24 January 2017

There has been an increasing interest in the fashion industry on making the ‘hidden costs’ of garments more transparent. In 2006, I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the ‘true costs’ of the textile industry, inspired by the work of ecology writers such as Paul Hawken and economist Herman Daly. These thinkers were talking about the impacts or ‘cost’ of industrial manufacturing on the environment in the form of pollution, toxicity and damage to ecosystems.

The conversation in the fashion and textile sector has now evolved to be a key concern for customers and companies, as the textile industry continues to impact on our ecosystem and the price of clothing continues to decline. Fashion companies have started to understand that transparency and accountability is good for the environment and good for business. The most recent brand to engage with transparency is Everlane, who have branded themselves as offering ‘radical transparency’. They have made information on each stage of the supply chain available to customers, and are communicating their operating costs and profits. Puma has even developed a profit and loss framework that shows the economic costs of their impact on the environment through their entire supply chain.

More and more fashion brands are declaring their spreadsheets and their impacts. Just last week, Liz who runs the independent fashion label Elizabeth Suzann, wrote a fantastic piece on her blog about the pricing for her collections. She discusses the background context to why customers are starting to ask these hard questions of companies; why no other sector or consumer goods category other than fashion is experiencing this phenomena; and provides a break down of the costs for all her garment designs.

I predict this transparency around business models and branding stories will only continue in the fashion industry, particularly as a younger generation of designers, entrepreneurs and customers demand honesty and integrity from the fashion industry.

Image: Everlane