With the multiple crisis that have surfaced since the beginning of 2020, certain terminologies gain a deeper understanding – I think this is because we start to feel more of what is happening around us as well as within us. The current financial impact of the pandemic has added to the wealth of the wealthiest. Chuck Collins calls to our attention at least eight of these billionaires have added another $1 billion to their wealth during the pandemic and Jeff Bezos $25 billion since the beginning of the pandemic. (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/28/perspectives/inequality-coronavirus-billionaires/index.html) The pandemic crisis is unjust and the already vulnerable and underprivileged are impacted more profoundly. This is a fact that we cannot dismiss, and the mere acknowledgement of this fact is a wake-up call to look at not what is happening at the tip of the iceberg but deeper and there are many layers to this assessment.
At the individual level the lockdowns enabled us to consider the priorities as well as the necessities in life. We had the time to take a closer look at how and what we consume, consider worthwhile, what we miss the most and this internal assessment has started to emerge as critical behavioral change that the businesses need to acknowledge and transform. The consumers are realizing the social as well as the environmental currency of their purchases and more brands respond to integrate the human aspect and the related transparency proposal as well as the environmental impact designed into the products they offer. It is essential that the design and manufacturing teams of brands to get to know the steps in the making of their design as well as actually meeting their suppliers, visiting factories, hearing the sound of hundreds of looms or loading a washing machine in a laundry. “Progressive brands want to understand the human and environmental costs and ethical challenges of their supply chains, not look away from them.” (https://www.voguebusiness.com/sustainability/most-fashion-designers-never-meet-their-suppliers-they-should-covid-19) This is the essence of the track and trace which could build the true connection as well as the loyalty between the brands and the consumers.
I have been in the fashion industry long enough to experience the migration of production and the garment factory visits to Malta, Scotland, Ireland, Italy in the early 2000s were directed to the developing countries in the East as well as to Turkey. The main drive of this shift was the thriving fast-fashion, seeking lower costs to accommodate scale. Leading jeans-wear brands like Levis and VF , contributed to the geographical transformation with a critical strategy to close their own factories and they became reliant on their global supply chain. Both Levis and VF have been mentors to the denim mills they have worked closely with in setting up the quality standards as well as adapting a systemic innovative approach. The design, merchandising, marketing, regional sales, retail sales teams of some of the leading brands visited factories merely to get acquainted with the manufacturing landscape. The collaborations developed into partnerships where multiple projects on design, innovation, social impact could be developed inherently. As the businesses scaled and reached to ( unfortunately not a definitive number) 80-100 billion pieces of clothing annually and as the production moved “away” from where it is retailed the most and as brands focused on revenue rather than investing in a holistic product offer the connection that the brands and the manufacturers could have could not be realized.
We are at a crossroad of decisions, strategies, plans. The fashion industry is faced with an estimated imminent %40-50 diminished purchasing power making every purchasing decision (as well as every manufacturing decision) more important than before. These decisions are not merely based on standard cost and profit calculations as they need to behold a broader commitment to the human and the environmental impacts of a business to express value. More than ever that very notion of value is being captured by the consumers of today (and tomorrow)
“Unusual collaborations” is a new section on my blogs and I will try to capture some compelling examples of inspiration… Can you come up with an inspired idea?
Chipotle launched Chipotle Goods (https://chipotlegoods.com), a line of “responsibly sourced” and upcycled clothing and accessories, including T-shirts, leggings, hoodies, bomber jackets, gym bags, hats, phone cases, and baby blankets. everything is made with organic cotton from Loomstate, save for a few items in recycled polyester, and all proceeds will benefit organizations focused on sustainable fashion or farming. More novel is the upcycled component: Most of the cotton pieces were naturally dyed using avocado pits from Chipotle restaurants. The chain accumulates 300 million pits ever year and in fact, CNN reported that Chipotle buys more avocados than any restaurant in America and as Chipotle started to brainstorm on ways to use the discarded pits they have focused on natural dye. The collection diverts food from landfills as well as acting as a way to align the company with the Gen Z values of environmentalism and sustainability.