As consumer demand for transparency is growing, companies are working to find a way to achieve transparency in one aspect of the business or another. Consumers are looking to get a sense for the cost or pricing structure, environmental impact, manufacturers’ working conditions, and more. Now the brands we choose to purchase from or wear not only say something about our style, but they can also say something about what we stand for. By choosing to purchase from a company that prioritizes work-life balance and positive workplace culture for its employees, we are saying that is something important enough to us that we are choosing to support it with our dollars.
Several apparel brands are now showing how they can meet this demand from their consumers by being transparent about their own practices and the practices of their partners (as companies are now asked to go much further to demonstrate consistently ethical supply chains). They show what they are doing to be responsible corporate citizens, how they are working to improve, and even where they have fallen short. Technology has allowed companies like Everlane to set a standard in how to directly communicate with your consumer, providing them with information like which factory that leather bag is made in or what the cost of labor is on that wool coat, while still having a beautiful, simple shopping experience and getting a stylish, high quality product. Shoppers are able to ask questions, explore general practices and philosophies, and find more posts, videos, infographics, and stories that they would not get in a more traditional shopping experience, thereby developing a deeper relationship and personal investment in the brands that they choose.
Today, we are highlighting a few apparel companies who stand out by making transparency a top priority, and as a result, show other companies how and why it’s important.
Ammara is an online-only retailer of luxury tops for women, selling “beautiful, high quality, well-tailored shirts” only. While transparency has been less common among luxury brands, Ammara was founded to create the same high-quality, beautifully designed pieces while reducing and delivering promptly. By selling directly to their consumers, they have been able to offer their items at a 2.5x margin instead of the 8x margin that is typical in department stores and achieve their mission. “We’ve eliminated the department store model and its accompanying financial mark-up. Our direct-to-consumer concept allows for the highest-possible quality and a curated, seasonally-relevant selection at a cost that fits your lifestyle.” Their website lists out their priorities (lifestyle drive, seasonally relevant, transparent) on the front page, keeping them at the forefront of the brand identity and connecting with their customers by allowing shoppers to better and more immediately understand the problems they are continuing to solve for.
Let’s take it a step further (okay, a few steps): Honest by is a European brand of men’s and women’s clothing who calls itself “the world’s first 100% transparent company.” On their website, their philosophy emphasizes animal welfare (no leather), environmental sustainability, and consumer safety. They share the full cost breakdown of all the products sold and production processes of each. And when I say all, I mean all. Honest by offers information on the fabrics and the origins of the raw material down to the buttons, thread, label and button bag; this includes composition, company names and addresses of the manufacturers and suppliers, price calculation, carbon footprint, and so much more. It’s easy as a shopper to really appreciate the massive effort it takes to maintain this level of information gathering and how important it must be to a brand to present it in such a straightforward way. Shoppers can even filter the items by categories like vegan, recycled and skin-friendly. They believe that “Fashion is about beauty. The story behind fashion can be equally beautiful.”
Patagonia is an excellent, more mainstream example of a company that is leading the transparency pack. Their mission is to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” With the amount of information they make available, consumers are able to see the ways Patagonia is working towards achieving the goals they set out to, what they have already achieved, and what issues they continue to struggle with. Consumers are able to read about the stringent accountability measures they have put in place to reduce human trafficking, starting by placing emphasis on Fair Trade to raise wages around the world to reach a living wage and improve standard of living. There are details on some specific materials as well, like the down that is used to fill much of their apparel. Patagonia uses traceable down, “all of which can be traced back to bird that were never force-fed and never live-plucked,” but they admit that their shells are contributing to climate change. “Despite our best efforts to minimize this contribution, we are still part of the problem.” While presenting the ways they are working to reduce their carbon footprint and slow down climate change, they also encourage their consumers to learn more about the issue and the many ways they can get involve, letting them know how invested they are even beyond the implications of their brand offerings.
By presenting a more candid view beyond the final product, these brands are able to better connect with their customers by removing the veil that makes a purchase feel simply transactional, instead showing them the priorities they have in common and helping them use their money to help support causes they care about. While today we decided to look at transparency in the fashion and apparel industry, it is growing in relevance across categories including food, homewares, technology, media, and more. To consumers, transparency means integrity and a shortcut to a meeting point of their needs, their style, and their values.