How transparent will our fashion be by 2020?

Very last minute I managed to join the Fashion2020 conference at The House of Lords, where politicians and industry leaders met to debate how transparency in supply chains could transform our fashion industry.

So what would a transparent supply chain look like?

The House of Lords was an amazing setting for our discussion, demonstrating the importance of ethical fashion to not just industry leaders, but our country. Even this week David Cameron announced a new crack down on unethical supply chains via BBC News.

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Lucy Siegle (author of ‘To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the world?’) chaired the debate, introducing speakers from The British Fashion Council, The Ethical Trading Initiative, The Bangladesh Fire Accord & others

Carry Somers, Co-Founder of Fashion Revolution Day, kicked off the debate by sharing her vision for transparency. Fashion Revolution day has grown at an incredibly fast pace to show that consumers DO want more transparency about who made their clothing.

As I’m also a consumer myself, it was amazing to hear the perspective of those working on the ground in Bangladesh on the implications transparency has for garment factories and their workers. Rob Wayss, of The Bangladesh Fire Accord, highlighted issues around garment workers feeling able to raise concerns. Even if concerns are heard, and problems fixed, systems need to be in place to ensure problems remain fixed!

As you can see, the issue of ethics and transparency in supply chains is very close to complex. As the debate continued, it seemed to demonstrate the amazing work being done by organisations and individuals, but a difference in opinion on the overall vision.

The topic of social labelling, the topic of my research dissertation which I submitted to the panel via Lucy, caused heated debate. Strong anti-labelling opinions were heard from most of the panel, who felt existing social and environmental labels were not effective or a future solution. Whilst I was bursting to get up and comment, I held back until I got the chance to pose questions during the reception afterwards.

For the reception we gathered in The River Room, where I realised just how many other amazing individuals had filled the audience. Although there is much work being done by such organisations and individuals, compared to the effort needed to make wide transparent supply chains possible, there are relatively few people leading efforts in the UK. And I think, again, I was the youngest person in the room – which made me spot my gap – how can we inspire the much talked about ‘millennials’ to engage? If supply chains are ever going to become transparent it will definitely take time, over a period in which we need more Millennial leaders to step up and take over the efforts already made before they are wasted. There is room for young leadership in the Fashion 2020 vision. 

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