Join us in China: A look at our factory and why it’s not what you think.
Good morning from the China team. Here we are - our operations manager Matte to the left, our head seamstress Janeu and me - Kirk to the right.
But let's start form the beginning... A year ago Tentsile was produced in the UK in a small workshop in Kent that made parasailing parachutes and other crazy stuff. We quickly outgrew their capacity and had to look further afield for a manufacturing facility as there was nobody else who manufactures camping tents neither in the UK nor in the parts of Europe where we had contacts and spoke the lingo. Eventually I went to visit a factory in China who had made some samples for me in the past and had proven itself to deliver. It was a stab in the dark but we had customers lining up orders and our production could not cope with it. When I landed in China I was greeted with a taste of the 21st century. A true 21st century. Mega cities, megastructures, bullet trains, world class infrastructure... it slowly dawned on me that China isn't what I've learned about at school any more. The straw hats and bicycles were gone. The bizarre dog eating insect devouring stories that were being recycled in the western media seemed to me to be from another era altogether.
A year later we outgrew the capacity of our Chinese supplier too and we set up our own factory. Poverty and child labour still exist here in some ways and we were adamant to make a difference for the guys so we plucked some of them up from a shanty town on the outskirts, we loaded their stuff in our car and relocated them to our own newly painted facility. Now they have a kitchen, air con, a washing machine and even some nice plants. Hooray!
So here is our main floor - there is method to all this madness, let me explain: to the left is where the rolls of fabric arrive, the long table is where it all gets measured and cut, between the columns to the left is where our sewing machines are, the half finished tents get thrown in the middle (yes, we need some more shelves) and you can just make out Janeu sitting on a chair doing quality checks further to the right. Behind her is where we string up and calibrate every tent, and to the far right is the packing area. The large grey bags are full of seatbelt webbing - we use a lot of it so you can sleep safely in the knowledge that your tent won't break if for some reason a baby elephant landed on your lap in the middle of the night.
...And here is what we do sometimes (not often enough) to test our tents in the real world. This waterfall happens to be an hour away from us and it's the perfect spot for farting around pretending to be doing important work. Alex is the dive master in the blue shorts whilst I did try to get under the waterfall but the reverse current was too strong so I'm just doing a silly pose of a bearded water god.