We all know this: the state of play around sustainable best practices in the clothing industry has changed radically. The average consumer isn’t maniacal about transparently sourced materials and humane best labour practices—it’s not a deal breaker, not yet—but the spirit of “need to know” has certainly taken hold.
goodmustgrow.com, a marketing data company, tracks these things. Since 2013, when almost two in three consumers believed in preferentially buying from “socially consciousness” companies; it’s 2017 and the percentage is closing on three out of four consumers—and climbing.
Brand, as some unknown genius once said, is nothing more than expectation.
Back in the day, coffee had remarkably similar issues to transition: small, ethical producers struggled to find market share against the giants like Nestlé. Coffee farmers tried for decades to find the right formula; Fair Trade coffee changed the game, breaking the coffee giants stranglehold on the market—Nestlé’s buy-in was one key to the Fair Trade success—leading to an explosion in what was essential “craft coffees,” tracked like “appellation contrôlée” wines, champagne and prosecco.
Provenance, in short, was a brand: I know the coffee I drink comes from a Nicaraguan hacienda where the family-owners have for decades treated their workers exceptionally well. I rarely buy elsewhere because I know what I’ve bought: organic, no pesticides, happy workers. My coffee’s brand is its provenance.
Cotton is undergoing the same brand/transparency transformation. Pesticide-free cotton means other plants can be grown in the cotton rows, a gain for eco-diversity; organic means no fossil fuel-derived fertilizers, another win.
So what’s happening here? Provenance—traceability and transparency—is nothing more than the story behind the garment.
And that story shares like crazy, not least because folks buying clothes now act on their sense of a company’s honourability.
Ask questions. Research. Push for change.