There are always buzzwords trending in the fashion industry — from influencer to sustainability — but one term, in particular, has made headlines time and time again over the past few years: transparency.
What is transparency, why does it matter in fashion, and why is it trending today?
In the fashion industry, transparency specifically refers to giving the end consumer a peek into the process and people that take a piece of clothing from concept to hanger. Customers want to know: Where is fabric being sourced? Where is the product manufactured? Who is manufacturing the product? What are the working conditions for the manufacturer?
Today’s consumer, especially the millennial consumer, is considering more than just style, fit and price when shopping. They care about how brands impact their quality of life, society, and the world as a whole.
Millennials are actively seeking more information about the items they purchase, and the brands who are listening are responding by making the information they seek readily available. Although investing in ethical systems and materials can be costly and a rather big change in business for some brands, transparency offers many positive implications for brands, including an increase in customer trust and loyalty. In fact, research shows that nearly nine out of ten shoppers will stick with a company during a brand crisis if that company has a history of being transparent.
Transparency can also be a tool for increasing revenue and market share. According to a recent study from Label Insight, 39 percent of consumers would switch a new brand that is transparent and 73 percent of consumers say they are willing to pay more for a product that promises total transparency.
The focus on transparency in fashion is relatively new, but there are a few brands, including Everlane and ASOS that are leading the movement.
Everlane, the direct to consumer clothing brand launched in 2010, was founded on the idea of offering quality basics at an affordable price with ‘radical transparency.’ Everlane goes as far as to show the customer how much the item they are buying cost to make, from material to labor and transportation. They note where each garment is made, and make detailed information about each factory and their employment conditions readily available to the customer. In just eight years, Everlane went from zero to over $100M in revenue, all based on this idea of transparency.
ASOS, the UK-based retailer, is another company putting transparency first. As part of their Ethical Trade Program, ASOS has vowed to give the customer complete visibility into their supply chain for every ASOS labeled product by 2020. On their site, you can find a map of all of their supply chain as well as detailed information on each of their factories, down to the percentage of female employees versus male employees.
With the increased customer demand for transparency, many retailers are actively seeking brands that offer just that. Nordstrom, for example, recently partnered with Everlane for a pop-in concept. The department store’s Vice President of Creative Projects, Olivia Kim, stated: “(We) really believe in Everlane’s mission, and think they’ve become distinguished leaders in the transparent retail space.” Nordstrom has also partnered with the women’s sustainable apparel brand, Reformation, selling their products both online and in top stores.
Consumers today, more than ever before, value authenticity and are choosing to invest in brands that they believe have a positive effect on their lives, the environment, and future generations — even if that means increasing their spend.
While becoming a transparent brand does require time and investment, especially if that involves changing production processes and practices, the demand for more information will only continue to increase and the old standard for disclosed information will no longer be acceptable.
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