With ever-increasing pressure to source products from brands that position themselves as ethical or sustainable, Flora Davidson – co-founder of Supplycompass – explains how you can tell if the wedding dresses and accessories you buy come from truly responsible makers
Flick through any fashion magazines and you’ll see a feature on sustainable fashion. Stella McCartney, Veja, Finisterre, Patagonia, People Tree, Kowtow and Reformation are leading the way towards a more ethical future within the fashion industry.
Movements striving for positive change like the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit are pushing for greater transparency, better social compliance and more positive environmental impact from brands and their supply chains across the fashion industry.
With ethics and sustainability becoming so much more important to consumers, how can you ensure that the wedding brands you are buying are catering to the needs of both consumers and the planet?
Today’s consumers expect clarity – they want to know what a brand stands for, what it is doing to be sustainable and ethical.
The message shouldn’t be over-complicated. What stands out in a busy marketplace is a clear, singular approach to responsibility that resonates with end users; a brand that is all about discovering and working with innovative, sustainable fabrics.
With terms like ethical, sustainable, conscious, responsible, transparent and organic often being used interchangeably, it can be confusing to know which to use or which is most attractive to consumers.
Look for terminology that resonates with your target consumer. Focus in on a few areas that are right for your consumers and make it clear and consistent.
Sustainability and materials
What are the origins and impact of the raw materials used in the dresses and accessories? Ensure fibres are sustainably and ethically sourced and manufactured into fabric. Fabrics considered to be amongst the most sustainable are linen, recycled PET, organic cotton and Tencel. Keep an eye out for new innovations within the fabric and dye industries, like synthetic spider silk by Bolt Threads, fabrics made from orange and pineapple fibres, and low-impact and biological dyes.
Stella McCartney places real emphasis on working with ethical and sustainable fabric. An option for a wedding dress could be this white gown made from sustainable viscose fibres.
US brand Reformation has a goal of zero waste; it has created the RefScale to monitor their carbon footprint and works with a range of recycled fabrics. Click here to read more.
Look for high-quality products that will last and that customers can love forever. That may be a wedding dress that can be passed down the generations, or altered to make it into a wearable dress for the future. Mother-of-the-bride outfits that can be worn again and again. Bags and shoes that will stand the test of time.
This can mean thinking about end of life and supply chain circularity, working out ways for your customers to recycle, reuse and repair your products. Dr Martens shoes come with a lifetime guarantee – and they have great designs for the quirky biker bride.
People and ethics
Consider a brand’s supply chain partners – are they working exclusively with those who are focused on having positive social impacts and caring for the wellbeing of their workers?
This could be offering benefits such as crèches, or supporting the local community. Certifications such as Fairtrade, SA800 and GOTS indicate social compliance. Does the brand take the time to visit their supply chain partners to understand what they are doing, and why, first-hand?
For wedding guest attire, womenswear brand Beulah has a printed maxi dress and gives 10 percent of their profits to helping end modern slavery. Bridal designer Sanyukta Shrestha was one of the first to focus on eco-friendly fabrics. More recently, in-grid has built a real following fast because of its attitude to responsible sourcing and manufacturing.
A brand that is open and transparent provides details on all their other suppliers, from zips and fabrics to labelling and packaging. Transparency can also mean offering a full breakdown of costs, splitting out labour costs, material costs, logistics costs and taxes.
Picking the right manufacturing partner is key for any fashion brand and those who are serious about sustainability and ethics will have chosen suppliers with the relevant certifications. They will also visited them in person, telling them what’s important to them.
Stay well informed
Become informed of what is available, and achievable. Being a more responsible buyer means being more conscious of your social and environmental impact, and constantly striving to improve every aspect of your supply chain.
Every step of the way, question your decisions and think whether there is a more responsible option. Ethics should be front of mind for every buying decision.
For your shift towards being more a more ethical and sustainable buyer to be authentic, it can’t be an add-on or something pushed for a marketing campaign. To make a real, lasting impact, to appeal to a more conscious consumer, it needs to become part of your brand’s DNA and influence all decisions you make within your business.
• Look for brands with clear, realistic positioning that your customers can understand and get behind. If it’s over-complicated, then you’ll struggle to communicate it to your clients.
• If certain aspects of sustainability and ethics are important to you, then ask your supplier questions about their suppliers – and then pass that information on to your customers. Today’s modern-minded bride will celebrate your decisions.
Supplycompass is a tech-enabled, end-to-end production management platform for responsible brands that want to find and work with the best international manufacturers. It enables brands to find their perfect partner at home or overseas. Brands can create tech packs, get matched with a manufacturer and use the platform to manage production from design to delivery. Supplycompass works with brands and manufacturers to embed responsible and sustainable practises in their businesses, deliver value and create opportunities for growth.