Roxy Genier - Luxury Anti-Value - Opacity

OPACITY LUXURY ANTI-VALUE #3

Luxury Brands Who Have Something To Hide Have Everything To Fear.

In 2013 the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh, 1134 people perished, and along with the plumes of smoke the event sent shock tremors across the world.

Inside the building were five garment factories that provided masses of stock for some of the biggest name retailers in Europe and North America. The building regulations were shoddy, the floors overpacked and over stacked, and this was the price of opacity in the fashion industry.

Opacity is our worse enemy, regardless of our industry.

Tales of Tragedy

This moment should have served as a wake-up call for brands across the world. But the tales of tragedy don’t stop there.

Workers at Turkish factory Bravo Tekstil stitched help me pleas into Zara labels in an effort to turn attention to poor labor conditions and mass of unpaid employees.

There are a thousand stories simmering beneath the skin of the fashion industry; tales that weave together narratives of children as young as 12 being forced into cotton mills, women trafficked to end up overworked and underpaid in the garment trade, and sky-high sexual harassment numbers committed by supervisors within these industries.

Roxy Génier - New Luxury - Luxury is accountable for their supply chain policies

Low Scorers on the List

The Fashion Transparency Index, a system which ranks brands on their commitment to calling out slavery by providing transparent information about their suppliers, has named Chanel, Dior, and Dolce & Gabbana as being some of the lowest scorers on their list. Even ethical champion Stella McCartney is yet to climb that list thanks to her previous partnership with the Kering Group. The report stated that most of the luxury brands fell into the 0-30 percent transparency bracket.

Just because a brand scores low on the table, doesn’t necessarily mean that its caught up in the cobwebs of unethical practice. It just means that it doesn’t have or isn’t willing to present the information to the outside world. Either way, in a time where the consumer is committed to truth and ethical action, the luxury industry needs to be embracing the era of transparency.

In an article for The Guardian Kilian Moote from KnowTheChain points out “It would be hard to fathom a company taking steps to address slavery in its supply chains and then failing or refusing to disclose it publicly, I think what we can deduce from the rankings is that some companies have a long way to go before they are adequately addressing the risk of the worst forms of labor abuses in the makings of their products.”

Fashion is Second Biggest Contributor to Slavery

global survey from the Walk Free Foundation identified fashion as one of the top five industries in the world contributing to modern slavery. Not only is this slavery affecting more than 40 million people across the globe, but 71 percent of that population are women and young girls.

If you don’t know where your clothing is coming from, it runs the risk of feeling like rags upon your back.

Sadly, the luxury industry can’t claim innocence either.

Stories of slavery plague the truth behind so many of our favorite brands as well as our favorite luxury travel destinations.

In a time where the consumer is committed to truth and ethical action, the luxury industry needs to be embracing the era of transparency.

Roxy Génier - Luxury Anti-Values - Opacity

Lack of Transparency Costs Lives

The reality of the fashion industry is that the work doesn’t stop at the factory doors. Even before you get to the final finish line, there are the other facilities dealing in dye, weaving, cutting cloth, and fancy finishes, and there are even the farms where the fibers are grown.

Sure it’s hard for brands to keep tabs on the process every step of the way, but when facing dire conditions, building collapses, and the word slavery – is it really worth taking that risk?

The bottom line is – lack of transparency costs lives.

So why have brands been so unwilling to commit to transparency and traceability? Why wouldn’t they want to be sure that should another disaster strike, they are off the list of blame? Orsola de Castro from Fashion Revolution shared these thoughts in an article for Vogue titled We Need to Talk About Transparency in the Fashion Industry;

“The fashion industry is built on secrecy, elitism, closed doors and unavailability. [Transparency] is disrupting the fabric of the fashion industry as we know it.”

We don’t imagine; sweatshop conditions, forced labor, worker abuse, child slavery, and tax evasion.

