Transparency: The New Trend in Fashion

H&M have been hailed as fashion’s most “transparent” high street store in a recent report.

What do we mean when we talk about “transparency”?

Sustainable fashion has been a growing movement over the last decade. People, more than ever, are conscious about where their clothing comes from. With more of a spotlight on unethical work conditions and unfair trade practices, the fashion industry has come under scrutiny. However, there is still a lot of information that we do not know. 

The annual Fashion Transparency Index, published last week, ranks the world’s 250 biggest fashion brands based on how much information they are willing to share. This “transparency” (as they refer to it) encompasses their practices on a social, environmental and supply chain level. The index assesses companies across 55,000 variables. For many years, fashion brands have acted with free rein. This step is to make them more accountable. 

Most Transparent Companies

H&M, Swedish retailer, was labelled the “most transparent” company in the world, with a score of 73%. They have made headlines recently as they have shifted production lines to help support in the coronavirus pandemic. Also in the top 10 were Adidas, Esprit and Patagonia. Generally in the study, the average score across the 250 brands was just 23%.

Fast Fashion 

Unsurprisingly, those companies ranking the lowest were those with business models focused around fast fashion and disposable clothes. These companies have already been flagged as ones with sweatshop conditions and unethical practices. Fashion Nova scored a paltry 2% transparency score and Pretty Little Thing, 9%.

Luxury Brands

Luxury brands, despite their big price tags and commitment to quality, did not score so highly when it came to transparency. Gucci was the clear winner, scoring 48% transparency. Other luxury brands performing relatively highly included Saint Laurent and Balenciaga. All three of these companies are under the Kering group. Especially noteworthy was Eremenegildo Zegna, who were acknowledged as the “first luxury brand to publish a detailed list of its suppliers”. 

However, not all luxury labels fared so positively. Tom Ford and Max Mara scored an astonishing score of 0% transparency. This figure implies that these brands make no information available about suppliers or company audits. This means that when buying from these brands, there is no guarantee that the garments were ethically sourced/ 


In order to be part of the ranking, brands must have reached the threshold: an annual turnover of $400 million across luxury fashion, high street fashion, or sportswear. This means that many ethically sourced brands would not have met the necessary criteria to be featured.

Garment Workers 

Unfortunately, transparency is not synonymous with sustainability. The report revealed that of the 250 companies, only 2% pay above minimum wage to their supply chain workers. This is a figure that is still largely in the dark.