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January 22, 2019

Who made my clothes? Consumers want to know

Supply chain traceability is a pre-requisite for transparency. Today’s consumers increasingly expect companies to be transparent about how, where and by whom their products are made. In a culture where social media often drives the consumer dialogue, not addressing these expectations can have a direct impact on a company’s brand value.

Orsola de Castro is the co-founder of Fashion Revolution. She shares her perspective on the need for brand transparency and the growing interest from consumers in how, where and by whom their clothes are made.

The 1,134 garment workers who died in the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 knew before the collapse that their working conditions were unsafe but were told to keep working. At the time of the disaster and in subsequent days, very few brands knew whether or not they had garments being made there. Activists sifted through the rubble, looking for evidence such as labels and tags for signs of malpractice.

Transparency can play a role in preventing situations like this happening again because it brings another layer of accountability by documenting where and how clothes are made.

The Fashion Revolution movement was born out of this tragedy. Since then, consumer interest in brand transparency has snowballed, and Fashion Revolution has grown to become the biggest fashion activism movement in the world, with more than 250 million people alone reached online in April 2018. This was accomplished by merely asking, #whomademyclothes, encouraging consumers to connect with fashion supply chain workers and producers. This simple first step catapulted the conversation on transparency, visibility and holding brands accountable into the spotlight. The hashtag became a runaway success, with 3,838 brands rushing to post #imadeyourclothes in the same month.

Transparency is a key way for brands to communicate with their customers about their sustainability efforts and an essential part of consumers making more informed choices. When we are equipped with more, better quality, credible information about the human and environmental impact of the clothes we buy, we can make informed choices. Now more than ever, with social media often driving the consumer dialogue, transparency can have a direct impact on a company’s brand value. Sharing information more openly is an opportunity to build trust in the brands we buy.


Without a shared mission, we will fail.


Making transparency the new norm

Transparency is visibility. We need a fashion industry that better understands its own inner workings and that respects its manufacturers. We need a clear, uninterrupted line of vision from origin to disposal to foster dignity, empowerment and justice for the people who make our clothes and to protect the environment we all share. This represents the first step in creating a culture of scrutiny and vigilance because transparency does not necessarily lead to best practices. It does, however, lead us towards a deeper understanding of the supply chain, promoting a visibility that can save lives and protect our environment.

In the past few years we have seen a huge increase in consumers who believe that brands should disclose their manufacturers and the origin of their raw materials. We have also seen a marked increase in brands publishing their first and second tier manufactures. In the 2018 edition of the Fashion Transparency Index, which reviews 150 of the biggest global fashion brands and retailers and ranks them according to their level of disclosure on their social and environmental policies, practices and impact, we saw an overall, five percent increase in transparency. In general brands and retailers have a higher index score for reporting their policies and commitment compared to their practices and impact which needs to be improved to reap the full benefits of transparency.

It is only through transparent practices, where we can learn from each other, sharing relevant data and information, and comparing our efforts that we can reach a common objective to operate truly sustainably. However, too often, brands and manufacturers operate alone and in a fragmented way, leading to inefficiency and opaqueness, permitting a system in which human rights and environmental abuses are hidden, as was the case with the Rana Plaza disaster.

Without a shared mission, we will fail; unnecessary tragedies will continue to occur. If we do not break barriers and innovate, not just technologically but also regarding our attitudes, we will not achieve our goals for a better, more sustainable industry. Rigorous, shared disclosure will accelerate efforts to improve working conditions and ultimately improve lives across the entire supply chain. It will also increase economic efficiency, which in turn will lead to opportunities to apply savings for the benefit of people across the supply chain in most need. Consumers will be able to purchase garments with a clear conscience, knowing that they are helping, not hurting, the people who made them.

The fashion industry has an obligation to lead. It encompasses not only many other industries, such as agriculture, transport and technology, but also affects 100% of the population – its negative impact and its potential to make things better are enormous. That’s why, after transparency, we need change. In a nutshell, we need to put theory into practice, we need to act on our principles, and we need to remove the barriers preventing radical change from taking place.

Global Fashion Agenda has reached out to industry leaders to get their perspective on the priorities in the CEO Agenda and how to get closer to solutions. The think pieces are a reflection of their personal or organisation’s approach to the issues and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinions and views of Global Fashion Agenda and its Strategic Partners.

