For years, fast fashion brands the likes of H&M and Zara have been pulled up for not being truthful about their sustainable supply chain, mostly dismissed off as ‘green-washing’. What is interesting is sitting at the topmost echelons of fashion, most European luxury clothing labels haven’t been truthful either about their supply chains – the fact that from textile to stitching to embellishments, most haute couture are actually produced in Asian hubs that have been reliable providers of craftsmanship and quality for the likes of Saint Laurent, Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and so on.
However, with European Union laws being circumvented, these brands can stitch a button here or sew an applique there in Italy or France and have the right to say that these garments are made in Italy and France. The belief is that revealing the garments are actually made in China, India or Vietnam would damage a luxury brand’s reputation as Western luxury buyers do not approve of their high-ticket items being made in poor countries.
They are under the false belief that countries like Italy and France actually have skilled labour working on handmade items – there is a handful and their handmade pieces are priced well above the usual luxury ticket. As Isabel Marant the French designer behind the eponymous label points out, the bulk of all haute couture is India-made nowadays not only for the practicality of cost but also for skills that no other country can offer when it comes to handcrafted work.
Luxury labels have obfuscated transparency
Sitting lofty, talking about sustainability and innovative technologies that propel such luxury labels as the bearers of the ethical way to a greener world is just the public-facing story. By not acknowledging their supply chain as a long practice, these are the well-known labels that have been the reason the international fashion sector is moving at a snail’s pace when it comes to transparency.
For the first time in 2023, two brands scored 80 per cent in the Fashion Transparency Index Study done by Fashion Revolution. In fact, 28 per cent of the 250 brands studied failed to cross double-digit transparency percentages. As luxury labels don’t want to insert the source ‘Made in India, Made in China’, the average score in transparency of 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands went up by a mere 2 percentage points to just 26. As long as Western fashion executives harbor the misconception that their Western luxury consumers might question the working condition and product quality at source, transparency will remain obfuscated.
In the realm of social media, much has been discussed on how hubs like India offer exquisite craftsmanship and are also major supply source for many of the finest luxury fashion labels.
India finally gets her acknowledgement
The first-of-its-kind Dior Fall 2023 collection held at Mumbai’s iconic The Gateway of India put the spotlight on Indian contribution to French haute couture brand as it paid its long-overdue homage to Indian craftsmanship. International fashion media wrote their own tributes to these craftsmen as other collections let out their Indian stories. The India factor in luxury clothing is now being acknowledged with leading labels like Bvlgari, Hermes and Balenciaga now crediting and using Made In India for some of their statement pieces. However, this still remains the exception and not the norm.
High-end fashion brands do have things they want tightly shut in the closet. As this sector has high profit margins, the operational costs can only be kept to a minimal, which makes them seek shores where labor is cheap, and labor laws not conducive to the vast population of workers engaged in production. However, its time they reveal their actual sourcing hubs and be more transparent.