The consumer has turned his attention to the consumption of garments that have been made with respect for the environment and work. Can you be smart and sustainable at the same time? For fashion connoisseurs the answer is a resounding yes. But which of these aspects should be taken into account when dressing?
For María Gracia Witt, fashion and personal brand consultant, “everything depends on the scale of priorities that the person has when buying a garment”. “Very few people look at the origin of a dress when buying it and prioritize the brand or fashion trend.” However, recognizes that in recent years consumer behavior is changing, especially because the new generations live in a society that brings problems of past generations such as pollution and poor labor practices.
“The exposure in social networks and changes in society have staged a series of practices that this generation is not willing to be part of and works or acts to bring about a change. Although it seems incredible, choosing a garment, whose process is in accordance with the new realities, is already a significant contribution “.
Precisely that philosophy motivated the birth of fashion with social responsibility and ethics. But what is this trend about? Evangelina Gómez-Durañona, executive director of the Ecuadorian Consortium for Social Responsibility, explains that the “fashion with responsibility” concept proposes that the design, supply, manufacture and consumption of garments improve the quality of life of all participants in the production chain.
This policy plays an active role in reducing poverty and creating sustainable livelihoods, while minimizing the impact on the environment. Something that provoked a social upheaval was the filtering of images of renowned fashion companies that had workers in their companies – outside their countries of origin – in unhealthy conditions, without a fair salary and, even, encouraged child labor.
The social pressure made that little by little change for a culture in which the traceability (series of procedures that allow to follow the evolution of a product in each one of its stages) is a determining factor for these companies. In Ecuador that trend is also gaining space and several companies take social responsibility as their business philosophy.
The first to make that leap -15 years ago- was Almacenes De Prati, one of the largest chains in the country. Soledad Ponce, senior marketing manager, explains that the company took the first step in developing its own brands in conjunction with local suppliers. “Suppliers are strategic partners in our operations and, thanks to a mutual trust relationship, plus constant support in their processes and operations, they have grown with us”.
This strategy allowed them to strengthen themselves in the market and expand their stores with a marketing concept that combines quality with service. Currently, it has 13 physical stores in the country: 6 in Guayaquil, 6 in Quito and 1 in Manta, and the online store www.deprati.com.ec.
As a way of rewarding society, De Prati promoted the program “Entrepreneurial Women” to provide participants with useful tools for their development such as education and thus generate ventures that contribute to the economy of their families and the country. The program has trained 381 participants: 270 in Guayaquil since 2014, 81 in Quito since 2015, and 30 in Manta in its first year, giving them 635 hours of training each.
In this way, they serve women between 18 and 55 years old, from vulnerable sectors, who are not required to have previous experience in machine operation or clothing. “The program has achieved that 70% of the women participants have started their projects”. In addition, the company is also concerned about the effects of environmental pollution and closely follows processes that allow the consumption of environmentally friendly inputs.
“Our first steps were with the presentation of a limited edition capsule of the H & O brand in our Christmas 2018 collection, which used recycled materials of natural origin, such as coconut buttons and organic fabrics, such as cotton.” The scope of fashion with social responsibility not only occurs in retail chains such as De Prati, but also in smaller companies that have a social service in their DNA.
Looop products are sold on its website, in the fashion section of the Supermaxi chain and also in the store Concept Store, La Coruña-Spain. This is the case of the Ecuadorian brand of footwear and jackets LOOOP, which stands out for the quality of its garments made with international standards and because behind each one there is a process of social and environmental responsibility according to the global trends. Javier Porta, general manager of the brand, explains that the first social impact they have as a company is the artisanal one.
LOOOP works with a group of Tungurahua artisans, based in Quito, who trained them in the use of new technologies and imported materials (eco-friendly) to make shoes and reversible jackets that also stand out for their design. “Being a new company (2 years), we do not have our own workshops, but we use those of this group of artisans whom we constantly train,” says Porta.
He also explains that this training allows artisans to offer their services to other companies during the months in which they do not make for the brand. That is, they can work for other people, but with a more professional technique. ” That allows them to improve their income.
While, on the part of LOOOP they receive a fair salary that exceeds even the market offer. The second social impact of this endeavor is “much more visible,” says Porta. They lead the campaign “Buy One, helps one” which is that when buying any brand product automatically customers are helping a person in a vulnerable situation in Ecuador through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
“We carry out different campaigns and this time we help a group of women in a vulnerable situation so that they can receive inputs that serve them as a work tool and thus improve their income and quality of life,” explains the manager of LOOOP. Porta, who took the business along with Jimena Romero, believes that social responsibility should not be a philanthropic task but as a corporate policy that improves the quality of life of people.
Wages are inadequate
The global fashion industry employs 60 million people in its value chain, according to the report of the World Fashion Association, a fact that makes it an important driver of economic health and employment.
However, wages in garment-producing countries are often inadequate and do not cover the basic needs of workers. Technology is crucial Technology is key in fashion. Digitization has provided a series of solutions, but it is still unknown how this will affect the future of the industry.
In some countries automation could replace up to 90% of the garment works, according to the same source.
Trade with social ethics
Javier Porta, general manager of LOOOP, hopes that in a short time there will be more companies that promote respect for the environment and its workers without this necessarily having to be seen as an expense. “The company that puts these ethical values into practice will definitely make a profit because it will be in the consumer’s preference, loyal customers and gives them the opportunity to contribute to society through something as simple as buying.” (
Better conditions to compete
One of the concerns of entrepreneurs in this sector, according to Porta, is the high cost of imports of raw materials for the manufacture of certain products. “We still have a lot to develop and even more to compete with other markets since the import values of raw material are high and that makes the final product more expensive. I understand that this is done a bit to protect the local, but there must be a middle point. “
A practice that should be imitated
Evangelina Gómez-Durañona explains that social responsibility practices should be a necessity in every company, regardless of the commercial activity that it carries out. “This is not strictly a sector issue but of all the companies that must change adversely in which they operate because this will allow them to act in a better way. Ecuador is on the right track in this area and there is growing interest and execution.” (I)