TRANSPARENCY IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
Transparency eliminates secrecy and holds brand accountable. If you could see how some of the clothes you buy were made, you wouldn't buy them. I know the same is true for some of the stuff in my wardrobe. Even wardrobe pieces as simple as a tee shirt are the product of a complex supply chain which has an impact on people and on our planet at every stage.
Unfortunately fashion supply chains are notoriously dirty, and the brands that that exploit people and the planet to produce their clothes rely on it being hidden to keep selling us stuff. But you as the consumer have huge power to demand transparency from brands; to see their supply chain and how their clothes are made from start to finish, and decide if that’s something you want to support... or not. Transparency is one of our 'good design codes' that we asses brands against. You can find all of our products that are produced in a transparent way here.
Transparency from fashion brands is even more important in a time of crisis. Businesses around the world are being affected by Covid-19, and whilst many brands are honouring commitments to suppliers and some are finding ways to shift their business to offer support, like making PPE. There are also big brands cancelling orders and refusing or delaying payment, secretly pushing the burden on to their supply chain, and the poorest workers in the industry. We checked in with some of our transparent brands to see how Covid-19 is affecting them, and how they're dealing with it.
*This is quite a long post, but we loved hearing what the brands had to say, and we think it's well worth a read with a cup of coffee in hand.
ZHENG AND DIDIER, FOUNDERS OF DOM AMSTERDAM are particularly passionate about transparency. They use deadstock material, eliminating the need for any new material production, so have more control over their supply chain. They are super open about where their fabric is sourced, and that all Dom bags are produced by Mohamed at Alaraj Atelier (pictured below) who they consider a friend and business partner.
On being transparent, Zheng told us "Honesty goes a long way. Being transparent to our customers creates trust. When it comes down to sustainability it's important to show in what way exactly we're sustainable so we don't end up on the ever growing list of companies that just 'claim' to be sustainable."
Fortunately our overhead costs are relatively low so we will just have to patiently wait for this crisis to pass."
Find out more about Dom, and see the waist bags and totes they produce with Mohamad here.
SARA AND HANNAH CO-FOUNDERS OF ON GOOD AUTHORITY have made transparency a real focus for their brand and have been awarded the Ecoage brandmark in recognition of their sustainability. Most technical wear is really not good for the environment, so to have achieved this in their category is a big deal.
They produce their jackets at Jireh Corporation, an outdoor garment specialist based in China. Two of the workers LiuLi, and Liu Yueca, are pictured below. On working transparently with Jireh, Sara said "Jireh Corporation put the safety and working conditions at the forefront of their practises. They are audited annually by a third party group; BCSI. The audit reviews workers' rights, working conditions and the factory's environmental impact. The report also gives us wage transparency."
OGA are not currently producing open orders, so they're not impacted by their supply chain at the moment, but Sara told us how their business has been impacted by COVID-19 "Until very recently, we were in the midst of fundraising so that we could bring more styles to the collection later this year. Sadly that has been put on hold for now due to the economic struggles and uncertainty brought about by Covid-19. So right now, we are focusing on keeping engaged with our audience and using our platform to continue to raise awareness about the importance of shopping sustainably. We are currently reframing our business plan to relaunch in SS21 in tandem with the UK music festival season.
When we do relaunch we are so excited to tell you that we have sourced a new fabric that we will roll out for future collections that is made from 100% rPET (recycled post consumer plastic bottles), and is also 100% recyclable. This means that we can create products in a closed loop circular economy massively reducing our dependence on non-renewable resources. "
Find out more about On Good Authority, and check out their first release the Waterproof Kimono here.
GAVIN, KYLE AND CHRIS OF ULLAC have placed their manufacturing in the hands of a carefully curated group of mills, producers and suppliers across Europe. They take pride in how their clothes are made, and what they are made of and you can find out all about it on their site.
We asked Chris two questions over email, and got a typically open response that felt a lot like having a chat with him, so we're sharing those answers in full with you, so you can feel that too.
Why is being transparent important to you as a brand?
"Transparency is vital to our brand for lots of reasons. All of us are talkers, we’re all story tellers in different ways, I think we’re all personally pretty open, actually I think we are all very much over sharers. We really care about the world, and the people in it. So we want to put that care in to everything we do. ULLAC is really just an extension of what we are personally so it's very natural that we should want to talk about everything we do as a brand.
Over the few years that we’ve done this, we’ve built a little community that we talk to a lot. We’ve made lots of new real life friends all over the world. People that we’ve made friends with because they liked our clothes, people we’ve made friends with because they liked our ethos; people that we’ve made fiends with because the liked our clothes and then when we got chatting liked the way we made them; and people we’ve made friends with just because they like to talk too. We’ve made friends with people that have given us advice, people that have shared knowledge with us, people that have helped us along the way, and we try to do that same thing. I think this might sound really obvious, but as ULLAC and as individuals, we are part of our community too. We want our community to care about the world like we do, because we care about the world. So talking and being transparent is part of sharing that story and message, and the more everyone does that, the bigger the conversation, the more likely we all are to make more positive changes.
