Carry Somers: 'Transparency is the first step in transforming fashion'

Carry Somers, the founder of Fashion Revolution, visited Uruguay and Argentina earlier this month. During her visit, she hosted a number of lectures and spent her time learning a bit more about the fashion industry in these countries. FashionUnited was given the chance to attend one of her presentations and talk to her about her work at the non-profit organization (NGO) whose aim is to change and improve fashion around the world.

#WhoMadeMyClothes, much more than a question

At Fashion Revolution we believe that transparency is the first step in transforming the fashion industry", said Somers. Supply chains are large and complex. Often, large brands do not own the factories where their clothing is made and this makes it difficult to see what working conditions are like. Some firms may even negotiate with several factories or hire a supplier who, in turn, hires other companies. This is why the subject of transparency appears as a great challenge and Somers explained it: "For Fashion Revolution, transparency means public disclosure of brand policies, procedures, goals and commitments. It also implies performance and actual impact on workers, communities and the environment".

Carry Somers: 'Transparency is the first step in transforming fashion'

The past year saw an increase in the number of brands contacting their clients and starting to show a bit more about what happens behind the scenes. "Answering the question #whomademyclothes requires transparency, which implies honesty, openness, communication and public accountability. This information must be made available to consumers to inform and educate them. In 2017, during the Fashion Revolution week, global events took place in over 90 countries and 533 people commented on #whomademyclothes on the social networks", she said.

Carry Somers: 'Transparency is the first step in transforming fashion'

Brand transparency index

In April this year, the NGO published a report showing rankings from the transparency index of the 100 most popular fashion brands in the world "Based on this index, our aim is to show how much or little consumers can learn about what they buy", said Somers.

Inclusion of brands in the index was not voluntary, although they were given the chance to complete the questionnaire with their own information. Out of 100 companies, only 49 completed questionnaires were received.

Carry Somers: 'Transparency is the first step in transforming fashion'

Participating brands were selected for their annual turnover and those wishing to participate voluntarily were also considered. Those representing different market segments of the fashion industry around the world were also chosen (urban, luxury, sports, footwear, accessories, etc.).

Some conclusions reached from the report:

  • Companies with the highest percentage of transparency did not even reach 50 percent in their results.

  • Adidas and Reebok were the highest ranked at 49 percent. Then Marks & Spencer and H&M, with 48 percent.

  • Only 8 companies registered over 40 percent.
  • "Whilst we can see that brands are starting to focus more on their social endeavours, which is an asset, there is still a lot of information on fashion industry practices that remains undisclosed. Last year, only 12 percent of leading brands published their lists of suppliers. This year, this figure is around 32 percent. The trend is changing and we are moving towards a new era but there is still a long path to tread", said Somers.

    Carry Somers: 'Transparency is the first step in transforming fashion'

    A few projects

    The NGO presented a series of tutorials "Haulternative" given by influencers where they offer keys to transform items of clothing into new ones. "We are encouraging people to think differently about their relationship with clothes. Large-scale production and consumption is a cause for concern, considering its environmental impact. The average person buys over 60 percent of their clothes and only uses them half the time they did 15 years ago", said Somers.

    Another initiative is The Garment Worker Diaries, a research project on the life of workers in clothes-making industry in Bangladesh, Cambodia and India. For further information: A Fashion Revolution project follows up on the life of textile workers.

    Photos: FashionUnited