Close CFS+ Programme
13th October Day 2
  • 3:00 - 4:15 PM CEST
    CFS Originals

    CFS Originals are pre-produced segments created by Global Fashion Agenda; they will take you behind the scenes, where you can meet the creative minds shaping our industry. CFS Originals is designed to provide entertainment, engagement, and education for all viewers.

    Click below to add the full 3:00 - 4:15 PM CEST Originals segment to your calendar, and scroll down to learn about each segment of CFS Originals.

    Re-watch here

    Gucci President and CEO, Marco Bizzarri, is one of our industry’s leaders driving change. Having launched the CEO Carbon Neutral Challenge late last year, he’s making bold commitments for Gucci - and leading by example with Gucci's own climate strategy. Eva Kruse will virtually meet Marco Bizzarri for an honest conversation about value, nature, tackling the climate crisis in the wake of COVID-19 and what’s needed next.

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    Fashion is fun, fabulous and fancy, but did you know that fashion is also closely linked to biodiversity? This explainer explores the substantial negative impact that the fashion industry has had on the total variety of life on Earth, known as biodiversity. From there, it goes one step further by explaining how fashion can evolve from being part of the problem to being part of the solution – by highlighting different solutions.

    Re-watch here

    Together with her Co-Founder Amrit Kumar, Mriga Kapadiya is the Co-Founder, Creative Director and CEO of NORBLACK NORWHITE, a women-led, creative house and fashion label based in India. Systematic transformation drives Mriga Kapadiya’s Real Talk message, which celebrates the grey space of culture through style by shifting corporate success to a holistic approach.

    Re-watch here

    High volume fashion and planetary boundaries collide in an important conversation, framed by the theme Redesigning Value, from two different stakeholder positions; Helena Helmersson, CEO of H&M Group, meets Professor Johan Rockström, Director of Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. This intimate and in-depth discussion takes place in Helena’s summer house in the Swedish forest.

    Re-watch here

    Can the idea of equal partnerships change the industry mindset and advance collective progress? This explainer digs deeper into two different types of supply chain partnerships: Transactional vs. Relationship based. Watch and learn what it takes for the industry to shape a common future stitched solidly together with trust and equal partnerships.

    Re-watch here

    Mostafiz Uddin, Managing Director of Denim Expert Ltd. and Founder and CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE) will be representing the voice, culture and experience of millions of garment makers and factory owners during the pandemic. Mostafiz Uddin is meeting Eva Kruse in this essential discussion about equal partnerships and how to build mutually beneficial relationships.

    Re-watch here

    As one of the strongest voices on the need for equal partnerships in the value chain, Delman Lee, President and Chief Technology Officer of TAL Apparel Limited joins Eva Kruse for a conversation on what needs to change in the relationship between buyers and manufacturers to accelerate sustainability. This discussion will also go deeper into understanding how to forge better and more mutually rewarding partnerships.

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    As her namesake brand Ahluwalia, which is known for exploring vintage and deadstock clothing, Priya Ahluwalia’s understanding of the industry’s circularity challenge drives this segment. Watch her incorporate stunning design elements from her dual Indian-Nigerian heritage and London roots with ground-breaking new labelling tech.

    Re-watch here

    Clare Farrell is a full-time Activist and Campaigner based in London and one of the Founders of Extinction Rebellion. Leadership, honesty and ancestry of planet Earth are all featured topics here, while a devotion to personal liberty drives this Real Talk through power imbalance and climate collapse.

    Re-watch here

    Under the headline theme of Redesigning Value, we’ve invited a diverse community of global fashion leaders to share their insight, experience and pioneering perspective. All 62 carefully selected voices from around the world are given the same set of questions for thoughtful responses.

    The Next Gen Voices format, presented by Pandora, gathers a varied collection of thoughts and viewpoints from a selected group of previous Youth Fashion Summit participants. The Youth Fashion Summit is an international sustainability platform for fashion students, founded in 2012 by Global Fashion Agenda.

    Every year, this growing community convenes to generate ideas and demands to the industry, and here within Next Gen Voices, the same spirit remains from a selection of passionate young leaders.

    Take a deep breath and find your center with Nike Master Trainer Branden Collinsworth as he leads the CFS+ community through a guided meditation, crafted to provide a moment of reflection and intention-setting.

    Re-watch here
  • 4:15 - 5:50 PM CEST
    PLENARY
    Category
    #climatechange

    Global Fashion Agenda and McKinsey & Company launched the Fashion on Climate report, concluding that if the fashion industry continues on its current path, it will miss the 2030 emissions reduction targets by 50%, thus generating twice the volume of carbon emissions required to reach the Paris Agreement.

