The far-reaching social impacts of the fashion industry were catapulted into the global spotlight with the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh in 2013. Since then, the trade-offs of “fast fashion” have become an issue of urgent concern for NGOs and fashionistas around the world, spawning consumer-awareness and activism campaigns including Fashion Revolution Day; hard-hitting web series including Thread and Sweatshop; and just last month, a documentary called The True Cost.
Now, a new app called Fashion Footprint gives shoppers the story behind their clothing choices at the point of sale and online. The traceability tool, currently in beta, scans the tags of garments from participating brands and provides ratings information on everything from factory safety to worker health. As Norwegian diplomat turned social entrepreneur Mariam Naqvi told Ecouterre in a recent interview, she created the platform in 2014 as a way to connect conscientious shoppers with the makers of their clothes, and enable them to learn how their purchase decisions affect the lives of people around the world.
Unlike the plethora of campaigns and media projects that have exposed the truth behind the inhumane working and living conditions faced by many textile workers around the world, Naqvi chose to focus on the positive, with Fashion Footprint highlighting the companies that are setting new standards in the industry. The company aims to partner with ethical brands and designers to highlight the positive, and ideally encourage more companies to improve.
“When identifying our business concept, we found that there was a space in the market for sharing positive stories from the fashion industry in order to encourage positive behavior,” Naqvi told Ecouterre. “In the last couple of years, a lot of important strides have been made, also by mainstream and High Street fashion labels. We believe these stories deserve to be shared with the consumer.
“At the moment, consumers get very little information about the clothes they buy. As a result, the average fashion consumer is not aware of the stories each and every piece of clothing tells us about our world,” she said. “As consumers gradually grow to appreciate the added value of basic supply chain information, and more and more brands begin to open up, our vision is that a momentum will be created which those on the outside will also feel compelled to join.”
The app, currently in beta, is being piloted with 10 Norwegian apparel and accessories brands, with the goal of being market-ready by Spring 2016. Participating companies are required to complete a self-assessment in the areas of Brand Engagement, Health & Safety, Workers, Accident Prevention and Ecology. Naqvi said the company has partnered with NGOs and think tanks, and is exploring collaboration opportunities with companies that offer databases for advanced supply chain management, in order to increase the depth of the assessment tool.