In recent years, the ugly side of fashion has been trending globally. From the industry being the most polluting after oil to endless accounts of inhumane factory conditions. But thanks to organisations like Fashion Revolution Week (FRW) awareness is growing and changes are emerging. Since June 2017 the self-labelled ‘pro-fashion protestors’ of FRW have been promoting ethical fashion, hosting events worldwide from Asia to Europe. As well as encouraging brand transparency using campaigns like #whomadeyourclothes, FRW stretches its focus across the entire chain - from farmer to consumer - encompassing critical environmental concerns too.
As part of FRW, a Tech for Good panel involving a group of specialists from Orient, What 3 Words, Compare Ethics and Bethnal Green Ventures discussed how technology has sustainably benefited their brands and will continue to facilitate the fashion industry in its ongoing ethical battle. Here are ORDRE’s key takeaways on how to use technology with sustainable fashion:
As fashion’s latest favourite buzzword, transparency is vital to validating your brand ethics. People have never been so concerned about where their clothes are made, especially with tragedies like the Rana Plaza factory fire in 2013 linked to mainstream retail powerhouses. From worker rights to environmental impact, increased brand transparency is encouraging a moral standard in the industry.
Food traceability company Oritain is progressing into the fashion industry, using its forensic technology to confirm or falsify claims of sustainable fabric sourcing, even down to where it is manufactured. Ben Tomkins, business development manager, explained, “we take a swash of fabric and verify it is consistent with its production claims. We’re working with cotton, mohair, cashmere and even leather now.”
Despite our trusty address system of postcodes, street names and numbers, there are still areas which have no exact location on our global map, particularly in developing countries. What 3 Words is here to change that, dividing the world into a grid of 3m x 3m with unique three-word addresses, so that everywhere is distinctly recognised. This programme has the potential to enhance customer experience, business efficiency, growth and socio-economic development.
Considering the benefits, fashion could drastically improve ethics by appointing addresses to their factory workers in currently indistinguishable areas, thus enabling them to be registered for fundamental human rights like health care. In addition to this, basic ordering from online retail systems could be radically transformed with such an impressively accurate system - delivery company Dominos is already on board.
Ethical Points System
Another important point was raised by Abbie Morris, co-founder and chief executive of Compare Ethics - a venture encouraging transparency. Compare Ethics strives to navigate the blurred ethics of fashion brands by defining what can be considered the most sustainable. Morris reminded listeners that sustainability has an eclecticism of definitions, provoking thought on the potential of one standardised understanding.
The company is launching a comparison tool later this year which will distinctly outline a company’s sustainability with a point system. As Morris outlined Compare Ethics specifically benefits green shoppers and buyers: “You can ensure that all the companies on your platform meet ethical standards.”
Social Impact Investors
One last takeaway from the illuminating event was the vast amount of professional organisations funding entrepreneurs that use companies to positively combat global issues. Bethnal Green Ventures and Up Effect along with angel investor and panelist Hephzi Pemberton all champion ethical start-ups; Up Effect in particular has backed sustainable fashion designers, most recently funding Australian talent Brooke Da Cruz. Similarly, environmentally-driven enterprise Bethnal Green Ventures focuses on businesses using technology to better the world - all of these investors fuel the industry with hope in a greener future.
There’s still a vast range of global events championing ethical fashion throughout May, including numerous sustainable designer pop-up shops, workshops and exhibitions. We are only at the very start of a sustainable fashion revolution.