The Dark Heart of Heritage

When we hear the word luxury we imagine; small scale craftmanship, heart and heritage, the finest materials handpicked from around the world, and impeccably high standards at every turn of the production journey.

We don’t imagine; sweatshop conditions, forced labor, worker abuse, child slavery, and tax evasion. When the picture is blurry behind the scenes, these are the risks that brands are taking. Not only is this unethical right down to the dark heart of the core, but its also selling a false story to those who consume luxury products. It’s putting trust on the line. As we all know trust is one of our most valuable assets as a brand.

An article from Simon Birch published in The Guardian pointed out that “It’s unacceptable to charge such high premiums for clothing which don’t have guarantees that they’ve been produced in a fair and responsible way, and we call on luxury brand companies to wake up to their ethical and environmental responsibilities. The reality is that in terms of ethics, luxury clothing brands are now being outperformed by a number of high street clothing companies who sell clothing at vastly lower mark-ups.

Opacity is our worse enemy as it hides the most unethical of behaviors.

The Backlash of Blood Diamonds

Several years ago the diamond industry came under fire for its lack of commitment to ensuring that the diamonds they plucked were clean and conflict free. The dream of the everlasting fairytale of diamonds being a girl’s best friend fell to the wayside as the Leonardo DiCaprio film Blood Diamond made its way to the silver screen bringing with it tales of slavery, hellish mining conditions, and gross capitalist corruption.

Millennials have been brought up believing that diamonds can only be procured with a heavy heart. The industry, suddenly faced with such a backlash, had to create a shift in perspective.

Amnesty International UK Diamonds Campaigner Nick Dearden said: ’Outrage across the world led to the first attempts to try and clean up this trade. People buying gifts for their loved ones do not want them associated with the suffering of others. It will be consumer demand again that forces the industry to clean up.’

There’s Little Luxury in a Riddle

Bruno Pieters of the brand Honest By, serves up a short sharp reminder for those still keen to keep transparency under the covers in this article titled Stripped Bare‘If you don’t do it now, you’ll have to adapt when complete transparency becomes mandatory,’ he goes on to say ‘I think it’s wiser to be a leader who’s ahead of the rest rather than being behind because, you know, it will become mandatory one day. People who have doubts about this are the same sort of people who once believed women wouldn’t have the right to vote and gay people wouldn’t have to right to marry. Buying a mystery will be an absurd concept soon. There’s no luxury in a riddle.’

There is a lot of soul searching to be done within all industries who aren’t a hundred percent sure that they aren’t contributing to a world of profit from pain. When another factory falls, when a child drops from exhaustion, when a mine collapses or more cries for help get stitched and stashed in garments – its time we ask ourselves, will our hands come up clean, will our consciences allow us to sleep at night, and will we be proud of the legacy we left behind.

Pete McAllister, one of the heads behind the Ethical Trading Initiative says “Greater transparency means greater scrutiny and accountability. It means exploitation has fewer places to hide. Unfortunately, many businesses are yet to even start their journey, and for these companies we hope the report will be a much-needed wake up call. They can and must do better,”

The antidote to washing out the stain of opacity is for brands to embrace transparency. New Luxury is about clearing the smudge from above your name, accepting accountability for your brand, and working harder to ensure that your brand is doing its very best to keep production honest, ethical, and a positive experience for all.

Burying Heads in the Sand

Due diligence at the root is where we start to eradicate human rights violations when it comes to production and consumerism. Brands across the board need to commit time and resources into checking their supply lines. No more can jewelers, fashion moguls, and luxury brands bury their heads in the sand, because the truth is – no one wants blood on their hands or sweat and tears upon their back.

We want beautiful things that come from beautiful places; to support an industry that lends itself in honesty to the stories it tells. These stories don’t include words like slavery, blood, or death – because these are not beautiful stories. These are stories of power, greed and corruption at worst and tales of apathy and laziness at best and this is not the essence of luxury.

Now that we have  learned about the dangers of opacity, let’s explore the solution.

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