The consumer awareness led to the conclusion that a different consumption approach must be implemented, contrary to the existing fast fashion model
The urge of an ethical fashion system
By analyzing the change in ownership methods; users’ feedback and response are clear. The most common behaviors consist in resorting to vintage or second hand; while among the most elaborate there are the upcycling and make to order options.
This modality favors a return to a slow and reflective buying. Educating the consumer who is still not used to selecting a garment and waiting until the end of the production process to receive it. Make to order could be considered the ideal process to reduce the overproduction and unsold pieces for brands, but this is not enough.
The consumer is aware, now more than ever, that the majority of the fabrics of which the clothes are made from plastics are not destined to decompose easily. What’s missing is a proper conveyance of information to the consumers; so that they can make their buying experience more conscious.
A number of brands still implement misleading communication that describe projects in a superficial way. Far from the essence of what aims to be an ethical fashion system. This behavior is greenwashing. The difficulty in finding transparent information and understanding technical mechanisms in the production processes is still the main issue.
Brand and consumer side: transparency is the key
A number of digital platforms have taken advantage of this shortcoming; either to help consumers receive correct information or to stimulate brands to use a more sustainable supply chain management. In the first case the need is to make the consumer understand when a product is truly sustainable, explained Skrami, co-founder of Renoon.
«I need to tell you why, what’s in it and who made it. Where things were coming from». The first goal of platforms, like Talia and Staiy, is to educate the user through editorial content on their websites or social media. Creating a community engaged in the various areas of sustainable interest in fashion seems to be another key step in aligning consumer thinking with their behavior.
As far as brand cataloguing is concerned, many of the platforms analyzed start from the recognition of product characteristics according to numerical and certified guidelines. In other cases, this refers to the set of initiatives carried out by a given brand that prioritize social and environmental causes more than the actual ethicality of production.
Evaluating and increasing the sustainable performance of brands
Trying to unify the criteria of the different platforms; we can summarize them using the topics based on the United Nations SDG Goals. Environmental protection; responsible production and consumption; human wellbeing (taking into account for example ethical labor but also inclusivity) and animal ethics (vegan, cruelty-free).
Talking about brands, having to cope with the disparity between demand and proposed supply; there are solutions that can provide guidelines towards a more conscious production. Sustainable brand platforms are one of those. Far from the established revenue model, brands’ profitability should also be calculated in terms of community benefits.
The classification steps start from evaluating and increasing the sustainable performance of brands through algorithms that study the value chain; the sustainability of the company in terms of employment and locations; the impact of the brand on the community (charity, donations) and economics.
Renoon platform, like others related to the luxury sector such as Aura Blockchain Consortium; created by LVMH, Prada and Cartier, focus on the driving value of transparency that connects the consumer to the brand; through the communication of authenticity and responsible sourcing. Traceability, through blockchain technology, makes it possible to know and understand the life cycle of a product, from its creation to distribution.
Lampoon reporting: a comparison between data frameworks
Although these platforms aim to create data frameworks that analyze different variables; it’s complicated to rank brands and find a high percentage in the performance of each value. The approach that proposes a transparency designed by the businesses; brand and platform; for the consumer; provides for differences when applied to large multinationals or small emerging brands, so as to favor a certain level of inclusiveness.
Alongside a quantitative analysis there is a qualitative one. In addition to evaluating certain variables that are already regulated by institutions through certifications; various initiatives that contribute to the ethicality of the brand are taken into account.
From a quantitative point of view a basic requirement is connected with the material used in the production. Such as Tencel, hemp, recycled or organic cotton, or with the use of raw materials such as water as stated by Staiy’s parameters: levels of water used in production, percentage of water recycled, innovation for less water-intensive practices.
Renoon platform and recognized certificates like the Climate Neutral ones
There are also certifications that register the commitment in terms of eco-packaging, support climate transition, and carbon neutral. In terms of carbon neutrality, for example, Renoon platform uses recognized certificates like the Climate Neutral ones. The nonprofit organization drives every company towards the knowledge of its carbon footprint and the investment in offsetting and reduction.
Another document can be provided by Native. The company permits to realize the carbon offsets; proposing the donation equal to the carbon footprint to build clean energy and support carbon-reducing projects. From a qualitative point of view, at the brand level the most considered variables are the initiatives such as. Biodiversity, save the oceans, black lives matter, blockchain traces.
Even the last attribute, which may seem easy to quantify, no certification governs it. In this case, apps like Renoon rely on the adherence to projects such as. Lablaco, a digital platform committed in connecting stakeholders at the different level of the production chain; TrusTrace, a platform for product traceability and supply chain transparency; GenuineWay, a software company that works with medium business to ensure a tailor-made blockchain technology.
The status quo of the water bottle
It seems clear the intent of these platforms in providing the knowledge necessary for a consumer to lead the shift in the fashion sector. The commitment towards more transparent businesses is widespread and it is not related to geographical areas.
Although in some countries there is a greater sensitivity towards this issue; the conscious behavior towards the purchase modalities is linked to the existence of some groups, communities, which deepen these topics in an independent way.
Most of the actions proposed through initiatives, future goals and concrete projects are promoted by non-governmental organizations. Even if there are general objectives established for sustainable development at the political level; few are the regulations and prohibitions in terms of production and consumption.
Trust is placed in the consumer who is no longer naïve; unless he/she wants to justify his/her behaviors by believing and buying from brands that carry out greenwashing initiatives. The consumer is starting to understand the true cost of its own actions.
«As it happened with water bottles, at some point if you are not going out with a reusable water bottle. But with a plastic bottle, you are not socially accepted nowadays», stated Skrami. The power of a revolution lies in having an initial movement of people that drive a bottom up change to make unsustainable fashion unacceptable.
Technologies for a conscious buying experience
Performing this screening of products and brands is complicated; considering the vast scope of sustainability expansion in the application of schemes and policies. The first step of unclear differentiation already occurs at a basic level in the selection of products according to their composition.
Renoon founder explained that the product composition required in order to enter the platform must be at least formed for the fifty percent of certified materials, a percentage destined to increase to at least seventy. Among other platforms it is common to define a product through some attributes, without specifying quantitative data.
Most of the garments on Renoon, carry out high results, the thirty-five percent is made of these kinds of materials for more than eighty percent. And the twenty-four percent is made for more than 100% by them. The positive aspect of these platforms turns out to be their educational power regarding specific processes; approaches to sustainability that are difficult for an end consumer to understand.
As difficult as it may be to create change in the act of production; this instruction process allows the user to consume consciously, also through new approaches. Another question lies on the lack of information about work ethics, ethical labor and human wellbeing, which till now seems to be the most difficult attribute to track and to be understood at an objective level.
A development of technologies, especially in tracking the whole supply chain, and a great act of transparency from brands is going to offer reliable sources expanding consciousness even towards less experienced consumers.
Is a platform born and based in Amsterdam, the aim is to analyze at a product level and at a corporate social responsibility level the actual sustainable production of brands.
A digital window that includes various brands and buying options, like second hand or make to order. It aims to combine sustainable values with the customer’s responsible buying behavior, promoting a match between the user and the brand that respects his/her areas of interest.