PARIS — Contemporary French fashion label Ba&sh has set out a series of sustainability targets dubbed the “Blossom manifesto,” including favoring materials made from “eco-responsible” fabrics, lowering greenhouse emissions and reducing the use of plastics.
Executives began tackling such issues in earnest since 2017, according to chief executive officer Pierre-Arnaud Grenade, who maintained they wanted to make some progress before making the strategy public.
“Why are we communicating about it now? We live in a world in which you have to communicate about what you’re doing or people will think you’re not doing anything — we have to keep consumers informed and be transparent,” said Grenade in a call with WWD.
The executive asserted that a “caring” kind of culture has been dominant at the label, citing the high proportion of women employees and representation of Millennial generations in management positions, as well as the spirit of its entrepreneur founders — Barbara Boccara and Sharon Krief, who were out to offer clothing suited for women like them, young, working and intent on remaining stylish, without too much effort.
“Communicating is also a form of commitment, a way to say we’ve taken some concrete action, we’ve progressed a lot and here’s what we commit to achieving in the future,” added Grenade.
Executives at the label broke down the industry’s ecological impact, estimating that 35 percent comes from choice of materials, another 35 percent from turning them into apparel, while the rest comes from transport and the lasting nature of the clothing.
“The longer it lasts the less impact it has on the environment,” he said, describing the brand’s decision in 2019 to get involved in the secondhand market with the platform Reflaunt and using blockchain technology from Arianee.
“The brand has to offer options, give meaning and show the way,” said Grenade.
The resell system, which features on the label’s French website, includes a certification system, and, in addition to its role as a service to clients, offers a way to build ties with a community of people interested in the brand, noted the executive. Even if the system protects the anonymity of buyers, the label can send them messages with other offers.
“It’s a way to build a link to people who know the brand — even if we don’t know them,” he said.
In the future, the brand, which does not take a commission from the service, could take it into the stores, noted the executive.
The label has been pushing an omnichannel approach in recent years and generates around one-third of sales from digital platforms.
“Stores have a completely different role today,” he said, ticking off new services like virtual meetings, store appointments, livestream presentations, shipping from store, click and collect, two-hour delivery in large cities.
“We have multiplied the array of services so that the store can blend completely with the website,” he said, describing the formats as “symmetrical.”
The brand has added stores recently, mostly in China, where it has been present on Tmall since 2017 and is enjoying brisk business as Chinese consumers shop domestically, but also in the U.S. — meeting New Yorkers who migrated to the Hamptons or people from Los Angeles who took to Aspen, Colo., for some mountain air, explained the executive. Ba&sh counts 280 stores in Europe, Asia and the U.S.
“Everyone says retail is dead, but I don’t believe that — as long as stores are located in places where people like to stroll, there will be retail,” said Grenade.
The executive, who described the brand’s format as constantly evolving, like the interior of one’s house, in order to welcome visitors, predicts consumers will seek more personal connections to stores in the future. He likes to describe the brand as fitting in a category of “smart fashion,” linked to innovation in the industry, with connection to technology. At a time when society is in flux and consumers are looking for more meaning, the executive offered that the brand’s corporate social responsibility approach has the vocation of serving as a certain guide.
Given the importance of the choice of materials, the brand has been increasing materials that reflect more responsible choices, like organic or recycled or viscose sourced from sustainably managed forests. Around 22 percent of the brand’s materials were certified just a year ago. That figure is set to rise to two-thirds for the winter collection and the goal is to reach 95 percent in 2023.
Ba&sh banned the use of fur, angora and raccoon in 2019, joining the Leather Working Group, which focuses on responsible leather suppliers. Last winter it sold puffer coats made with plant-based fibers instead of down.
As for its network of suppliers, the company is working with producers to set up an annual audit program with suppliers to fight child labor, forced labor and ensure fair wages.
It teamed with start-up TrustRace to provide QR codes on clothing to provide information about manufacturing conditions.
“The idea is to verify they respect a certain number of practices and standards when it comes to the environment as well as social aspects — that’s very important,” said Grenade.
On the social front, the company aims to increase employee involvement in supporting women’s causes like fighting breast cancer through the Ruban Rose association or raising money for organizations like Women Safe & Children.
Other goals include using only recycled plastic packaging as of next year and is working with Repack, a start-up that provides reusable packaging, for e-commerce orders.
Unsold stock is kept low, at around 1 percent, which is donated to associations or fashion schools for use. Production ranges from China to India, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, and plans are to shift around 10 percent of production from Asia to Europe to achieve an equal balance between the regions, in order to reduce time to market without resorting to air shipping.
Investment firm L Catterton has been a shareholder since 2015, and there has been speculation it could come up for sale, but Grenade was quick to dismiss such talk.
“The brand is not for sale,” he said.
“Of course we are one of the attractive brands out there and with the work we’ve done during the crisis, we hold a certain position — but no. The brand is not for sale, we think we still have a lot of work — we have some good projects, so it’s not on the agenda.”