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Events Publish in 18 March 2024

2024 : New horizons of traceability for the lingerie industry

In France, consumers demand for transparency around the provenance of their clothes emerged way before the arrival of the 2023 anti-waste law for circular economy. A milestone in a context of a global desire for traceability which is increasingly transforming the whole value chain. Brands and suppliers enter a new era of mutual reflection that may even strengthen the industry’s relationships.

For Sterenn Lerède, head of sustainable development and CSR at the Fédération de la Maille, de la Lingerie et du Balnéaire, the first step towards a more effective traceability process is to identify the suppliers’ main obstacles, in order to create effective, long-term solutions. “It’s a real challenge in such a fragmented global chain, she says. What’s different from the past is that we now need traceable data up to the origin of the fibres. This is changing both commercial relations and the balance of power between brands and suppliers.”

Towards a better communication

The first major challenge for French brands and groups is to engage in conversations with their international suppliers. “As a manufacturer, you have to understand who is responsible for what, and under which law,” says Sterenn Lerède. The Wolf Lingerie group now has a dedicated employee, whose job is to be in contact with suppliers on a daily basis, inform them of new regulations, and work with them to imagine effective systems for collecting data. “It’s a matter of commitment regarding our suppliers, says Isabelle Roger, the Group’s CSR Director. We have to explain to them why we’re asking for this information, but we also have to reassure them about what we’re going to do with it.”

“It is a bit hard for suppliers, because the ways in which information is collected are not properly organized yet, says Emmanuelle Bonnetin, CEO of Rocle by Isabella. We fill in Excel spreadsheets, we respond to companies commissioned by our customers, each with a different process. It’s all very time-consuming. Furthermore, the requests are not always consistent. There is a real lack of understanding of our businesses and the extent to which we can provide certain information.” In the short term, the priority is to ensure a better communication between the different parties.

A proper governance and standardization process

So how to organize and manipulate this data to make sure it can be properly understood and communicated ? “We need a dedicated platform which everyone could use, where information could be entered only once and communicated to whoever needs it” says Emmanuelle Bonnetin. According to her, this would also make it easier to involve tier 2 suppliers in the traceability process.

For Sterenn Lerède, governance is also one of the key issues for the future. Who owns the data ? What are the solutions to make it easy to use while remaining confidential, to protect suppliers from malicious exploitation ? For sustainable fashion consultant and co-founder of Cose361 Stéphane Popescu, the first step is to guarantee the sharing of information by contract. “Traceability must be integrated into partnerships. We need to agree on the sharing of a certain amount of information, and on the way in which it will be used by the different actors”. Emmanuelle Bonnetin agrees. “We have always been transparent with our customers. The goal now is to put into writing what we verbally say.” A regulated framework can thus emerge, within which companies and suppliers can communicate without fear.

Beyond matters of education, this is a technical and operational challenge for both brands and suppliers. Data referencing tools need to be developed so that information regarding yarns or materials can be communicated only once, modified if needed, and shared with whoever needs it. The need for a common language is becoming increasingly clear : while each company has its own data and its own way of communicating, a unique way of writing and sharing them must be invented in order to unify the entire value chain and perhaps, in the near future, create new bridges between brands and suppliers.

Within the Wolf Lingerie group, data from tier 1 and 2 suppliers is now published on a common website. “This allows brands to see which suppliers they have in common, and even to imagine potential collaborations.” says Isabelle Roger. A virtuous circle which is only beginning to form and that could well strengthen relationships of an entire industry in the years to come, and even open new creative opportunities.