Accountability is nothing new as far as the fashion industry is concerned, but with an increasing interest in sustainability, consumers are now more likely than ever to put their money where their mouth is. Or, rather, not put their money in the hands of less openly transparent business models.
Previously a subcategory of sustainability, traceability has moved to the forefront of social demands that impact the industry. Consumers are no longer appeased by promises of “ethically sourced” and are instead now fully basing their purchases off of physical evidence provided by the companies they love.
Brands are finding themselves with an incredibly niche problem of creating a secure relationship with their supply houses in order to ensure the integrity of materials to meet the demands of their loyal consumers. This can be a difficult task that requires a lot of dedicated time and strong communication skills in order to explain the brand’s needs versus the consumers’ needs without putting a strain on the supplier in a way that will disrupt production entirely. This is a two-way street that needs to be beneficial to both the brand and the supplier so that their business relationships continue to grow and expand as the traceability requirements grow more popularized in the upcoming seasons. This has created additional needs for brands as a whole, requiring separate traceability departments or teams that are more familiar with the specifics.
Traceability teams are nothing new for brands like Ralph Lauren and Chanel who have been rolling out these departments right alongside consumer demands to stay inline or one step ahead of the curve - like always. These teams extend much further than the initial roots of sustainability and focus on a brand/supplier relationship in order to develop and maintain positive results with lasting impact.
It is no secret that brands are under pressure to not only meet the expectations of their consumers but to also now comply with the existing and newly evolving legislation in multiple countries as they continue to roll out. Retailers are also beginning to push back on brands with the requirements that each and every one of their partners should meet them evenly with their ethical requirements in order to continue to do business together - and it is in the best interest of a brand to show empathy by acknowledging this request. It would behoove both the retailers and brands to work in unison to create a plan of action to progress forward in traceability transparency that would appease all parties involved.
The traceability demand proves yet again that the fashion industry as a whole is constantly progressing forward - deciding yet again that it is more important to find agile, flexible talent rather than stay stagnant with outdated business models.
Of course traceability comes in all shapes and sizes; there’s a method to be had for every business model - but there is no doubt that it should be at the top of every budget, marketing and company policy making conversations for the next few seasons.
By: Laurie Candeloro