Total Transparency

Fashion designer Bruno Pieters just launched a new clothing line called “Honest By” which reveals everything – materials, methods,  pricing structures. Would you do this?

The Honest By brand offers eco and animal-friendly clothing, with a concept that’s new – communication to the consumer about every aspect of the manufacturing method, materials and the pricing strategies. Different designers were invited to participate – some accepted, others declined.

In this fascinating and thoughtful interview,  the designer discusses his great reverence for creating fabrics and clothing which are consciously-made. Fabrics are often recycled, vegan, organic, and even “skin-friendly,” meaning the cloth will not harm your skin in any way.

Pieters wants his customers to see all of the costs involved and the price calculation. Twenty percent of the profit, if any, will go to charity. The price calculation for his clothing is a 2.0 markup over cost, which is broken down in great detail. Expenses justifying the markup (staff, rent, insurance, marketing, etc.) are itemized.  All items in manufacture are revealed, with their origin, content and price. Also presented is each item’s carbon footprint.

A core principle of their philosophy is, “We want to give you the opportunity to shop with complete awareness of what you are buying.”

The designer talked about the fact that the clothing line is available only on his website. He says, “We decided to sell exclusively online because we thought it would be too difficult to find retailers who would be prepared to expose their store mark-up and concede with our demands.”

He goes on to state, “Also our consciousness is evolving, I think we are realising the way we live, shop, design and produce is not sustainable and is possibly outdated.”

Pieter’s concept brings up all kinds of topics for discussion, including:

  • Makers’ responsibility for use of materials that may be harmful to the environment
  • Willingness to share all costs and sources
  • An alteration in the concept of “perceived value”

Would you participate in this type of project?

Could this ever be a successful model, in your opinion?

Why or why not?

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  1. I absolutely agree with this type of transparency. When people know why they should spend more money on a product because it is for an overall ‘good cause’ and earthly harmony, they will. Often people are not aware of the harm some companies do with their lesser value products which we all pay for in devastating ways. Sometimes artists appear as magicians, just creating instantly from nothing. When people see the time, skill and quality of materials used they can be part of the process and therefore appreciate the end result that much more.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Kara. I agree that time, skill and quality of materials convey the quality of an item. How would you incorporate explanations of time and skill in your transparency? Would you include them in the description? Use a video on your site to show the process, etc?

  2. Many artists are very transparent when it comes to sourcing materials, that is part of our story, what makes our products special. Also, many of us are committed to sustainable labor practices; this is, for me, why I choose to produce locally, so I can be sure people are paid well. For me these issues are more important than exhibiting my cost structure. At the end of the day, you cannot work on a much different markup than your competitors.
    Also, just as an aside, it is common to express markup as a percent of your selling cost. So, the designer you have profiled isn’t working on a 2.0 markup, but a 50% ( or, keystone) markup. Not bad for direct, retail selling.

  3. Hi. I like the idea of being transparent. I actually was planning to create a special collection including photo and video materials, called “How I made it”. Although I did not think to include description of pricing, I like the idea. Being honest, I believe will help people believe in you and your products.

    But some people may not agree to such actions. Giving step-by-step explanation of how you created your art, where you got the materials from and how you priced it, may bring a conflict from competition point of view. If you expose all this information, then you teach the rest of the world to create what you have created. In our world, lots of times IDEAS mean money. That’s some artists are so unique – because of the technique they used to create their art. For me, it brings the question “How unique you will be after exposing all this info to the rest of the world?”.

    From another side, do we actually want to know how and where the things we love so much are created? Often, big companies move their business in 3rd world countries, having their production made by kids. Do we want to know that some make up is brutally tested on animals we love, before it is on the market?

    • Thank you Boryana – very thought-provoking! There are many issues this article brings up. Artists certainly would not want to share their secret process or invite copycats, that’s true.
      But do we have a obligation to reveal the amount of energy used or pollution created during our work? Would this change people’s behavior in creating?
      And yes, many large companies use questionable tactics to cut costs as low as possible. That’s where creative entrepreneurs can distinguish themselves by showing the value of their work and the quality of materials.
      Bruno Pieters’ policies are great topics for discussion. How much of his actions do you think are a marketing strategy as well? He certainly sets himself out from other producers.

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