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business Editor's pick Retail sustainability technology

The greater need for transparency: 7 brands regaining consumer trust

Sustainability has been a major talking point for the fashion industry over the past couple of years. In this year’s State of Fashion report, radical transparency was highlighted as one of the major trends retailers should be implementing. But following rising concerns of greenwashing, from misleading PR-led campaigns to the increase of fake news, consumer trust is at an all-time low and brands are having to work harder to prove their authenticity in the matter.

The Gen Z generation is particularly pushing for this change, with 90% believing companies should take responsibility to address environmental and social issues. Meanwhile almost three-quarters of Millennials are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, demonstrating how there is tangible value in transparent produce. In order to regain their consumers’ trust, brands must therefore be explicitly open with information regarding data protection and how sustainable their supply chains truly are.

Technology is playing a major role in helping promote transparency, from blockchain helping shed light on the supply chain, to holistic e-commerce interactions. Here, we highlight some of our favorite examples of brands disrupting the space by going that extra mile in regards to transparency:

Patagonia
Patagonia: The Footprint Chronicles

Patagonia is one of the pioneering brands when it comes to sustainability, fully disclosing its textile mills, factories and farms through its website. The ‘footprint chronicles’ is a visual map showing information about the supply chain including the numbers of workers, gender mix and items produced there. Patagonia was the first outdoor brand to be certified to the Advanced Global Traceable Down Standard for maintaining excellent animal welfare standards for birds. 

As a result of its ongoing efforts, Patagonia was identified as one of the leading brands on Fashion Revolution’s most recent Transparency Index, receiving a score of 64%. 

Nestle
Nestle trialing blockchain

Nestle is the first major food and beverage company to utilize the use of blockchain technology, allowing consumers to trace the origin of their food. The company is aiming to eventually reach full supply chain transparency, with this move shedding light on 95% of its annual sourcing of raw materials. 

Products will have a QR barcode that when scanned, provides consumers with Tier 1 information on product, such as harvest date, farm location, packing date, as well as information on how to prepare it. To determine the feasibility and viability of the technology, an initial pilot scheme testing the traceability of milk will be created first, with plans to expand into palm oil production.

Walmart
Walmart beef supply chain

As it stands, only 33% of consumers trust the food system. Following the Tesco horsemeat scandal in 2013, consumers have become increasingly skeptical of where their food has come from, particularly when it comes to meat produce. In the US, Walmart is addressing this by developing the first beef supply chain. The system, which took 2 years to develop, follows a previous blockchain pilot on lettuce and spinach, which aimed to reduce contamination rates, following an increase in vegetable-related illnesses.

H&M
H&M product transparency

In the UK, retailers are only required to disclose where the garment was made, but this year to increase its transparency, H&M made the decision to go one step further by sharing specific details about their individual suppliers. Consumers can now access information on the production country, supplier name, factory name, and even the number of employees in that factory. H&M is setting the bar in the industry by allowing consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing, helping them to shop responsibly. 

For H&M’s sister brand Arket, sustainability has been a primary consideration from its inception. Beyond showcasing suppliers, the brand also aims to design long-lasting garments, while informing its customers on how to care for them and prolong their lifespan.

Volition
Volition’s clean products

Volition is democratizing the beauty industry with products designed from crowdsourced ideas that are voted by the general public before making it into production. The brand uses scientific ingredients to deliver safe and effective products, from skincare to bath and body. Volition gives all of its products the ‘safe science’ seal of approval, catering to the 42% of consumers who feel they do not get enough information on ingredient safety. 

Following consumers request of non-toxic but highly effective products, Volition’s experts created a blacklist of harmful ingredients, giving consumers peace of mind about what they are putting onto their skin.

Selfridges
Selfridges Buy Better Campaign

Department store Selfridges is doubling down on its Buying Better labels, which aim to aid consumers in their purchasing choices.  The labels highlight sustainable product attributes, such as vegan, forest-friendly or supporting communities. The labels are part of the retailer’s commitment to ensure that 50% of its products are better for people and the planet by 2022. Currently, over 3000 products across homeware, fashion and beauty feature the labels, helping guide consumers away from the disposable, fast fashion mindset.

