The Supply Chain is Knitting Up a Storm

By June 2, 2016Supply Chain

Take note: next season’s big fashion statement will be “Responsible Innovation”

Supply Chain fashion innovation, aka the science behind the manufacture of garments, first disrupted the fashion industry and then the entire world all those centuries ago and became the catalyst for change that we now know as the industrial revolution.

Today if you were asked to think of “fashion” and “revolution”, you would probably conjure up a Vivienne Westward design or Kim Kardashian’s infamous Paper Magazine cover. This is all thanks to the clever marketing of fashion houses. The more fashion has become a tool of mass manufacturing and market consumption, the more it has tried to persuade us that it actually stands for the opposite: the rarified, exclusive, customized, individualized creations that are tailored to our “specialness”. I’m sure we have all succumbed, to have fallen head over heels with the idealization, the grooming of our inner narcissist by the flattering, fashion ads that promise to bring out our inner James Bond or Audrey Hepburn with the spritz of an eau de perfume (probably manufactured in China under quality controls and chemicals they are not obligated to disclose).

The reality is that the revolution of fashion manufacture has been stifled by the opening of third world markets because there was no longer an impetuous to produce technological efficiencies if money can be as easily saved through the use of “cheap” labor.

Not surprisingly, fashion manufacture started to lag in the innovation stakes… until now.
A constant stream of news articles has forced us to face the fashion folly of our ways. We would still like to believe that those expensive, Italian branded sweaters have been hand-knitted in the rarified air of Milan and not in the same Bangladesh sweatshops that push out product for Kmart, but we can no longer deny what has been tagged in the media as “fashion’s dirty little secret”.

So the fashion bigwigs have worked out that the love affair will soon be over unless they change their ways. That is where those buzz words come in: “Responsible Innovation”. The overused decrier “sustainability” is so yesterday Darling..

In Copenhagen in May this year, over 1,200 fashion, political, and business leaders gathered, from all over the world to address the worrying turn in consumer sentiment towards the industry. The dilemma was how to stem the jaded, popular sentiment without damaging profits? How to acquiesce without sacrificing the bottom line?
The answer was there the whole time of course: technology… and so the wheel comes full circle.

Once again it is predicted that the fashion world will become a major disruptor by using its high profile to revolutionise. Of course the technology was there the whole time but now, due to public pressure, it will be used and we will no doubt be hearing all about it on the catwalks from Paris to New York. H&M have already pushed out their “sustainable,” “Conscious, Exclusive” range. Chanel have even started doing a “Green” collection with “high fashion ecological” materials.

Of course this may all be feel good tokenism… or it may be the beginning of a new way of order, a new way of doing the business, just like the industrial revolution that started in the weaving rooms of England and Scotland of so long ago. Sustainability will be replaced with Innovation as the whole industry is exposed to the technology of an open transparent media who insist on closing the loop and pushing towards change.

This could be yet another new avenue for supply chain professionals to demonstrate their finesse as business leaders and augmenters of change. Supply Chain and Logistics Leaders everywhere, grab your algorithms, your ERPs and dashboards, from Copenhagen to New York and Paris, the revolution is nigh!

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