I thought it would be good to refresh where my thoughts were invested almost a year ago. The industry is striving to go through re-definition and the stakeholders, the change-makers, the invested professionals have been collaborating on the industry transformation globally on digital platforms, sharing their experience as well as their thirst for a better for the people and the world growth possibility. I am happy to hear many stakeholders, brands talking about blockchain as a part of the track and trace and building value as I think we need a simple, digital, meaningful formula which will help to differentiate efforts.
The 21st century pricing of your jeans
The fashion industry is a colourful global canvas of ideas, technology, dreams, creativity and is reflective of both the challenges as well as the beauty of our modern times. According to the Ellen Mc Arthur Foundation “Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. An estimated USD 500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing being barely worn and rarely recycled. If nothing changes, by 2050 the fashion industry will use up a quarter of the world’s carbon budget. Washing clothes releases half a million tonnes of plastic microfibres into the ocean every year, equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles.”
Denim is a part of the universal fashion scene and has seen unprecedent growth after the 80s as the fast fashion brands have expanded their jeans offer for the fashion savy customers. There are currently +600 denim mills; majority being located in the Asia. Africa is on the horizon of becoming home to denim manufacturing in the coming 10 years. The long sought after denim clothing become diversified from premium to commodity over the past 15 years and the “same” pair of jeans pricing varied from 300 USD to 20 USD catering to almost all age segments of consumers. Zara opened its first store in La Coruna in 1975 . Earl Jeans founded in 1997 in the US revolutionized the denim industry with their skinny jeans and soon followed many other premium West Coast brands with premium price tags. The market experienced growth at both ends of the product offer and the denim hungry consumers become “price sensitive” rather then “product oriented” over the many years. Further enhanced by the diverse fits, styling, washes, technological advancements that made possible the blending of athletic wear and jeans added to the expansion of the industry. Like most other consumer goods the basic understanding of the denim/jeans, “value” is entitled with pricing mainly driven by supply and demand as well as the branding.
This scaled growth is happening as “speed to market” drive takes charge. Success is measured by how fast we move rather then taking even a breath before we purchase, before we question and before we realize the true cost. The same pace is also relevant for the manufacturing, where samples, pre-production runs, indigo dips, washes in the laundry are rushed before development teams can discuss the design, can define where to differentiate and where to add further attribute to the product offer or simply admire its beauty.
I have completed 3 decades in the industry and I believe that we are at the tipping point where we need to re-define the value of denim and jeans. Do you know the value of your clothing, your jeans? Are we considering the social as well as the environmental impact of manufacturing as well as purchasing decisions? Do we really know the value of innovation and are we bringing consumers into this dialogue of value as the innovators in the industry? How many of you know the fiber content, the process, the manufacturing location of your jeans and which companies are actually taken the burden to inform the consumers? When the fashion supply chain uses limited resources at the expense of fair share of others as well as the overall sustainability, we are doomed to face what is called the tragedy of the commons. The result is no-one wins. In order for us to have a winning dialogue we have to re-define the “price tag” and start working towards an idea of value. I am calling this value the 21st century pricing of jeans where price is replaced by the life cycle value proposition while embracing the social, environmental impacts as well as the post consumer care stage. This is a call for full transparency, traceability and sharing of valuable information. This requires for brands to take ownership (or partial ownership) of their products together with the consumers even after the clothes leave the store, as they are worn and washed over and over.
The second hand market is surging — this is not news to the authentic jeans market as the 2nd hand wear is already embedded in the DNA of jeans. It is expected that the 2nd hand market of fashion will reach USD 64 billion by 2028 and more brands are embarking on the potential of re-sell, re-use. The blockchain technology will enable the brands to take ownership of their products and maybe even get a share of the second hand sell. This proposition requires that brands assign a value definition to the collections at the design stage and trace the piece of clothing through its life cycle. Blockchain transparency will only become meaningful if the stakeholders become all owners of the value. This is a much uncommon but much needed perspective if we want to change consumption behaviours as well as manufacturing practices where full proof is seamlessly embedded into the product. Design for purpose does not only define the way the product is to be utilized but also the mapping of its life-cycle from the very beginning.
There is not a universal standard pricing definition in the denim industry as there are too many components and dynamics involved however this does not limit the possibility of an enhanced, data based, transparency linked to the value of fiber to wear process. The process is like a living organism which defines the raw materials, possibly the multiple geography manufacturing processes, all the natural resources required, the people involved to make one single pair of jeans. The pricing is not irrelevant of its impact as well as of its future as more and more brands will understand the need to design and market the after life cycle of their products.
“We know the price of everything but the value of nothing “ said Oscar Wild and it is time to look at and beyond the price tags of our jeans.