Yesterday in Paris, Veja commemorated the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. Over 1,100 people died in the 2013 catastrophe, considered the worst of its kind in modern history.
The French girl-favorite sneaker label observed the occasion by inviting the public into its studio and offices for a day of tours and talks.
“It’s a day of sad celebration,” said brand co-founder Sebastien Kopp, who was determined to put a positive spin on affairs, using it as a catalyst for open discussion. The event was broadcast on Facebook Live, garnering many questions from both physical audience and those watching online.
This open-door policy extends to Veja’s own website, which relaunched last month. “It goes really deep into transparency,” said Kopp. “We feature the chemical tests we do on the sneakers, our social audits and all our production chain. It’s quite new and disruptive as a website for a brand.”
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Set this against the latest Transparency Index from Fashion Revolution. The U.K.-based NGO, launched a year after the Plaza disaster, promotes sustainability in the fashion industry and publishes a yearly index ranking brands for transparency in terms of publicly disclosed information.
The 2018 edition ranks 150 brands with annual turnovers in excess of $500 million. Adidas and Reebok came out on top — albeit with a score below 50 percent — but luxury stalwarts such as Chanel and Dior appeared to be the least transparent.
The idea goes that it’s difficult for brands to monitor safety when production is heavily outsourced to third parties. Veja works closely with cooperatives of small producers in Brazil, endeavoring to support local communities while using upcycled and sustainably produced materials.
Kopp and co-founder Francois Ghislain Morillion make regular trips to their production facilities. “People think you can launch a brand from an office without being physically involved, but it would be better for every one of us to go back into the mud,” said Kopp.
“To be physically present in Brazil and the Amazon forests, the cotton fields, the shoe factories, makes a huge difference. Depersonalization can make you money, but it doesn’t give you happiness.”