Another thing that’s important about transparency is that we’re human. We’re not perfect, and we’re working in an imperfect world. We get things wrong, we make mistakes. But we do everything with care, so we want people to understand that too. We want people to talk to us, or to ask us questions about the way we do things or the way we think about things. The more open and transparent we all our, the more we can all see where the pitfalls are and we can try to fix them and try to push things forward."
We also asked them how the current situation with Covid-19 has affected ULLAC and their supply chain:
Like a lot of people, the psychological barrage of it all hit us. We felt a great deal of anxiety. Anxiety fuelled by addiction to the news, and the feeling of helplessness as this thing crept in and began to take hold of peoples lives in so many ways, and how the media became dominated by very, very sad numbers. This was all dialled up by the fact that me and my family went in to a 14 day self isolation before the official UK lockdown.
Kyle and I were both really feeling it, and then a night or two after Boris made the lockdown official a good friend of ours and a really wonderful and strange human Matty sent us a video of him dancing on the beach near his home on the south coast. It was stupid, and lovely and it was joy. It cut through all the noise. So we decided that was how to deal with what was happening publicly. We shared that video with our community hoping that it would cut through some of the noise. Along with it we sent out quite a long message about how we thought it was best to deal with it all. The jist, is basically try to remember to cut the noise when you can and one day we’ll all be out there walking and dancing like Matty again. Oh and give a little love and it all comes back to you.
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so wanna say this before we carry on. We all have to carry on in our own ways where we can. We all need to take care of business. Take care of our families, take care of our friends, take care of strangers and take care of ourselves in what ever ways we can. It all feels a bit scary and overwhelming but try not to live in fear. Limit the intake - look at the news once a day and then do other stuff. Do work, get dressed, call friends, call your nana, wave at your neighbours, do your bit for each other. Chat to us on here if you want (we would really love that), download HouseParty and talk to your friends and see their faces (add us on there if you like, there’s a link up in the bio), read, listen to music, write and be in each others lives. We have heroes running around out there taking care of business right now so we are lucky. Just listen to what they need us to do and do that I reckon. Kill the noise. Send each other shit that kills it. Make it if you have too. One of ULLAC oy’s best mates sent this and it killed all the noise. His name is Matty D he makes music and controls the ocean which is basically the same thing. Matty D walks like this still, but it won’t be long till we are too. We're weaker divided. Let friendship double up our powers. You give a little love and it all comes back to you. You know your gonna be remembered for the things that you say and do La la la la la la la Take Care, ULLAC oy x
In terms of how it has affected our supply chain: luckily we weren’t in production really. We were at the end of a little run with a little place up in Sheffield. Actually, one last part of that order that hadn’t been done yet but Nicola and Simon suspended all manufacturing to protect the health of their guys which was very much the right thing to do. Those guys are ace, and the last time we chatted a week or two ago they were gearing up to make PPE which is brilliant.
I make a lot of clothes to order with a needle and thread magician Mr Mingle in Hackney. But that production is severely limited now. Luckily he has a the ability to carry on in a very minor capacity in isolation so I have been able to make a few pieces with him but it’s very slow and tricky.
We work a lot with a little family run factory in Urbania which is about half way down the east coast of Italy. Doriana, Mr DIni (although he gives me a hard time) and their families have become very dear to me over the few years that we have worked with them, although we’re not in production at the moment, we’re in contact and they are in our thoughts a lot. We hope they’re all keeping safe and well.
I also work with a lot of Italian mills, all of which are closed now. So again, I just hope that everyone is safe and well.
Really the big affect on us is going to show on how we move forward. At the beginning of this year we were working on designs and gathering fabric samples and getting ready to start sampling for our next collection. But then, most of our suppliers suspended any kind of manufacturing, and we had to close our studio. So all of that went on hold.
Add to this the big financial strain that this has had, and will continue to have on us I think the rest of the year is going to look very different. Sampling an entire collection is quite costly, but also it takes a long time to get it all in place, so I don’t think we’re going to follow that pattern, not for a good old while anyway. I think we’ll be putting out a lot of singles rather than albums for a while which is very fun. It gives us a lot of creative freedom. I’ve got a whole bunch of sketches and ideas and a loose story I want to tell, but I don’t need to be too worried about if everything sits perfectly together. Putting out work piece by piece and working more on pre-orders gives us a chance to play around with lots of different directions and it’s a much quicker way to start telling stories again This way of doing things is also much MUCH better for the world."
Find out more about Ullac, and see all their clothes produced with love and care here.
Do you get this level of transparency from your go-to brands? To find out how they produce take a look at the website and see what they publish about their process. If you don’t see the information there - ask them. Transparent brands will give you concrete details not sweeping statements, and honestly highlight what they are doing well, and what they want to improve. Their process might not be 100% sustainable now (no-one's really is), but by letting you in to see their current process, they invite you to track and hold them accountable for evolving and improving. And maybe they'll even be open to having a proper chat.
Explore the all of the products that are produced transparently, on PARO STORE here.
Featured image credit: remake.world