The Fashion Transparency index by The Fashion Revolution highlights transparency in the fashion industry, (or lackthereof) with a focus on big brands. But what about the independent and innovative brands changing the industry for good? We take a look at 5 independent brands championing true transparency.
Transparency to us just means that, the complete and whole ability to show and describe each step of making something, what goes into it, what comes out of it, and the impact of these processes, both social and environmental. In fashion, brands should be able to share where the materials come from, how they are farmed and by whom, where each individual item is manufactured, from the fabric to the buttons, rivets, zips, laces, eyelets, who makes them, how they are stored, delivered, what happens to the clothes at the end of the cycle. Transparency also means an acknowledgement of what goes into the business away from the physical making of the clothes, who’s responsible and how accessible all of this information is.
Unfortunately this isn’t common practice, The Fashion Transparency Index from The Fashion Revolution meticulously reviews big brands (those with over 400 million dollars turnover), scoring them in all areas of transparency (have a look here if you’re interested in how they score the brands. And with 250 brands, from H&M to Tom Ford, there was an average overall score of 23%, with many well-known brands scoring 0. This doesn’t make us feel great about the industry. So, rather than go on about the bad, we thought we’d share 5 of our favourite independent brands and what they’re doing to champion transparency across the industry.
Everlane are synonymous with transparency, it is a core foundation of the brand with the tagline: “Exceptional quality. Ethical factories. Radical Transparency”. By partnering with ethical factories around the world, sourcing the finest materials, sharing each step of this journey with you, whilst listing out the “true cost” of every product on their website, transparency is evident in everything they do.
The brand spend months finding the best factories in the world ensuring they build strong personal relationships with the owners. They also audit each factory to ensure it meets their standards, aligns to their social and environmental beliefs, protects fair wages, reasonable hours and environment. You can search on the Everlane website to find details of each individual factory, from where they are, what they produce, how many employees they have, and who owns of the factory. This isn’t something we see that regularly, we would call it radically transparent.
Further transparency by Everlane can be seen in the way they share the costs of each product with their customers. They share the cost of each step of the journey, from the materials to the labour and transport, as well as what the traditional retail mark-up would be. By sharing the costs by each individual item on their site, the customer is able to see the profit the brand make on the clothes, and what it would be if retailed elsewhere, empowering you to make the decision based on transparency.
“Transparency shouldn’t be a luxury, but a standard. That’s why we built Kotn from the ground up, working directly with every step of our supply chain, starting with their key raw material, cotton.”
A favourite of ours for simple essentials, Kotn describe radially transparent in context of the production process, how the materials are sourced and where they are made. They focus on traceability as a form of transparency, defining it as “the knowledge of where a product came from, who made it, how, and when”. By building their brand from the ground up, Kotn have been able to formulate every step of their supply chain appropriately, starting with the materials they use, Egyptian cotton.
The brand work directly with 690 smallholder cotton farms in Egypt to harvest the famously soft cotton. Furthermore, Kotn have established personal relationships with the yarn mills, responsibly-run fabric mills, dyeing factories, and husband and wife owned and operated cutting and sewing factories, to ensure each step of their process is traceable and transparent, with the positive social and environmental practices for all. Listing all of the people involved on their website, open for all to view.
ASKET are developing “meaningful essentials” whilst striving for change across the industry. The processes they follow to strive towards 100% transparency are outlined in their “principles” document, a thorough and honest look on the industry and the brand’s own impact, both social and environmental, published in April 2020.
Rather than labelling the subject “transparency”, they have set their own standards. In section one of the document, labelled, “Full Traceability”, launched in 2018, allows ASKET to identifying each individual and unique process adopted in the creation of their garments whilst understanding the exact locations of the farms, plants, factories and facilities where these processes are carried out. By establishing a “traceability score”, a concise formula grading their knowledge of the entire supply chain, they are able to list everything they know, and importantly, everything they don’t know. The details of this can be found on their website, as well as on a transparency label sewn into the garments.
Paired with the “Full traceability” initiative is the “Full Accountability” standard, a review and measurement on C02 emission, energy use and water use, from garment development to the shipping, to enable informed decisions on how the brand can offset and reduce the impact of their garments. This transparency enables the brand to evoke social and environmental change, whilst enabling you to make informed decisions on where the clothes you buy from ASKET come from, and how they are made.
Oh, and a list of all of the brand’s factories are on their website too.
Outland Denim are the maker of premium denim jeans and another brand championing transparency across the industry. They source fine raw materials from around the world while offering sustainable employment and career opportunities to women who have experienced exploitation. Through establishing personal relationships with each of the individual staff, Outland Denim are able to unlock social change for their staff, their families and their communities.
The desire for social change, paved the way for their environmental mission, with the knowledge that the world’s most vulnerable people are also affected most by environmental degradation. Outland denim tell how every button, rivet and stich is carefully selected by the designers at the beginning of the process, with the intention to minimise impact on the environment and reduce risk of exploitation across the supply chain.
On their website you can see how each of these pieces is manufactured and by who. The buttons & rivets, denim, dyes, energy, freight and shipping, brand patch, packaging, pocket lining, thread, tote bags, zippers, labels and tags have all come from somewhere, and you can find where on their website. For example, Outland Denim source their denim from Bossa Denim in Turkey, by a factory heralded for its waste recovery systems, utilisation of natural and safe dyes, and carbon dioxide reduction studies. Outland Denim state that Bossa utilise certified organic cotton, which is proven to use 91 per cent less blue water (water from fresh surface or groundwater sources) than conventional cotton; pay their workers with fair wages; hold ISO 14001 Environmental Management Systems Certification; and are Standard 100 by OEKO-TEXⓇ Certified as evidence that their products and practices have been tested against harmful substances.
Outland Denim believe their business model illustrates that the fashion industry can actually be a solution to some of the world’s most pressing global, social and environmental issues, and we don’t disagree.
Flamingos’Life, a sustainable footwear brand from Spain, have a strong position against the opacity and occultism in the fashion industry today, driven by a desire to “unlock the hidden truth of the industry” Flamingos’Life are showing what it means to be transparent with action.
By partnering with BCOME, a leading platform enabling brands to measure and prove to the consumer how sustainable and ethical their product is, they are able to transparently share their processes. Through this project, Flamingos’Life life have shown they were able to save 2,500 litres of water, emit 318kg less of CO2 and 233 grams less of PO4 in their sneaker development versus that of a relative leather sneaker. The brand mention how the use of biodegradable raw materials, such as corn and hemp, are crucial to reducing these emissions.
Reporting on their social impact is as important as their environmental impact. With around 100 people involved in the creation of their sneakers, Flamingos’Life have partnered with BCOME to ensure they have accreditation, certifying that their sneakers are developed under safe and ethical working conditions. Since 2018 Flamingos’Life have manufactured exclusively in Spain (where the brand hails), in family-owned factories (all of which can be found on their website).
With their transparency, close relationships with factories, ongoing reforestation projects, partnerships with Waste Free Oceans and use of animal free, biodegradable materials, it’s easy to see why we’re happy to champion Flamingos’Life.
We credit these brands for their transparency on social and environmental issues that affect them and the entire fashion industry. Although transparency isn’t the answer to all of the issues we face in the industry, it does provide a window for us to see the problems or indeed solutions; a first important step towards change.
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