Radical transparency is the new standard.
A decade after Everlane launched with its “radical transparency” motto and consequently established a devoted community of young shoppers, fashion companies from mass to high fashion are following suit, openly stating their partners and practices. This is largely in pursuit of Gen-Z shoppers.
Shared exclusively with Glossy, Nordstrom will broadly announce on Thursday its human rights goals for 2025, focused on driving positive labor practices, creating transparency and empowering women working in its global supply chains.
For its private-label products, Nordstrom will exclusively work with suppliers paying their factory workers a living wage, and 90% of its private-label products will be made in factories investing in women’s empowerment. This will be accomplished within the next five years, the company said. What’s more, customers will be able to trace 90% of private-label products back to the factory where they were produced.
Nordstrom’s private-label products have a strong representation in-store and online, though according to a company spokesperson, the company does not break out inventory by brand.
Many of the products meeting the new criteria will be featured in Nordstrom’s online Sustainable Style shopping category, launched in August. It currently features 1,500-2,500 styles that were responsibly manufactured, use sustainably sourced materials or have a charitable component. Products from 100 brands are featured, including Patagonia, Reformation and Veja.
Since debuting in November 2011, Everlane has evolved from strictly providing transparency around products’ pricing to serving up details on the factories where they were made — no doubt in response to backlash for originally declining to share factory names. Industry-wide, sharing a garment’s path, from where its fabrics were sourced to where it was manufactured, is catching on.
On January 28, Moda Operandi co-founder Aslaug Magnúsdóttir launched her newest fashion company, Katla, centered on sustainability and data-driven designs. The company provides transparency of its supply chain by allowing customers to enter a tracking number (tied to a purchased garment) into a field on the brand’s website. In doing so, they can learn about the fabrics used and the supplier, discover the manufacturer where it was made, and read up on its overall social and environmental impact.
Magnúsdóttir said, down the road, the company will build out education and editorial around the tracking feature.
Katla started with a simple supply chain, including a small selection of fabric suppliers and three manufacturers, all in the U.S.: a company specializing in fast, on-demand manufacturing in Alabama, a knitwear factory in Southern California, and an L.A.-based factory that makes small runs of styles.
“We really want to highlight the stories of the manufacturers and fabric suppliers, and educate our customer on why those fabrics are good fabrics,” she said. “We hope that, by highlighting the stories of those doing good things, we can gradually encourage more fabric suppliers and manufacturers in the industry to move toward a more sustainable way of working.”
The company is dedicated to using sustainable and cruelty-free fabrics, and ethical sourcing and production methods, said Magnúsdóttir. Its styles, which were designed to be timeless, are made-to-order, with a short lead time of one to two weeks. Otherwise, they are made in small batches, based on data around demand. The company incentivizes customers to return items when they no longer want them, to be resold or recycled. They get a 20% off credit toward a future purchase.
Magnúsdóttir has been in the fashion industry since 2004, working at Gilt and co-founding Moda Operandi and Tinker Tailor along the way. She said, with Katla, she incorporated learnings from each of her past ventures. At Moda, for example, the concept of connecting the designer with the end consumer was a sustainability play as it helped to better match supply with demand.
To further build credibility in the world of sustainability, she’s compiled a group of advisors experienced in the space, including Craig Cogut, CEO of Pegasus Capital Advisors, which invests in sustainability and wellness brands, and Tara St. James, who maintains a fabric library and teaches at FIT.
She’s getting the word out through Facebook ads, and small trunk shows in New York City and the Bay Area. An influencer-ambassador program is in the works.
Magnúsdóttir said, based on Facebook Analytics, the younger the female shopper is, the more she values sustainable fashion over runway fashion. As such, she decided to stick to an accessible, contemporary-level price point. Styles start at $90.
Kristy Caylor, founder of For Days, said 70% of its customers are age 34 and under. For Days launched as a closed-loop, zero-waste subscription fashion brand in May of 2018. It’s since evolved its model, now offering swap-outs of styles for a hefty discount. As always, items returned are upcycled to make new materials.
For the company’s website relaunch in November, Caylor made sure to educate by adding more details on the company’s sustainable practices.
“Where we fell short is we weren’t talking about it, at all. We have done so much to engineer our system to be as sustainable as possible. Now we’re trying to share more of that — sharing everything from the materials we choose for products and the carbon offset program we’ve initiated for all of our transportation, to our goal of using as many upcycled materials as possible, while still guaranteeing upcycle-ability or recyclability.”
At the same time, the For Days site kicked off an impact points system, allowing existing customers to log in and see the positive impact they’ve made by shopping the brand, including water, energy and landfill savings. Points earned can be spent on For Days products.
Among other brands aiming to be an open book are luxury sustainable fashion company Gabriela Hearst. Its site features a Garment Journey link on each product page, detailing where the product was made and where materials were sourced.
“Traceability isn’t always easy when you’re a giant, giant, giant company [like Nordstrom],” said Caylor. “But offering traceability will become the standard. We should know where our products come from and the impact that we’re having on people and the planet, and traceability and transparency is a great first step.”
Image via Katla