Technology has been crucial to fashion’s move toward total transparency. Mapping out the denim supply chain is nearly impossible without it, as cotton is a notoriously opaque industry. Supply chain management software solution Retraced reports that one pair of jeans can include cotton from up to 1,000 farmers from different continents.
That reality serves as the motivation behind a new partnership between the blockchain-based platform and Pakistan-based denim mill Artistic Milliners, which teamed to launch a farm-to-garment cotton traceability solution. Through the partnership, all supply chain partners are digitally connected, allowing them to exchange data on one platform.
The project is part of the mill’s Milliner Cotton Initiative (MCI) and will digitize and track cotton shipments directly from farms in the Rahim Yar Khan of Pakistan, which in turn will compensate individual farmers for better cotton cultivation and picking practices. Artistic Milliners launched its MCI project in 2019 to promote visibility and women empowerment throughout the cotton supply chain. It also encompasses capacity building for ginners and promotes practices for mitigating extortion.
Farmers participating in the project will be equipped with a mobile application for managing their cotton sowing, picking and shipment to track the lifecycle of cotton. It is then sent to the ginner, who, by using the application, is able to digitally discern between the different cotton shipments and assess the quality.
Tagged cotton is sent to Artistic Milliners for spinning, dyeing, weaving and ‘cut-make-trim,’ through which it will continue to be traced. From there, the cotton thread will be manufactured into denim for brands around the world, which will be able to provide better transparency to their consumers.
“Traceability is an industry wide challenge, and only with a platform that connects everyone, we can address that,” said Lukas Puunder, co-founder and CEO of Retraced. “With Artistic Milliners’ MCI project, we are implementing real-time fiber tracing the way it should be—from the bottom up following the natural flow of the material. The objective of this project has to be to create the blueprint for fully digitalized traceability. It’s an exciting development for fashion.”
Ethical brands such as Boyish Jeans are implementing the technology. Last summer, the brand added the Retraced blockchain-based transparency plugin to its e-commerce website, offering consumers a detailed report of its sustainable supply-chain partners. It set out to map out its entire supply chain so each product page contains the plugin.
Omer Ahmed, CEO of Artistic Milliners, has big plans for the partnership, and urges those throughout the denim industry and its consumers to know the source of their cotton.
“Transparency and accountability across the supply chain are the need of the hour and something we at AM take seriously,” Ahmed said. “Our ambition is to have complete traceability from farm to fashion.”