From business practices to materials, garments and fashion accessories, transparency is very much on trend... But what does the term really mean?
The word ‘transparent’ has its origins in the Latin trans (through) and parere (appear), to literally mean ‘appearing through’. However, in the digital age, transparency has become far more complex to define.
We could argue, in fact, that "transparency" is the antithesis of "appearance" – appearances can be deceptive, after all. By contrast, for today’s tech-savvy consumer, transparency centres around truthfulness, open dialogue, information-sharing and accountability. In the fashion industry, it has also tipped over into the concept of sustainability. As Jack Strachan, Blue UX Designer at IBM, explains, increasing numbers of consumers want "the chance to get closer to the factories the clothes are made in, [to] relevant information about the ethical methods used to manufacture their clothes and why [they] should buy into them”.
With this in mind, businesses are having to rethink their approach to everything from their website and product design to their working practices, especially in the fashion industry. Here, in brief, we’ve rounded up a few tips to create more transparency in our working culture and environment.
Open Up Communication Channels With Employees
If your business is to succeed, you need to establish a dialogue with the people who are helping you to build it. Digital platforms like Slack enable real-time interaction between employees on site as well those working remotely, and you can create dedicated channels for specific projects. By setting up an ‘extracurricular’ channel, you can encourage employees to share inspiration and interact more informally than they would in dedicated work channels.
Communicate and Share Your Goals
Commit to a regular session with your team(s) – perhaps quarterly – to update them on progress, irons in the fire and even the financials of the business. The more they know, the more they can help achieve your shared objectives.
Transparency also means to open communication channels within the company, so all departments and employees can interact with each other and move forward to completing shared goals.
Make Time for Face-to-Face Contact
Granted, this may not be viable in larger businesses, but if you can’t arrange face-to-face meet-ups with your staff members, delegate this role to heads of department or line managers. Despite the advantages afforded by technology, conversations in person allow both parties to really listen and respond to each other and ultimately build trust: arguably the most important ingredient in any relationship, professional or personal.
These kinds of interactions also allow people to pool ideas and push each other to think more creatively. When it comes to the fashion industry, for example, mood board sessions offer a great opportunity to collaborate with team members and to show the ideas for projects across the company in a clear, enjoyable way. All of this improves employee engagement, drives better products and boosts trust.
As Gustavo Razzetti, Change Consultant at Liberationist, puts it, “Building trust requires transparency, not just in how you communicate but, most importantly, in how you behave”.
Establish a Relationship With Your Customers (Digital or Not)
From the tone of voice on your website to the ways your clients and customers contact you, make it known you want to hear from them and make it easy for them to reach you. On your part, be strategic about any updates you send to subscribers, and personalise them wherever possible. Bold and quirky visual content that captures imaginations can now be shared at the touch of a button via Instagram, Pinterest and more, so be confident and creative.
Motivate Consumer Feedback
Both internally and externally, motivate people to give feedback on everything from product design to customer service in order to improve your working practices. Ideally, create a platform that allows your clients and customers to share their ideas and expertise with one another. Their insights may just prove invaluable for your business.
Build trust by listening to your customers and get clarity about what they need. Make it easy for consumers to reach you and motivate them to give feedback through all available channels.
Choose Your Business Partners Wisely
Consumer expectations, especially in the textiles and fashion industries, have evolved in the digital age, and they want to know exactly where their purchases are coming from. By working with partners who promote ethical working conditions, use sustainable materials, know how the materials are produced and share information with others, you can provide them with the supply chain transparency they demand.
Be Open to New Ideas
The most successful players in any industry, particularly in textiles and fashion, are those who pursue and embrace innovation. Designers are already exploring the incredible possibilities afforded by wearable tech, from Fitbits to intelligent sportswear, and beyond. By staying ahead of the curve, updating and sharing your discoveries with your followers, you can build a powerful community of co-workers and customers who’ll help you improve your business. When it’s done right, greater transparency really can make for greater trust.
Making Things Clear
Similarly, transparent packaging is becoming increasingly popular for consumer goods, everything from juice bottles to hand soaps. The effect is twofold. Firstly, on a physical level, it demonstrates that manufacturers, and retailers, have literally nothing to conceal – the product itself is the star. Secondly, it symbolises a brand’s commitment to honesty and open communication.
As part of this wider pursuit for clarity, consumers are also demanding clearer labelling on the products they buy. When it comes to grocery shopping, for example, surveys have shown that transparency is such a highly prized asset, that consumers, confused by a myriad of labelling systems, are actually prepared to pay more for improved clarity.
Nothing to hide: transparency also comes as part of the packaging, especially for food and drink companies and beauty products. On the left, herbal teas from Russian company Herbs Only, packed in glass bottles, and on the right, Rodin's luxury lipsticks. Credit: Herbs Only and Rodin
Transparency on the Catwalk
We also see a preference for transparency in a more tangible sense when it comes to the physical materials and textures being showcased on the catwalks. Designers across the globe, from Simone Rocha to Prabal Gurung, have sparked a jaw-dropping array of sheer garments, whether made from organza, mesh fabrics or clear plastic itself. The choice to reveal "what lies beneath" has played a defining role in 2018’s spring/summer trends and taps into this consumer desire for clarity.
Transparency in fashion materials as seen in the Spring-Summer 2018 catwalk comes in fabrics like organza, tulle, mesh, chiffon, amongst others - (from left to right): Les Copains, Paco Rabanne, Jill Stuart, and Blumarine.
The "daring to bare" we’re witnessing in fashion, therefore, can be regarded as a physical manifestation of the broader trends in consumer behaviour. Quite simply, people want to see things for what they really are.
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