A Tale of Transparency
I’m one of the few people in the world who actually looks at tags/labels in clothing to find out where the clothing was made. I do this more out of curiosity rather than using the information as a purchase criterion. Like other consumers, country of origin, is not one of the most important aspects of a garment in my deciding whether or not to purchase it. I also know that there are responsible factories everywhere and irresponsible factories everywhere and so country of origin does not guarantee factory or brand responsibility. As such, I rely more on the brand name and my knowledge of the brand. That said, I’m not a philanthropic consumer – that is, I do not purchase clothing I do not like or that doesn’t fit just because I know the company is responsible.
One of my favorite fashion brands is Nau, a Portland, Oregon-based company that designs and markets urban lifestyle fashions with environmentally responsible materials. I wear Nau a lot when I travel; I particularly love the designs that allow me to take one garment I can wear as a jacket, dress, or top or remove the sleeves and wear as a sundress or jumper. They also have a website that provides a wonderful description of their design philosophy, sustainability efforts, and social causes that they support. They outline and defend their global sourcing approach: “We manufacture our clothing in four countries—Canada, China, Thailand and Turkey—using fabrics from China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Thailand and the U.S.A.” (Nau, 2015). Therefore, how surprised I was to recently purchase an organic cotton sundress only to read the label “Made in India”. I’m going to give Nau the benefit of the doubt that their website is not up-to-date. But, it did make me ponder why companies, even socially responsible companies like Nau, have difficulty or are reluctant in providing information to consumers about their supply chain?
Given that few companies are authentically transparent, how does a consumer know that the clothing they are thinking of purchasing was made using socially responsible business practices? Unfortunately, country of origin is not a guarantee. Granted, I tend to shy away from anything made in Bangladesh; but I also know that there are WRAP-certified factories there. Reputation and authenticity of brand name is probably the best way to assess a brand’s social responsibility. That does not make it easy for consumers. Over the coming months, I’ll share some of my favorite brands and why I believe they are authentically transparent. I welcome your experiences and information about favorite brands as well! In the meantime, I’m still going to look at tags/labels and still do my research.
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