    The Fashion on Climate report provides the underlying foundation for discussing this topic, and the panel will offer dynamic interaction, demystifying numbers and terminology while encouraging an open, organic exchange between participants.

    Re-watch here
    Category
    #systemchange #consumption

    The Covid-19 pandemic has underscored that the fashion industry system is broken – with overproduction, excessive discounting and an unsustainable calendar ill-suited to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. How can key players within the system collaborate to re-imagine how the industry can operate within planetary boundaries and be more inclusive and humane?

    Re-watch here
  • 4:15 – 6:15 PM CEST
    ROUNDTABLE [BY INVITATION ONLY]
    Category
    #redesign #equality

    The German EU Presidency has informally expressed a wish for “a smart mix of voluntary and mandatory measures and a smart mix of governmental and entrepreneurial measures” in the harmonisation of due diligence standards in the EU. The European Commission is also drafting a legislative proposal, with a draft report ongoing at the European Parliament level.

    This roundtable aims to better understand these wishes and to provide initial input from the industry to EU institutions.

  • 5:55 – 6:25 PM CEST
    BREAKOUTS I - CHOOSE ONE BELOW TO ATTEND
    Category
    #newmaterials #redesign

    Tap into how the creation of a 100% 3D printed sneaker was conceived and made possible despite limitations posed by the pandemic – through a cross-border collaborative effort from Creative Director Heron Preston (New York), Designer Daniel Bailey (London) and Engineer Cornelius Schmitt (Hamburg).

    Re-watch here
    Category
    #systemchange #redesign

    How can the fashion sector grow out of growth and transition to a world of LESS? The authors of Earth Logic, Professors Kate Fletcher and Mathilda Tham, talk to three leaders of change: an ecological economist, an entrepreneur and a journalist to get to the crux of LESS, including its economic implications, worker impacts and shifting behaviours.

    Join us in a game-changing exploration of Earth Logic, which examines why less is needed, how it can be done and who can do it.

    Re-watch here
    Category
    #equality #systemchange

    The COVID-19 Garment Industry Call to Action is a set of shared commitments by actors across the sector to address the crisis created by the pandemic. The commitments define priorities that include speeding access to emergency financing for both workers and employers and establishing stronger health and social protections to contribute to a more resilient industry in the future.

    During this deep dive case study, we will discuss the achievements of the effort to date, as well as the challenges ahead.

    Stream here
    Category
    #equality #systemchange

    COVID-19 has had an immeasurable impact on the fashion industry. With the quick shift to remote engagement, including corporate offices moving to remote work and factory audits taking place offsite – what are the implications for the future of work? How is the resulting explosion of digitalisation driving sustainability improvement across the value chain?

    Join Li & Fung, Fung Group and the International Labour Organization (ILO) to explore the pandemic’s impact on work and hear how Li & Fung is unlocking opportunities for improved sustainability via digitalisation.

    Re-watch here
  • 6:30 – 7:00 PM CEST
    BREAKOUTS II - CHOOSE ONE BELOW TO ATTEND ONE
    Category
    #circularity #transparency

    Ahluwalia is known for exploring vintage and dead stock clothing, taking elements from the Creative Director’s dual Indian-Nigeran heritage and London roots. Priya Ahluwalia’s understanding of the industry’s difficulties within circularity drives her challenge on how to enable circular systems.

    This case study unlocks the vision behind her challenge, together with in-depth knowledge around how tech can enable circularity, presented by Michael Colarossi, VP of Innovation, Product Line Management and Sustainability at leading material science and innovation company Avery Dennison.

    Re-watch here
    Category
    #systemchange #consumption #transparency

    The Higg Index is designed to enable transparency. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and Higg Co have been working with brands and retailers on consumer-facing transparency pilots to understand how consumers react to sustainability performance data on a product level. Consumers report that they are interested in sustainability information on products, but they do not yet use the data to drive their purchasing behaviours.

    This session will discuss the future of Higg transparency and the learnings from testing it, as well as showcasing some examples.

    Re-watch here
    Category
    #climatechange #equality

    The case study will not only outline Timberland’s 2030 vision but also share insights into how the brand arrived at the bold goals that will drive its agenda for the next decade: from consumer insights and strategic frameworks, to supply chain partnerships and materials innovations and all the challenges faced along the way.

    Through this case study, Timberland hopes to inspire other brands and companies to pursue meaningful sustainability targets and work collectively towards a greener future.

    Re-watch here