Is this web app making fashion’s supply chain more transparent?

Transparency is a big buzz word in the fashion industry. It helped propel brands like Everlane and Madewell to success and now appears in countless advertising campaigns. In fact, in 2016, the Association of National Advertisers named transparency the marketing word of the year. The Sustainable Fashion Glossary defines the term as “a requirement for companies to take full responsibility for their entire supply chains and act on their accountability for the social and environmental practices at all stages of manufacturing of their products.” According to the glossary, following the catastrophic 2013 Rana Plaza accident, transparency in fashion took off. Nonprofits were formed, consumers were educated, and brands were held responsible for being more open about the production of clothes and accessories. Unfortunately, like most sustainable-related terminology, transparency has been high jacked by brands who want to get marketing points, but not make changes to their business operations. Recently, Everlane has become the latest victim of back-fired advertising, feeling the consequences of claiming to be “a transparent brand.” Enter retraced, the tool that will change the way brands and consumers view transparency, putting trust in the word again.

In 2018 retraced was born thanks to three co-founders and high school classmates. They were looking for a tool that could share information with consumers about the artisans that make their products. For a one-time charge of $49.95, you can also get access to this tool via the Shopify App Store and other e-commerce platforms. "With retraced's advanced blockchain solution, our team can efficiently collect detailed supply chain data - even down to the origin of the product's raw materials," states the website. Most designers and brand owners can find out where their materials came from before being sold to consumers, but very few are willing, or able, to put in the time and money to trace supplies to the origin. This web app can help fill in the missing information in a brand's supply chain. But don't expect retraced to do all the work for you. The software is primarily an organization tool to keep track of social and environmental efforts in a brand's supply chain and communicate those efforts with consumers. Then retraced's marketing analysis provides data on shoppers and their interactions with transparently produced products. All of this makes retraced an excellent tool for brands that want to understand their supply chain better and share that understanding with consumers.

This is precisely how the online tool was used when CANO implemented the retraced features on its website. CANO, a sustainable shoe brand, was founded by Lukas Pünder and Philipp Mayer in 2014 during a visit to Mexico when they discovered the local artisans' craftsmanship. Lukas and Philipp wanted to share more information about their brands’ supply chain with shoppers, so they started retraced with a friend. Now every CANO shoe is fitted with an NFC-tag, which can be scanned via the retraced phone app, providing information about the supply chain and who made the shoe. The app also provides an impact assessment measuring how CANO influences the community and environment where the shoes are made. The shoe brand is now a beacon of transparency, making it more appealing to consumers and becoming the best advertisement for retraced.

Another brand now looking to utilize the transparency tool and follow some of the success CANO has, is Boyish Jeans. The partnership between the sustainable denim brand and retraced was announced on July 22nd, making headlines on fashion news sites like Sourcing Journal. Boyish Jeans first signed up to use the tool in March, but it took a few months to upload their suppliers, collect the necessary information, and verify certifications and claims. Boyish Jeans founder Jordan Nodarse said of the collaboration, “As a sustainable brand who is already completely transparent, we realized that we could be even more transparent about our supply chain specifically.” The denim brand plans to have its entire supply chain mapped out and communicated with consumers by the end of the year.

The partnership with retraced will help promote Boyish Jeans as a sustainable brand and back up their marketing claims, but it will also protect the denim label. Lately, companies like Boohoo Group PLC and Lacoste have gotten caught up with accusations of human rights abuses in their supply chains. These retailers claimed they did not know what was taking place at the factories they source from, but consumers criticized that excuse. With the retraced tool now available for widespread use among fashion brands, being “unaware” is no longer acceptable. Transparency in fashion’s supply chains is no longer a futuristic concept, it is here, and with online tools like retraced, it is easier than ever for brands to get on board.