The life of a soft toy: from factory to improving education in Vietnam

We said farewell to Hanoi with a dinner together with Long’s family. There wasn’t much space for our hands since the tables were full of a huge variety of delicious meals. The group left early while Long stayed for the night to chat with his relatives. But he managed to be back for the taxi the next morning at 4 am.

Diner together with Ngoc Long Tran's family -by-Kai Hartmann
Dinner together with Ngoc Long Tran’s family -by-Kai Hartmann

After a two-hour flight we landed in Ho Chi Minh City, the economic centre of Vietnam. It’s hot and humid already at 8 am but people here still wear jackets and regard the temperatures as “cool”. It is more modern and bigger than Hanoi.

One hour later we arrived at a factory which has produced soft toys for IKEA for 12 years now. These are the same soft toys that we sell during our annual Soft Toys for Education campaign, which raises money for the Save the Children programmes we have visited here in Vietnam. Have you ever wondered where those soft toys began their lives before you buy them and take them home? We were led through the complete production process:

1. The parts are cut from fabric or fur.

2. The eyes and other design elements are embroidered on the fabric.

3. The parts are sewn on their left side.

4. The finished skin is rotated from left to right and checked to make sure that metal parts (such as broken needles) are not in the skin.

5. Sample products are tested by pulling at them as hard as possible to check their quality.

6. The skins are filled and the weight is checked.

7. For the second time, a metal test is conducted.

8. The skin is closed, and the finished soft toy is cleaned and brushed.

9. A third metal detection test follows immediately before packaging.

Visit at a soft toys factory - by Dalina-tischler
Visit at a soft toys factory – by Dalina-tischler

We asked many questions about production and working conditions. The supplier has many international standard certificates, pays considerably more than the legal minimum wage and offers a free lunch. He want co-workers to stay with the company for a long time and be motivated – this reduces the scrap rate. Moreover, the IKEA Trading Office is in contact with the supplier every week and visits the production several times per year. Additional IWAY audits are held.

Free lunch in a soft toy factory hcmc   by Kai-Hartmann
Free lunch in a soft toy factory -by- Kai Hartmann

Soft toys are mainly made by hand by people who are working carefully to produce a toy which is fun to use. Soft toys are not only a mere consumption product. Colleagues from the trading office explained that soft toy suppliers are often more open and friendly than other suppliers. It seems that the soft toys influence even the producers…

Sewing room in soft toy factory in hcmc - Dalina Tischler
Sewing room in soft toy factory – by – Dalina Tischler

Tomorrow we visit a shelter for orphans and street kids. After that, we will fly back to Germany. Read more about it soon.


    Ngoc Long Tran