The Importance of Transparency
Farm-to-table restaurants are our favorite. We appreciate knowing what influenced the latest craft beer, that the greens came from Werp Farms, and the cheese from Beechers. We're looking at you Sweetgreen chalkboard. We also know we aren't the only ones who prefer to dine this way, which is why we find it interesting the same considerations aren't taken with clothing. Who made them? Where did the fibers come from? Were they properly sourced? We aren't programmed to ask these important questions when we are purchasing a final product rather than raw ingredients but that dress started as a pile of raw materials, so why should it be any different?
We may avoid asking the questions because the majority of clothing is made on the opposite side of the planet, so we'll never talk to that cotton farmer or seamstress anyhow. It's for that reason, proactively requesting information from brands is more important than ever. Like who stitched the seams of the dress and in what condition was it done? You know your coffee is Fair Trade, but what about your top?
Fashion Revolution is a global movement made up of activists and leaders in the fashion industry who believe clothes shouldn't come at the cost of people or our planet. Each year they publish the Fashion Transparency Index which ranks how much the top global brands disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies/practices, and social and environmental impact. Only 10% of the 150 biggest global fashion brands scored over a 50% transparency. The average? Only 21%. Shame on them.
Fashion Revolution explains why the industry needs to step-up it's transparency: 'Lack of Transparency costs lives. It is impossible for companies to make sure woman rights are respected, working conditions are adequate and the environment is safeguarded without knowing where their products are made. Transparency requires that companies know who makes their clothes - from who stitched them right through to who dyed the fabric and who farmed the cotton - and under what conditions.'
By knowing this information, and sharing it with the general public, brands can do their part to ensure raw materials are sourced in the best manners. Brands hopefully will recognize that consumers are happy to be their ally in this fight for transparency. Consumers will pay a higher price for ethically manufactured clothing just as they're willing to pay more for organic eggs. Right now, the general public doesn't understand that buying cheaper clothing does not mean they are being cost savvy, it means they don't understand how manufacturers are cutting costs. But if consumers did understand, we believe many of them would support brands that don't cut corners even if they are more expensive.
Fashion Revolution declares 'If we know the facilities where our clothes are being made, if we have access to information about the factories, mills and farms where brands are sourcing then the public can help hold the industry accountable for bad practices and encourage and support those brands who follow good practices.'
One brand that gives us all the feels is REI. Yeah, not high-fashion but any retailer who is willing to lead the charge towards change is a brand we support because of the kaleidoscope effect it will have industry wide. The multi-brand retailer has informed all 1,000+ vendors that unless they comply with REI's new code of sustainability, they will not sell their products in the store. Fair working conditions being one of those codes, in fact, it's even a category you can search for on their website. We are so proud and supportive of this initiative at REI that we are more than pleased to tell those who aren't doing something similar to take a hike. It's even inspired us to plan a mountain getaway, JUST so we can find a reason to spend our money at REI (eh hem voting dollars), the real way to effect change.