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This New Partnership Brings Traceability to the Apparel Supply Chain

Leading textile compliance and design firms are joining forces to create a traceability solution for materials and garments.

German sustainability platform Retraced and international full-service apparel design, manufacturing and merchandising firm Décor Global announced a partnership aimed at creating a chain-of-custody tracking tool that will enable brands and retailers to peer into the intricacies of their supply chains, exploring material origins and proving fiber provenance.

The platform, which launches in April, will enable stakeholders across the value chain to access the documentation needed for risk assessment, reporting and compliance management, and will be fully available to parties across the globe, the groups said. The effort comes in response to an industry-wide call for more responsible textile manufacturing, they added.

Décor’s robust network of strategic supply chain partners and Retraced’s community of more than 2,000 brands and suppliers have served as the inspiration for the blockchain-based digital tool, providing insight into business needs. The platform, still in its development stages, allows users to track the production and movement of garments and base materials like cotton using verified proof documents, like purchase orders and delivery receipts, that establish a chain of custody.

A six-month pilot program for the tool began in March, starting with an onboarding of Décor’s primary supply chain partners onto Retraced’s sustainability management platform, which relies on APIs and system integrations. These features allow the traceability technology to adapt to fluctuating order volumes and shifts in the supply chain, ensuring that brands have access to the multi-tier reporting required to meet regulations. By August 2022, users will be able to access all regulatory and compliance information critical to their supply chains.

“Ever since we started working with our brand and textile partners back in 2019, we’ve seen that companies need a way to retrace their production footsteps,” Retraced co-founder and chief technology officer Peter Merkert said. “Tracing is critical to understanding accountability in supply chains,” he added, noting that regulators and governments are now pushing to make these capabilities, along with risk monitoring, a requirement for the industry.

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The regulatory push has “helped accelerate the need for something business-ready, usable, and scalable,” Merkert said. The enterprise-ready solution “skips all the unnecessary and impractical bells and whistles,” he added, “and goes directly to addressing both an industry-wide transparency problem, and a specific business compliance need.”

“To be clear, a more sustainable and responsible fashion industry doesn’t start or stop with government regulations,” co-founder and chief product officer Philip Mayer noted. The industry requires “ systemic change” in how it  produces garments, he said, and the tool will “empower more stakeholders with information that can help make better choices.”

The ever-evolving dynamics of the fashion industry prove the case for increased transparency now more than ever, Michael Cai, director of operations and supply chain for Décor, said.

“In addition to the regulatory requirements in different countries to which we ship goods, the global end consumer is also raising their expectations of how a product is made and what it is made from,” he said. Responsible sourcing and transparent supply chains are not fleeting trends, but now-permanent expectations. “For a company that sources and produces materials all over the world, it’s our job within the value chain to lead by example and bring our supply chain partners along on the journey.”

The partnership will allow the design and development firm to be more proactive and efficient in its supply chain data management, applying the automated processes provided by the Retraced platform. “It also enables us to provide instantaneous traceability details to our brand and retail partners through a robust reporting capability,” he said. “What may have taken days of searching through and consolidating documents can now be pulled in seconds.”