When we think of responsible and eco-friendly fashion the first word that undeniably comes to mind is sustainability. Sustainability has become a buzz word used by brands to emphasise that their products are good for the planet. And whilst it is certainly an important concept to understand and live by, there is another that is of equal importance – transparency.
The importance of transparency is one of the main campaign goals of non-profit movement, Fashion Revolution. Through their insightful resources and campaigns, they aim to emphasise that change in the industry is possible by holding brands to account. Transparency is the first step in this process. The more information brands disclose, the greater opportunity movements like Fashion Revolution, and even the consumer, have to hold human rights and environmental policies to account.
Fashion Revolution Week
An integral part of Fashion Revolution’s campaign is their annual Fashion Revolution Week. The week of global events occurs each year around the anniversary of the devastating Rana Plaza factory collapse in which 1138 people lost their lives in 2013. The campaign encourages everyone, from every part of the supply chain, to get involved in a multitude of events and ask the necessary questions, like #WhoMadeMyClothes? and #WhatsInMyClothes?
With the current pandemic putting a halt to any physical events, this year’s Fashion Revolution Week went completely digital. As well as encouraging followers to use the hashtags, the group hosted a series of events which inspired thousands across the world to work collaboratively and creatively. ‘The Email The Brand’ feature, for instance, allowed followers to send an email directly to their favourite brands whilst workshops hosted by designers like Patrick McDowell and Phoebe English through the Fashion Open Studio allowed consumers and designers to work collaboratively at home.
The Fashion Transparency Index
A highlight of Fashion Revolution Week is the release of their annual Fashion Transparency Index. The report reviews a selection of the biggest fashion brands across the globe based on how much information they disclose to us, the consumer. It comprises of 220 indicators covering a range of social and environmental topics from climate effects to living wages of workers and much more.
With the average score being at 23% of the 250 points available, it is clear that there is still a significant deficit of information. In the 2020 report, the high street, surprisingly to some, came out on top. The H&M Group increased their 2019 score by 12 points to 73% making them the top scorers.
Whilst many brands saw a significant increase in their score, the results have highlighted issues with the information being disclosed. In the analysis of the results, the team highlighted that many brands are operating a deliberate strategy of ‘data dumping’ where supply chain information is repeated with slight differences in terminology. The results indicate that despite growing efforts from brands, there is still much that needs to be done in order for these brands to be held to account.
Transparency in a crisis
The effects of the current coronavirus pandemic also featured in the Index. During the Fashinnovation summit, Fashion Revolution’s Carry Somers stressed how the pandemic has put emphasis on the importance of transparency. In response to the crisis, brands have stopped or delayed payments to suppliers with little regard to how this will affect vulnerable workers across the supply chains.
The Index also highlights how the pandemic has put a greater emphasis on overconsumption in the industry. With stores having to close across the world, garments are being left unsold but what will happen to this stock considered ‘out of season’ when the stores eventually open?
The independent brands championing greater transparency
Whilst the Fashion Transparency Index is important to consider when discussing transparency in the industry, it only covers 250 of the biggest brands in the fashion world. However, there are several small and independent brands offering extensive and transparent information about how they produce their products.
TOBEFRANK, a brand founded by sustainable consultant Frankie Phillips, is built on innovation, responsibility and transparency. As well as having an in-depth explanation of each of their factories, suppliers and mills at the click of a button, TOBEFRANK also has its own method of establishing the sustainability of each product through The Frank Code.
Stitched onto every garment, The Frank Code consists of four coloured circles each representing a different sustainable element involved in the garment’s production. If the circle is filled in it shows that that process is involved in the making of the garment. The TOBEFRANK team have designed a unique way to ensure that each garment physically carries its story – an innovative method of ensuring transparency.
TALA, a sustainable and inclusive sportswear brand, offers consumers information on both what their gym wear is made from and the processes behind creating the products. The brand, launched by fitness influencer Grace Beverley, documents through their website and social media their journey to creating products that are 100% up-cycled. The website makes note of the many different sustainable alternatives the brand utilises for its hoodies, joggers and even packaging, including Recovertex yarn, recycled cotton and recycled water bottles.
All of the garments are produced in a sustainable Portuguese factory, where all of the required yarn and fibres are spun onsite to lessen their carbon footprint. Grace takes her followers on a unique journey through the factory on her YouTube channel. The videos mark a much-needed move towards greater transparency in the industry and I hope that more brands learn from the great lengths TALA goes to in order to be both sustainable and transparent.
Transparency – a necessary tool for change
Transparency is a crucial tool in creating a more ethical and eco-conscious fashion industry. Fashion Revolution are ensuring the notion of transparency is a concept that we are all aware of, to prevent tragedies like the Rana Plaza collapse happening again.
A more transparent and sustainable fashion industry is something that we should all be campaigning for, for a more conscious and kinder future.