Protecting Your Brand From Fraud and False Labeling

HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS! How excited are you to press CTRL - ALT - DELETE on 2020 😅 ? It was a tough year, but there were many defining moments for us that have helped kick us into gear to take action. But as the world becomes “woke” to our social and environmental dilemmas, our trust issues with government, business, and brands are being maxed out.

By now, you might have seen the horror stories of fast fashion giant Boohoo using slave labor in their Leicester factory and claiming they were unaware of these harmful labor practices. But claiming ignorance is unacceptable in today’s day and age! As more and more stories like this are being exposed, we’re finding it increasingly difficult to decide where to put our trust (aka which brands to support).

What we’re about to dive into today is probably going to add to those trust issues (sorry!), push you to demand true transparency from brands, and help brands understand how important it is to protect their businesses from fraud.

Based on Oritain’s market insight reporting for their clients, it has been found that 40% of brands claims are inaccurate with their cotton origin claims within their sample of 44 brands. That is a SCARY high number! Not to mention the sample included some of the top ten high street fashion names. 

By Simply Suzette for Oritain

The overall objective of the study was to verify whether cotton products from the stores where most people buy their clothes from are consistent with cotton origin claims made on their labels. And the verdict was unbelievably disappointing. But, remember this is only a snapshot of a proportion of a very large market, but this result provides evidence that there are issues that are occurring earlier in the supply chain for many products.

Ginning and spinning are known for high risk of blending and adulteration, like fake documentation for organic cotton, but there is little visibility past manufacturing the final garment. Because Oritain’s technology can be applied at any point in the supply chain, their goal is to catch fraud before it goes into retail to mitigate the risk of product recall. Auditing in the later stages is also extremely useful for policing purposes like we discussed with Steve Maggard, president of Cone Denim.

Oritain’s goal is to help brands and businesses regain control of their own supply chains by honing in on where the inconsistent results occur. This could be in specific products, SKUs, or production batches that are then followed up with additional testing. Oritain also supports communicating these results to your suppliers. All this is to give brands the power to enforce compliance within that problematic part of the supply chain.

But, I am curious to know how Oritain can pick a cotton tee off the shelf or a pair of jeans mid-production and test it to find these results. Luckily enough, I was able to steal Olya Shatova, one of Oritian’s lead scientists, away from the lab to ask her the nitty gritty questions. Watch our chat below!

In a nutshell, Oritain tracks the chemical characteristics of cotton that plants absorb from its environment. You can think of it like the way our bodies are composed of minerals, carbohydrates, and proteins from our food. In this same sense, cotton is composed of chemicals that it absorbs from the soil and water where it is grown. After a baseline sample is collected, the sample is analysed for their chemical characteristics and given a so-called ‘origin fingerprint’. This ‘fingerprint’ is then translated into measurable data using statistical models to allow Oritain to find patterns and identify relationships between the chemical parameters that they measure inside cotton 🤓 

It is wild to think that almost half the products we see on store shelves could have inconsistent claims and straight up false information on labels. But, this is why we need a traceable supply chain all the way down to the fiber level. There are social and environmental implications in every link of the chain and knowing the best practice for each link is instrumental in creating lasting change. We are well on our way, but we need everyone to gather the troops!


Until next time friends, always be curious and STAY DILIGENT!

 

Part of Oritain X Simply Suzette series.

3 comments

  • Hi Thomas,

    Thank you for raising these important questions!

    1) Yes, the method does hold up in court and has already done so in the food industry. One example is an instance of attempted infant milk poisoning, another is an illegal fishing scandal – Oritain’s founder, Professor Russell Frew worked with local government on both cases. In the event of fashion (or with all their clients), it is up to the client as to whether they want to press charges. Far from being a “police” force, Oritain works with the client to help eradicate the problem – often accompanying the client on a trip to the offending factory and educating them on the science involved, which acts as a large deterrent for future offences.

    2) Whilst some cotton yarns are blended, not all of them are. Where garments feature a single origin of cotton, Oritain works to verify back to that single origin. Where garments are blended, Oritain works with the clients to develop a bespoke solution that protects the brands’ origin claims.

    3) Indeed, processing may have major effects on some chemicals, but not on others. Over the years, Oritain has developed and validated an approach that allows them to verify the origin of finished goods all the way back to the source material – even when undergoing dyeing and finishing processes.

    Ani
  • Dear Suzette,
    We have been following your posts for quite a while now. We are an upcycling denim Brand from Berlin. We upcycle pre- loved denim into beautiful denim bomber jackets. We get our supply from a mission place in Berlin, where they collect and distribute thrown away clothes. They take rally good care of their workforce and often they help their employees to find a way back into society. Because they get so many clothes, they started to sell them to young brands like us. Which is an amazing circle in itself, as we support their good work by bulging our main fabric from them. We then get everything washed and cleans in Berlin and send it to Poland, where our lovely jackets get produced. If by any chance you are interested in our story we would be super thrilled to tell you more about our work that we find absolutely important to reduce the all over textile waste!! Have an amazing day and thank you for your time – Sophie and Niklas

    Avenir Circular Fashion
  • Sorry to say but this is just another attempt to make money on the back of the sustainable train.

    Three simple questions:
    1. Will this “method” hold up in court. Will the “scientists” claiming that they can check the origin of cotton in a finished garment fight it through in court and guarantee to pay all the legal fees and cost if it does not hold up?
    2. All cotton yarns are a mix of cotton fibers from different origins (i.e. USA, Australia, Egypt in one yarn). What “origin” will their method give on that.
    3. It is right that cotton will have for example different contents of let’s say metals depending where it grows. But later dyeing and finishing will change that “fingerprint”. How is this “method” taking this into the calculation?

    Best Regards

    Thomas the fabric maker

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