HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR BRANDS TO BE TRANSPARENT WITH THEIR CUSTOMERS?
Fashion Revolution is an organisation trying to make the fashion world more ethical and transparent in a bid to stop another Rana Plaza catastrophe from ever happening again. Every year they publish the Fashion Transparency Index, a document ranking 250 brands on how they make their clothes with a focus on the social and environmental impacts, and to encourage fashion brands to be transparent about what it is they’re doing.
The transparency score on average overall was a low 23%, with only H&M scoring above 70%; followed by brands such as C&A (70%), Adidas and Reebok (69%), Esprit (64%), Marks and Spencer and Patagonia (60%), all make up the top five with the highest transparency scores. The document doesn’t only account for fast fashion, luxury and athleisure brands are also investigated but luxury brands often perform worse than fast fashion and sports brands, such as Tom Ford scoring 0% again, this could be due to the fact that fast fashion and sportswear have been coming under scrutiny since the nineties about the manufacturing process in developing countries.
The fast fashion industry has traditionally chosen to outsource work to countries such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia to name a few. This is because it’s so cheap, however, the supply chain is not as simple as it would seem. In some cases, contractors have to sub-contract other factories to make another part of the garment or go to different suppliers to get different fabrics. ‘The True Cost’ documentary highlights some of the biggest social, economic and environmental issues caused by fast fashion, and how the supply chain works from start to finish. The documentary highlights issues factory workers and farmers have due to this being their only source of income in a poverty-stricken environment and the effects of it on their lives and how it pollutes their environment leading to shocking health conditions.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus, there have been concerns about whether brands will stick to their ethics and the commitments they have made to be more sustainable and ethical, something that is now important to consumers and influencing where they shop. Due to the world being on lockdown, over $20 billion worth of orders of clothes have been cancelled and companies are no longer liable to the obligations they once had to the suppliers. Part of Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index also looks at how workers are treated from child labour to being paid fair wages, more than three quarters of the brands involved in the publication meet the criteria Fashion Revolution looks for. It is crucial that brands continue to transparent as it allows workers in the factories to be protected and not have their rights abused, however the outbreak of covid-19 could see workers losing their jobs and continuing the cycle of poverty.
Fashion students are being educated about how crucial transparency is to the industry and some brands are leading the way. However, until the industry can be fully transparent people will have to suffer along the way.