect; zero tolerance of corporal punishment, mental or physical abuse of personnel; no harsh or inhumane treatment.
7. Working Hours: Compliance with laws & industry standards; normal workweek, not including overtime, shall not exceed 48 hours; 1 day off following every 6 consecutive work days, with some exceptions; overtime is voluntary, not regular, not more than 12 hours per week; required overtime only if negotiated in Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
8. Remuneration: Respect right of personnel to living wage; all workers paid at least legal minimum wage; wages sufficient to meet basic needs and provide discretionary income; deductions not for disciplinary purposes, with some exceptions; wages and benefits clearly communicated to workers; paid in convenient manner – cash or cheque form; overtime paid at premium rate. Prohibited use of labor-only contracting, short-term contracts, false apprenticeship schemes to avoid legal obligations to personnel.
9. Management Systems: Facilities seeking to gain and maintain certification must go beyond simple compliance to integrate the standard into their management systems and practices.
This allows us peace-of-mind in knowing that the factories we work with uphold the highest workplace standards and can ensure that quality issues are identified early in the process.
Fabric is the medium that we create with. It’s at the heart of everything we do and we take huge pride in this – our sweatshirts and other fabric blends are some of the most comfortable and softest fabrics in the industry.
Most companies buy their fabrics ‘off the shelf’ choosing from the array of what’s already on the market. Not us. We need fabrics that go beyond the norm. Our designers work closely with our fabric suppliers to push the design envelope forward and create new sustainably produced fabrics that can deliver the highest levels of technical performance.
Currently, we are using unique blends of Cotton, Organic Cotton, Rayon, Polyester, Tencel and Bamboo in our lines. We continue to look for ways to drive the development of sustainable fabrics into the future, for our own use and to motivate the industry. We’ll happily share our progress in the field of fabric development with other companies – even our competitors. We believe sharing is key to advancing the technologies of clothing manufacturing. We also understand that we alone cannot create the type of shift that garment manufacturing requires; however, we hope that by being a leader, we can influence it.
Conventional Cotton is the most pesticide-intensive crop grown in the world today. Roughly 1/3 of a pound of agricultural chemicals goes into producing one conventional cotton t-shirt. More than 10 percent of the world’s pesticides and almost 25 percent of the world’s insecticides are used to grow conventional Cotton.
As a company we find these statistics terribly frightening. So, in the same way that we try to eat lots of healthy organic vegetables, we strive to employ Organic Cotton whenever it is feasible. Currently, most of our t-shirts are 100% Organic Cotton and Cotton/Bamboo blends. Recently, we’ve even started using Organic Cottons in some of our woven blends.
Our Organic Cotton blends are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This means that International Organic Accreditation Service has inspected our factories and declared that our factories are in conformance with the GOTS. Find out more about GOTS here: www.global-standard.org
Bamboo is used extensively throughout our line in many of our tops and t-shirt blends. Bamboo is naturally grown, without assistance from humans. It also thrives naturally without using pesticides or fertilizers.
As the fastest growing plant in the world, bamboo grows to its maximum height in about 3 months and reaches maturity in 3-4 years. It spreads rapidly across large areas. Because of this, bamboo is known to improve soil quality in degraded and eroded areas of land. Bamboo is also cut, not uprooted, so it helps with soil stability and can grow on hillsides where other crops are not viable. In addition to this, bamboo has minimal water requirements – mostly just precipitation. Its yield is 10 times that of cotton per acre. Bamboo also provides more carbon dioxide to oxygen conversion than the same square footage of trees would. This is because Bamboo grows so fast and densely that it is a very resilient crop.
Bamboo also has numerous functional benefits as a fabric, including an excellent ability to wick away sweat , thermal control abilities, breathability, a 98% reduction in UV activity reaching your skin and anti-static properties unmatched by any other fabrics. Also, if you’ve ever held a bamboo Sitka shirt in your hands, you know that it is also one of the softest fabrics in the world.
Benefits considered, we are aware some recent research has shown that the benefits of using bamboo fabrics have been in question as of late. Without going into the details of this debate, at this point we still believe that the benefits of using Bamboo out-weigh the drawbacks. As with our policy of constant change, we are committed to reviewing research as it becomes available and adjusting our manufacturing as required.
With that said, we encourage you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. Feel free to let us know what you think, email us.
Our prices reflect our commitment to producing the best quality of aesthetically pleasing clothing in a conscientious manner. Experimenting and manufacturing with these leading edge fabrics has it’s inherent pro’s and con’s. Premium materials like Bamboo and Organic Cotton are much more expensive than traditional Cottons and Polyester, but their potential towards an evolving textile industry is revolutionary.
We also do not drive our production choices based on cost alone. We use a complex matrix of costs and benefits in order to make what we believe are the best and most sustainable production decisions. Thus, this ‘true cost’ needs to be reflected in the price of the garment.
Do we think it’s worthwhile to experiment with sustainable materials at the expense of a few dollars a t-shirt? Of course, and we hope that our consumer does as well.
The process of creating fabrics that cause less environmental harm and meet our high standards is ever evolving. Just when we think that we’ve settled on fabrics and specific processes, something new comes along and changes the landscape entirely. We’re committed to continue examining our decisions around fabric production while evaluating new and emerging technologies. Sitka will evolve our practices in ways that can further our efforts to reduce the impact of our products and methods. We are committed to building a company that keeps environmentally conscious decision making a cornerstone of our business practices.
Surfing and surfboard manufacturing has been the core of Sitka since our days as a wee seedling. We are extremely blessed to live where we do, not only for the natural beauty, but also for the diversity in the surf setups and consistent waves that we enjoy through the better part of the year. This also makes for a great place to refine surfboard shapes since they can be tested on everything from racing points, slabbing reefs, mushy beach breaks and everything in between, all in relatively close proximity. This coast is a constant inspiration, evidenced by our surfboard and clothing design.
Over the years, Sitka has developed an all-encompassing line up of boards that have been refined to cover the spectrum of surfboards to give any surfer the right equipment for the conditions they wish to challenge. With new technologies and trends constantly evolving, the design team must stay on top of what is happening in the industry to allow the surfboard line up to continue to evolve. The core designs are constantly refined through a combination of team rider testing, customer feedback and computer-aided design. Computer software allows for changes in the shape or dimensions to customize any shape to match the needs of each surfer..
Over time, the hand planer has slowly been replaced by the shaping machine and computer-aided design. This new technology means that proven designs can be replicated with incredible accuracy and small adjustments can be made to further refine the shape. The shaping machine has not limited the customization process either. Any shape can be either designed from scratch or small adjustments can be made to design files to match the needs of the surfer.
The majority of Sitka Surfboards are now outsourced to UB Surfboards and AKA Surfboards in California. Using a computer aided shaping machine, Sitka has the ability to produce custom boards built to any specifications.
As with every aspect of surfboard production, the materials used are constantly changing to increase performance, durability and sustainability. The surfboard blanks used by Sitka are of the highest quality and range from lightweight performance blanks to solid triple-stringer longboard blanks. Sitka experiments with many different materials. As with surfboard design, different materials suit the needs of different surfers. Some require a board that is light and snappy for high flying aerials, while others want a board that will be durable, and others still want a board to have a little bit of extra weight for glide. The wooden stringer that gives strength and flex properties to the board is another area for experimentation that can completely change the way that a board will perform. The most common material combinations that we use are the traditional, Polyurethane/Polyester, the more modern Keahana Epoxy System and now, the groundbreaking XTR system.
Sitka skateboards are produced right here in the Great White North. We have collaborated with Woodchuck Skateboards out of Quebec in the past, and are currently working with Folk Skateboards out of Vancouver. In Canada, we are lucky to be so close to the largest and purest source of hard rock Canadian maple wood – the recipe for the very best skateboards.
Folk Skateboards originally appeared in Scotland in 2006 and is now based in Vancouver. They produce decks for some of the most respected local skate companies while nurturing skateboarding’s creative spirit by offering boards in a variety of traditional and custom innovative shapes. Folk is passionate about the soul of skateboarding and feel that the best way to give back to the skate community is through their educational program which partners with elementary and high schools to give a hands on introduction to the skateboard manufacturing process. For more information on Folk, head to www.folkskateboard.ca
Sitka uses our skate team for feedback in developing a line-up of shapes and concaves to match different types of skating. The dimensions are constantly changing as trends come and go and different aspects of the sport change in popularity. For graphics, we produce limited edition runs to ensure that there are always fresh designs on the shelves as well as in the skate park and the streets.
We’re Not Perfect and Neither Are You; it’s OK
Now that you understand what we’re all about, we encourage you – our consumer – to critique us, question us and challenge the decisions we are making. We’re not perfect – we know. We’ve made mistakes in the past; we’ll admit it. But, we’re committed to learning from our screw-ups. We’re always striving to better our business practices and you can help us do so. We encourage our consumers to get involved. With your help, we can all do our part to truly make a difference.
Drop us a line; let us know what you think. Contact info here.