Selling product stamped with an eco-friendly logo may no longer be enough for environmentally educated consumers. This fall, two companies are launching garment traceability and corporate transparency initiatives through their Web sites, giving consumers the ability to track the production process of their garments.
Online tracking systems have been created by Icebreaker, a New Zealand-based active company that has been using sustainable pure merino wool since its 1994 inception, and Bernardo Fashion, a New York-based vendor specializing in better-priced machine washable and dryable suede jackets that is launching a 95 percent eco-sensitive suede line for fall. Both systems will be accessible starting this fall.
Using a distinct number printed on each garment, consumers who buy Icebreaker product or Bernardo Fashion's new Bernardo Green line can enter their code on the companies' Web sites, icebreaker.com/baacode and bernardofashions.com.
The Web sites walk the consumer through the production process, starting at the specific ranch where the animals were raised (for the merino wool of Icebreaker or the hides for Bernardo Green's suede jackets) and going all the way to the Chinese manufacturer where the garments are produced. The sites also emphasize that the products are biodegradable.
"It's not just about saying you're organic or eco-friendly, it's about proving it," said Stuart Pollack, who owns Bernardo Fashions.
Bernardo Green, which uses hides made in organically certified tanneries in Slovenia, will launch this fall. The line will wholesale for the same price as the company's non-eco-sensitive jackets, from $71 to $79, and will have a soft launch in August for a month exclusively in 18 Nordstrom doors in the U.S. and in about 30 Marks & Spencer doors in the U.K., before broadening its distribution to more than 200 doors. Pollack projects that within two years, the line will generate over $10 million in wholesale volume.
Icebreaker does $100 million in global wholesale volume. After entering the U.S. market three years ago, the company expects to do $15 million in its 375 doors in the U.S. this year. The active and lifestyle line, which uses the natural performance fabric merino wool, wholesales from $15 to $150. Its new Web site feature, Baa Code, which reflects its use of sheep in addition to the tracking properties, includes interviews with the ranchers "so you know you are keeping these people alive on their farms," said a spokeswoman for the company. It also includes descriptions of each point in the Chinese production process, from fiber cleaning to sewing.
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