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Honest By: New Fashion Label with 100% Transparency Policy

| Monday February 20th, 2012 | 2 Comments

A few months ago, I covered the launch of a pioneering sustainable fashion website, Source4Style, which helps fashion designers find sustainably produced textiles. Recently, the launch of a new fashion label, Honest By, moves the sustainability of the fashion industry forward even a step further. The company doesn’t just use sustainable materials in their products; Honest By reveals the full picture of how its clothes are made including where the materials come from, how the products are manufactured, how much they cost to make, and how much they’re being marked up.

For each product, extensive research has been conducted into every aspect of the construction and materials sourcing process, which involves tracing the origins of the fabrics and trimmings used to make sure that all the elements are being produced in a responsible manner. This includes gathering information on every element of the product production including the details about the factory where its made, verifying its sustainable attributes and certifications, and collecting energy use, emissions, and cost data. This information – down to the safety pin, thread, and hangtag – is provided in great detail for each piece of clothing that’s available on the website.

These strict sourcing and production guidelines might lead one to suspect that the materials and design of the clothes would be less than “on trend” (hemp, anyone?). But actually, the new line is quite fashion forward – with a price tag to match. Honest By was launched by Belgian fashion designer, Bruno Pieters, who designed its first line of clothing, and who previously worked as art director of Hugo Boss‘s avante guard line. Prices start at 248 Euros ($325). According to the cost information on the website, that price includes 9,74 € for materials, 51,42 € for manufacturing, and a wholesale and retail markup of two times each. All pieces are limited edition and sold exclusively through the Honest By website.

In an interview, Pieters said “Honest By is the first company in the world to share the full cost breakdown of its products. The word Honest refers to the way in which the Honest by store operates, with an 100 percent transparency policy. The concept behind Honest By offers other designers a public platform to share their own design processes; utilizing the extensive research Honest By has already conducted on organic fabrics and suppliers.” Twenty percent of the profit made on designer collaborations is given to a charity chosen by the designer while the other 80 percent will fund its growth.

By engaging different designers to utilize the company’s research into responsible fabrics and processes, Honest By has the opportunity to get more of the fashion industry on the sustainable fashion bandwagon. And it’s admirable that the company is sharing all this data with customers. But if the company is going to bill itself as “100 percent” transparent, there is additional information they should be disclosing, including the details its finances and compensation.

I also have to wonder, what’s the real motivation behind this transparency strategy? Is the idea to demonstrate what it actually takes to produce clothing that’s both responsibly produced as well as fashionable? The information may give consumers a sense of security in knowing that their clothes are being made responsibly. But is charging such a high price for those clothes really responsible? Or does this approach reinforce the perception that sustainable products are only accesible to the wealthy? Bargain basement clothes pricing that puts pressure on labor standards is wrong, but is responsible, elitist luxury right?

[Image credit: Honest By website]

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Kara Scharwath is a corporate social responsibility professional, marketing consultant and Sustainable Management MBA Candidate. She is currently working as a Graduate Associate in Corporate Citizenship at the Walt Disney Company while pursuing her degree at Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on Twitter @karameredith.


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  • OceanasCanvas

    Great article.  I have been wrestling with this very notion of the probably unintentional, yet very real  classism inherent in the eco-friendly/sustainable fashion market.  I am fortunate in that I have the resources to buy, for example, a Komodo jacket, albeit on sale.  However, I am continually struck by how inaccessible an organic cotton tee would be to a working class family who buys most of their clothes from Target.  That said, there are a few manufactures, like American Apparel (workplace issues notwithstanding) who are providing sustainable options in a lower mid-range price point.  Also low-cost retailers like H&M and Target are actually starting to carry sustainably made items.  However, it can be very gray as we’ve seen with H&M about how “green” these items really are, which is of course the beauty of Honest by.  And I guess for that level of certainty, you are going to have to pay a premium today.  Still I wonder about the future, and I have hope that the category will indeed be accessible to anyone who desires eco-friendly clothing.

  • jaydax

    “I also have to wonder, what’s the real motivation behind this
    transparency strategy?”

    Because people are sick of fashion wearing out the world.

    “Is the idea to demonstrate what it actually takes
    to produce clothing that’s both responsibly produced as well as
    fashionable?”

    Gee, you thunk?

    “The information may give consumers a sense of security in
    knowing that their clothes are being made responsibly. But is charging
    such a high price for those clothes really responsible?”

    You can see why it cost, what it costs! It’s not a high price, it is ‘the’ price. Your getting price screwed more by the ‘conventional’ high street crap, even if it cost less.

    “Or does this
    approach reinforce the perception that sustainable products are only
    accesible to the wealthy?”

    It reinforces the perception that you aren’t aware of the true cost of fashion.

    “Bargain basement clothes pricing that puts
    pressure on labor standards is wrong, but is responsible, elitist luxury
    right?”

    Bargain basement clothes don’t put “pressure” on labor standards, they have none. Bargain basement clothing screws the environment, the farmers, the workers, and ultimately the consumer. Fast food, fast fashion.

    Yeah fancy threads cost whether eco or not, but the difference is Honest by’s prices reflect the true cost whereas some fancy high street garment is just pumped up prices without any true value associated with it. It’s produced down the lane from the bargain basement factory.