The coronavirus pandemic has shone a spotlight on vast inequalities within fashion’s supply chain. Many of them stem from the way brands develop, source and produce garments, as well as the payment terms, and how they manage distribution calendars.
In the fourth masterclass in #BoFLIVE’s How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Brand series, Senior Correspondent Sarah Kent is joined by Marsha Dickson, president and co-founder of Better Buying, and Ayesha Barenblat, founder and chief executive of Remake, to talk about why brands need to examine and improve their purchasing practices in order to establish a more equitable industry and boost business.
Key Lessons from Masterclass 4: Buying Better
Faster delivery times come at a price. “We want things sooner, faster, cheaper,” said Barenblat. “This means factories are finding ways to legally and illegally cut wages.” Individual consumers may not realise the effect they have on factory workers, but it’s “the way that people buy that has an impact on fashion’s most essential workers.”
Make sure what you pay really covers the cost of production. Often brands and designers push for further embellishments for orders that have already been placed and paid for, in turn squeezing suppliers to deliver more for less, said Dickson.
Big change can come from small actions. By improving small day-to-day actions, buyers can significantly reduce the pressure on suppliers. “Make sure your work is accurate or on time. Every time a supplier has to follow up, their administrative costs go up,” said Dickson. Moreover, accurate forecasting is important to help suppliers “know what’s coming and to plan to ensure a stable workforce.”
Long term progress will require legal reform. The fashion industry is for the most part deregulated, said Barenblat, meaning it has frequently fallen behind global standards. “We have to remember that the workforce has no safety net, they are living pay check to pay check,” said Barenblat, adding “what’s happening to the millions of women who are left in a cycle of poverty?”
Also, stay tuned for the next monthly episode of BoF’s online learning series How to Build a Sustainable Fashion Brand.
Masterclass 5: The Case for Culture
Key questions answered
How do companies create a culture that drives responsible business practices?
What should companies be focusing on and why?
Identify factors that enable more inclusive and responsible operations
Establish measurable objectives