Drunk Elephant
Drunk Elephants holistic products

Skincare brand Drunk Elephant may be new to the market, having launched in 2014, but it is already catching both the eye of consumers and major beauty conglomerates alike. Consumers have gone wild for its transparent, no-nonsense approach to skincare. The products are based on biocompatibility, and use clinically-effective natural ingredients. Each product listed on its website has a detailed breakdown of all the ingredients and their purposes, creating a holistic user-friendly experience. 72% of consumers want brands to explain the purpose of ingredients and Drunk Elephant is leading the with their holistic product breakdowns. 

As a result of this education-led approach, and its popularity with younger consumers, the brand has recently been acquired by Japanese giant Shiseido for $845million.

How are you thinking about sustainability? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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Why Matthew Williamson’s new in-season e-commerce-only business plan makes sense

matthewWilliamson_anchor

Matthew Williamson is to close its flagship store in London and refocus on a direct-to-consumer e-commerce business based on instantly-shoppable collection releases.

The announcement from the 18-year-old British company might mean a big shift in strategy (presumably resulting in job losses alongside), but it’s a restructuring that makes sense. The new business model will see six collections presented a year to suit what the label calls the “buy-now-wear-now mentality” of today’s consumer. A showroom will be opened in central London in place of the store, operating as an appointment-only boutique for online shoppers.

The ready-to-wear industry today is debilitated by fast fashion retailers, but also by the ever increasing speed of our digital communications cycle. Where a six-month time lag between the reveal of the new season’s line and its arrival in stores once made sense, now it doesn’t. The social media hype of fashion week season – whether it’s a live-stream, a sneak peek on Snapchat, or a highly perfected Instagram shot – is all very well, but by the time that collection comes around, consumers have all but forgotten the excitement they once felt. Numerous businesses are trying to figure out how to address that challenge.

As highlighted by Fashionista today, Williamson isn’t the only brand to be downsizing and restrategising accordingly, nor will it likely be the last. Over the years Tibi has shifted towards an “advanced contemporary” label releasing new collections in store now about once a month; both Marc Jacobs and Kate Spade have recently announced the closure of their lower-priced contemporary lines; and Jean Paul Gaultier and Viktor & Rolf have stepped out of ready-to-wear altogether to refocus on couture and fragrances. Elsewhere we’ve seen the likes of Tamara Mellon also launch an eponymous line based on monthly deliveries and a similar buy-now-wear-now concept.

“Over the years, the industry and consumers have changed and we’re keen to address and respond to that. The aim is to refresh what’s there, and to create a lifestyle brand that we’re truly proud of both creatively and commercially,” said Williamson and the company’s chairman Joseph Velosa in a joint statement.

It’s a big opportunity for the company. While the closing of the store suggests it wasn’t performing, and the overall shift in strategy makes it clear the business is struggling, e-commerce sales at Williamson are reportedly up 290% year-on-year since 2014, only serving to highlight the fact this is a shopper increasingly willing to buy online. The idea that luxury products – Williamson’s colourful dresses typically retail upwards of £1,000 – don’t sell on the internet is of course now a giant myth.

Williamson also has a strong social media following for a small brand, with just shy of 100,000 followers on Instagram, followed by 43,000 on Facebook and 30,000 on Twitter. Its greatest success story has been on Pinterest, gaining a huge 963,000 followers in less than four months since launch.

Rosanna Falconer*, newly-promoted business director at the company, formerly communications director and the one responsible for the brand’s digital strategy, is heavily focused on channels that drive referrals and conversions on the website. Of the new plans, she added the company would continue to focus on bringing a “personal, offline experience” to its e-commerce customers. The showroom will be accompanied by the launch of a new website in early 2016 that will offer free shipping worldwide and same-day delivery in London.

At a time when established brands in the fashion industry are facing an ever-competitive landscape ripe with start-ups who have the ability to adapt at a far faster pace, those willing to demonstrate the fact they too are relevant by being brave enough to make such strategic decisions, might just be the ones who have the staying power.

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

*Falconer is also co-founder of the #fashmash events series associated with Fashion & Mash