Fashion, Opinion, Stories

Transparency is the New Black

Transparency is the new black, and Aussie fashion needs to keep up.

Next time you’re on your favourite brand’s website, have a quick look for some sort of information about where and how their products are made.

It’s an interesting and slightly addictive process – observing how much information a company is willing to share with you, the all powerful consumer.

I’m going to go ahead and guess that you’ll find one or more of the following:

  1. A few sentences about how the brand is committed to doing the right thing.
  2. A philanthropic program the brand in which the brand participates
  3. Not a single thing

You will, however, find a plethora of inspirational statements that allude to a certain level of social consciousness. The website of high-end Aussie brand, Camilla, is full of beautiful creative storytelling but has not one reference to where or who by the products are made, nor if the company ensures ethical practices in their supply chain.

Camilla’s ‘About Us’ section even refers to the “intricate craftsmanship” involved in one of her $600 dresses. Does this craftsperson have a name?

The celebrity designer is even quoted saying her ‘vision is a world where every woman is respected and has the right to experience freedom and joy. I want to help women… better their lives and the lives of those around them.”

You could say Camilla is achieving this with the one impact project featured on the site – a program where $1 of every $600 purchase is donated to charity. Is it enough? I’ll let you decide.

A little more encouraging is cult label, Sass & Bide, who feature a number of philanthropic endeavours on their website plus an even more exciting social impact partnership with the Ethical Fashion Initiative. The brand’s founders, Sarah-Jane Clarke and Heidi Middleton, even travelled to Africa to collaborate with local artisans to create products for a special Sass & Bide ‘social impact’ collection.

Clarke and Middleton appear to be catching onto the importance of weaving impact into your supply chain, rather than simply ticking the philanthropy box. Before you let Sass & Bide off the hook, what about the rest of their supply chain? I want to know where their $800 blazers and $400 jeans are made. We’ll be waiting patiently.

Like Sass & Bide, Aussie fashion royalty, Zimmermann, appears to be leaning in the right direction. The brand mentions a “commitment to corporate social responsibility” and even provides a Supplier Code of Conduct outlining the ethical expectations they place on their suppliers.

The pattern I found on the websites of Camilla, Sass & Bide, Zimmermann and many like them is that ‘ticking the CSR box’ appears more important than pursuing transparency and real change.

This article is not intended to name and shame specific brands over others. These brands are not alone. Silence in the area of CSR is the unfortunate industry norm.

My choice of brands based on their influence in Australian and international fashion. That’s why it’s called corporate social responsibility. With great success comes great responsibility.

The Curious Case of the Transparent Fashion Startup…

Many people jump to the defence of non-transparent brands, saying it’s impossible to reveal sensitive details of a supply chain for safety, privacy or simple “company policy”.

So, how then could something as simple as a transparent supply chain take a fashion newcomer from nobody to cult brand in the space of 6 years?

Everlane’s famous tagline ‘radical transparency’ has not only seen the company grow exponentially since its launch in 2011, but it has let an elephant into the room for competing fashion brands around the world.

Consumers are now asking why other fashion brands aren’t publishing factory lists, company salaries and the price markups of their products?

Well, it’s a difficult question to answer. Because there’s no real reason why transparency can’t be commonplace.

For all I know, Camilla, Sass & Bide and Zimmermann all have impeccable compliance records, amazing traceability processes and clear social and environmental impact policies. The problem is, they haven’t told us.

Brands with nothing to hide should be leaping at the chance to tell us about it. By doing so, they will only increase trust and loyalty for their brand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *