At the onset of the internet age there had been hopes that the free flow of data would lead to increased transparency in many spheres of life: from politics, to news sources, to the way that high-quality clothing is made. Unfortunately this has not always been the case. It turns out that a world wide web can be just as effective at hiding facts as it is at unearthing them.
What the internet age most certainly did bring about was the fast fashion concept, at the expense of more sustainable fashion approaches. Brands shilling low priced; low quality clothing were able to bypass the highstreet and be promoted in the living rooms of every single household on earth, via phone screens. For the longest time, there were few questions asked of how t-shirts could be sold for less than a litre of milk or where fast fashion pieces ended up when their purposely short lifespans ended.
Eco-Conscious Consumers Have Changed The Game
How things have changed! Eco-conscious fashion communities, like the one we’ve nurtured at TWOTHIRDS, have brought about a rising demand for brands that are honest and open about the supposedly sustainable clothes and eco-friendly accessories they produce and sell.
Being honest with our sustainable fashion community is something we’ve always prioritised. It's why we go above and beyond to prove the sustainability of our clothing, as well as the eco-friendly processes used to design and craft it. Here we explore what supply chain transparency is, in a fashion industry context, before then exploring why it’s vital for any fashion house – whether it classifies itself as an eco-friendly clothing brand or not.
What is Supply Chain Transparency?
Supply chain transparency is all about a company knowing where and how their goods are produced, and then honestly conveying that information to their customers. Sound simple enough? Well, the truth is that many large-scale brands have very little idea about where their raw materials are sourced. Nor are they particularly knowledgeable about how a factory is able to produce a piece of clothing at such a low cost. **Spoiler Alert**: it might be because factory workers are being paid less than a living wage and the factory is not adhering to stringent environmental standards.
We Do Things Differently
Due to many fast fashion brands and slow fashion brands working on a need-to-know or ignorance-is-bliss basis, gaping data holes exist in their supply chain transparency reports (if they release one at all). Because we’ve always taken the issue seriously, TWOTHIRDS has long been ahead of the curve. It’s why we’re able to provide a raw material supply directory in our yearly eco report, so our customers always know where the fabric for their new eco-friendly jacket or sustainable underwear originated.
Local Production Is Crucial
All manufacturing of our eco clothing takes place in Europe – the vast majority in Portugal, just a short hop and a skip across the border from our Barcelona base. This means we’ve built strong ties with trusted partners, who are as dedicated to sustainable fashion and ethical clothing production as we are, so that workers are treated with dignity and the ocean is protected.
The benefits of such strong local relationships are that we can roll out improvements in our processes, like our new data exchange system, which tracks all the production steps involved in the making of an eco-friendly knit, sustainable loungewear piece or sweatshirt.
Data derived from the system allows us to measure and verify the environmental impact of our individual pieces of sustainable clothing, in real time. We can now quantify, on a month-by-month basis, how to improve the eco credentials of every sustainable t-shirt, dress and eco-friendly jumpsuit.
Such data also allows us to work alongside our suppliers, to make their manufacturing processes eco-friendlier than ever before. A good example of this is us encouraging factories to have solar panels installed on their roofs. This reduces the carbon footprint of all the sustainable clothing they produce for us and any other brand they may work with.
European Companies Obligated To Act
2023 has already been a fascinating year for those interested in supply chain transparency, because new EU directives have been drafted, which will soon legally require companies based in the EU to be more transparent. This is particularly pertinent for the textile industry, where any company with 250 employees or more (the norm for most other industries is 400 employees) will be required to comply with the directive. This tough legislation exists for the textile industry because it is rightly viewed by EU policy makers as posing a high risk to the environment.
Such a policy will clearly have knock-on effects for sustainable clothing brands, whose supply chains and chosen suppliers will undoubtedly be scrutinised like never before.
What More Can We Do?
When it comes to this subject, there’s always more work to be done, because building the perfect sustainable supply chain is an ongoing task. We believe that data is at the heart of greening our sustainable clothing supply chain. It provides the factual foundations upon which we can act, rather than us relying on misinformed hunches. The supply chain data we collect can be broken down into five tiers:
Tier 5: raw materials.
Tier 4: processing of raw materials.
Tier 3: product production.
Tier 2: final product assembly.
Tiers 1: warehousing and logistics.
Our current data collection is robust for tiers 1 thru 3. However, it is tiers 4 and 5 which historically have been the toughest to harvest data for. Moving forward, we will be focusing diligently on these two tiers, in an attempt to better understand our supply chain. Moreover, all the data we produce will be readily available to the eco fashion community.
The days of fashion brands burying their heads in the sand and ignoring their environmental responsibilities is over. That’s good news for fans of slow fashion and anyone who cares for the ocean.