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 end this year, though if we survive through the next month we should be fine.
My last 5 days in Dongguan have been very intense: shoes, leathers, customers, factories and the jet lag all haven’t given me a chance yet.
The van just dropped me at Central in Hong Kong Island, and 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 end up hiding the tallest buildings.
I usually book a table at Isola Bar Grill, a terrace table that lets us enjoy the really cool view of the Kowloon skyline, but tonight I decided not to go there
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 that same morning, and that was the place, that was the shop.
Three white paint people in the shop window
Three Greenpeace team members completely dressed in white, on the 22nd of 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’s 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 got 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 it at the beginning but my actions started to move in a direction that today seems crystal clear and obvious but that at the same time it was completely obscure to me.
After November 2012 I started connecting several parts of the puzzle.
My business at the 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 of relations between tanneries and factories.
My daily routine was all spent with one hand into the leather material, the other hand on the phone with emails and emails and emails… blackberry addicted of course!
Well, since one day to the other:
- documents that brands kindly required to comply with became a mandatory signed commitment (Restricted Substance Limit or RSL)
- discussions with brands on chemical management of the supply chain: test this, test that…an increase of chemical test required.
- an avalanche of informations required daily
- a new manager showed up in the brands team: Compliance and Sustainability Manager
The problem was that the leather supply chain wasn’t able to even understand the why of this new requirement.
The language that was being used completely different and the gap between the market and the leather supply chain was too big.
The sales team was always linked to keywords such as collection, product, hands feel , colors shade… not compliance, traceability along the leather supply , transparency ,sustainability and fast fashion and supply chain’s 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’s new direction was going to be the problem, and this led me to do something that I had been feeling for some time.
Traceability along the leather supply chain
Jan 2013, The Mayan prophecy wasn’t like what I expected and what I saw in the movies.
I was sitting at my office checking my business card collection (We still needed to collect business cards at the time) looking for somebody who could support me in analyzing the problem from a different perspective.
The people that i found were 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, leather manufacturing and quality processes, and a sales manager of a tannery machines company.
This was the first brainstorming meeting team and the questions on the table were:
- is all of this just a bubble, something just in my mind or is something actually changing in the supply chain management of the fashion industry?
- if yes, why isnt it also so evident in the leather industry?
- how can we connect the stakeholders involved to get them to talk the same language, in a few words, how can we start to build our way into the fashion supply chain transparency?
- how to practically approach traceability along the leather supply chain?
- how could we collect all this data?
- is what we are talking about also the first step for us to get 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 habits, just forget it and pass to the next or …
take action and build up a palusibile solution!
It may not be the right solution but it is extremely exciting to take part in 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 in 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, because we really 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 fashion supply chain management approach, to become 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 my activities’s impact on this planet changed a lot along this journey and in the last 8 years the world that I lived in ended, leaving space to a totally new one full of possibilities and a lot to do to make them turn true.
I often think about what sustainability really means to me, I don’t yet have a complete understanding of this word, and I think I never will.
Today for us at The ID Factory sustainability is something that expands between Journey, Respect and Regeneration and we try to spread this 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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