That’s how much real information consumers have about the things they eat, wear and interact with every day. Today, most brands aren’t held accountable for their product components. But that’s going to change—and those companies that think transparency is a buzzword with no bite are likely to be eaten alive when it does.
That’s the outlook of Andrew Olah, founder of the Kingpins Transformers denim seminar series. As such, the next edition, which will be held April 17 in Amsterdam, will take on transparency. Past editions have focused on water, industrial waste and chemistry, as the event has sought to inform and inspire those who recognize the need for change in the denim industry. This time, the summit, which will be sponsored by Rivet magazine, is tackling “the motherlode,” according to Olah.
“In the long term—or the not so long term—every company will have to be transparent and show their entire supply chain,” he said. “And consumers won’t want to buy from brands that don’t give that information, withhold that information or don’t know it.”
For those that don’t clean up their acts quickly enough, Olah sees a fate that parallels the rise and fall of IBM, which failed to recognize that the industry was going in the direction of personal computers, stuck to its mainframe roots and ultimately ceded its dominance to upstart players.
In apparel, the new kids on the block are already changing the conversation—and consumer expectations. Leading the pack is Everlane, with its “radical transparency” promise. The brand allows shoppers to know where the clothes are made, get the backstory on each factory and see photos of the entire process—all with one click.
For Olah, the company represents tomorrow, even for those brands that don’t recognize it today. “Everlane is growing by leaps and bounds because of what they’re doing. We can be sure their business model will be copied as all successful business models are copied,” he said.
When these companies decide there’s nowhere left to run on the issue, each will need to determine their own path, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Through panels and interactive sessions that include movers in the fiber, textile, technology, chemical and machinery sectors, Kingpins Transformers educates companies in order to help them move forward.
While Olah doesn’t purport to have the answers, he is certain that some current practices are hurdles to progress in this area. First, is the industry’s obsession with speed to market, led by fast fashion retailers. “If you’re fast to market, then the sub-feature of that is you have to use many, many suppliers, and if you’re using many, many suppliers in a hurry, you probably will not, and cannot, know where all the components come from,” he said.
Another impediment to transparency, Olah said, is the industry’s habit of chasing the lowest cost. “Our industry is not known for allegiance [when it comes to factory relationships]. Our industry is known for flipping for a nickel,” he said. “If you’re that kind of buyer, you’ll never be able to give your customer anything that’s transparent.”
As bullish as Olah is on the need for change in this area, he also concedes that the apparel supply chain is much more complicated than many other products, making the move toward transparency that much more difficult—and slow—for brands. “They have to admit they have transparency issues, and then roll out a five, 10, 15-year plan on how they’re going to do it, by product,” Olah said.
Kingpins Transformers, is a summit series spotlighting members of the denim community who are committed to creating, implementing and sharing the changes that need to happen in the jeans industry to make it more environmentally viable, socially responsible and financially sound by 2029. Tickets will be available for the April edition here.