2012 Hong Kong and the Mayan prophecy
I’m on my way back home, it’s late November 2012, the Mayan prophecy says that the world is going to finish this year, if we pass though the next month we should be safe.
The last 5 days in Dongguan were very intense: shoes, leathers, customers, factories and the jet lag hasn’t yet given me a chance.
The van just dropped me at Central in Hong hong Island, I want to have dinner here before taking a taxi to the airport.
I love Hong Kong in November: 20 C° during the day, deep navy sky since late afternoon and the white clouds so close that hide the tallest buildings.
I usually book a table at Isola Bar Grill, a terrace table that lets us enjoy the Kowloon skyline, so cool, but tonight I didn’t.
I’m alone, the friends that I usually fly with decided to stay one more week fighting with the collection, so I prefer to eat something easier and walk around.
…..in the mall the atmosphere is electric, families, business men, a lot of people all around, …
I’m in front of Zara shop and boom, my attention links immediately to the news I saw in the morning, and that was the shop, that was the place.
Three white paint people in the shop window
Three Greenpeace team members completely white dressed, on 22nd November 2012 enter into a Zara shop in Hong Kong , move to the window keeping a banner saying “Invisible fashion victim” and change my life.
Zara brand clothing products are featured in the Greenpeace report entitled “Toxic Threads – The Big Fashion Stitch-Up” detailing how big brands are forcing consumers to buy clothes that contain hazardous chemicals and that contribute toward toxic water pollution both when they are made, and when they are washed.
Many other brands get involved in this campaign and “signed” public commitments: Nike, Adidas, Puma and many others.
The Detox campaign changed completely the way I approached business, I didn’t realize in the beginning but my actions started to move in a direction that today seems crystal clear and obvious but at that time it was completely unknown to me.
After November 2012 I started to connect several parts of the puzzle.
My business at that time was in the leather supply chain, I was supporting the procurement teams of european footwear brands that were sourcing their shoes in far east to cover the lack between tanneries and factories relations.
My daily was between one hand into the leather material, the other hand on the phone and email, email email….blackberry addicted of course!
Well, since one day to the other:
- documents that brands kindly required to comply with become a mandatory signed commitment (Restricted Substance Limit or RSL)
- discussion with brands on chemical management of supply chain: test this, test that…an increase of chemical test required.
- an avalanche of information required daily
- a new manager show up in the brands team: Compliance and Sustainability Manager
The problem was the leather supply chain wasn’t able to even understand the why of this new requirement.
The language was completely different and the gap between the market and the leather supply chain was too big.
Sales team was always linked to keywords like collection, product, hands feel , colors shade… not compliance, traceability along the leather supply , transparency ,sustainability and fast fashion and supply chain management .
That was the epiphany.
Realizing that these two worlds were not even talking the same language. The gap between tanneries (Tier 2 or 3) and the market direction was going to be the problem that led me to do something that I was feeling for a bit of time.
Traceability along the leather supply chain
Jan 2013, Mayan prophecy wasn’t like what I expected and what I saw in the movies.
Seated at my office checking my business card collection ( Yes! It was still a time when we needed to collect business cards ) looking for somebody who can support me to analyze the problem from different perspectives.
A colleague of a previous work experience now working in fintech but with a background of leather chemistry and laboratory, a guy of the leather industry expert in lean processes and leather manufacturing and quality processes and a sales manager of a tannery machines company, this was the first brainstorming meeting team and questions on the table was:
- is all this just a bubble, something just in my mind or something is really changing in supply chain management in the fashion industry?
- if yes, why isn’t so evident in the leather industry?
- how to connect the stakeholder involved trying to let them talk the same language, in a few words, how to start building a way to fashion supply chain transparency?
- how than to practically approach traceability along the leather supply chain?
- how to collect all this data?
- is what we are talking about a way to step in into sustainability in the leather supply chain ?
Since I met Cristian Iobbi, partner and Ceo of the softwearehouse called Skianet and founder of WIb, a web marketing company, The ID Factory became more than an idea and we felt that something really interesting and valuable for all the stakeholders involved would be possible.
I realized in that room that when an experience, a service or a product isn’t exactly as you would like, you have several options : adapt your expectations, adapt your habit, just forget it and pass to the next or …
take an action and build up a possible solution!
It may not be the right solution but it is extremely exciting to take part of it.
Today, The ID Factory is a benefit corporation, an innovative small enterprise, a tool for fashion supply chain management.
Our team is incredible, 16 people, average under 30 and 60% are women.
We manage 8 material supply chain groups: Leather, Textile, Pu, Accessory, Packaging….
We have even a forest, a Cacao forest in Madagascar, we want to try to do our best to give back to this planet more than what we take.
We want the fashion supply chain through an ethical approach, becoming the boost to create a new paradigm on how the fashion industry monitors the supply chain.
Journey, Respect and Regeneration
Was this the world the mayan prophecy was talking about?
I didn’t know on November 2012 yet, but something is sure:
The perception of the impact of my actions has changed a lot along this journey and in the last 8 years a whole world has ended, giving way to a new one, full of future and a lot of things to do
I often think about what sustainability really means, I don’t yet have a complete understanding of this word, and I think I will never have.
Today for us at The ID Factory sustainability is something between Journey, Respect and Regeneration and we try to spread in our daily job.
Thank you for following me in this journey, now you know our mission and our wish to change fashion brand’s minds.
and you…which side are you on?
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