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What Do We Mean When We Talk About Transparent Supply Chains?

by: Rosie Dalton | 1 month ago | Features

Image: regenerative organic cotton crops on a family-owned cotton farm near Madhya Pradesh, India. Via Patagonia. Image source.


In an industry that has traditionally been very opaque, it is now more important than ever for fashion brands to have transparent supply chains. Referring to the traceability of our garments – from the raw materials down to the garment makers – transparency is key to decoding complex fashion supply chains and understanding how our clothes are made.

Fashion industry supply chain are some of the most inherently complex. Which is why it has traditionally been easy for ethically dubious brands to obscure certain facts about how their clothes are made. This is problematic from a consumer standpoint, but also for the brands themselves.

“Perhaps just as shocking as the events that transpired,” Business of Fashion wrote of the fatal Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, “was that many of these brands hadn't even the slightest clue that their own production was taking place in that facility. Their auditing system failed. They just didn't know.”

Patagonia’s VP of Environmental Initiatives, Rick Ridgeway touches on this same issue, when discussing how the brand found slavery in its supply chain. “It confirmed two really important things for us,” Ridgeway told us. “Firstly that, in terms of relationships within the supply chain, the model that works best is the model of equal partnership. And secondly, that transparency should be defined as a willingness and openness to communicate to all of your stakeholders – that includes, foremost, the public – what we’re doing that’s good; what we’re doing that’s bad and what we’re doing to fix it.”

This, in a nutshell, is what transparency is all about. It is a commitment to opening up honest lines of communication between brands and customers about how their clothes are made, what they are made from and by whom.

“Fashion companies must come to terms with the fact that a more distrusting consumer expects full transparency across the value chain,” BoF writes in the State of Fashion Report 2019. “Given the need to regain that trust, fashion players cannot afford not to examine longstanding practices across their businesses.”


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