2019 was marked as the year of self-disruption and 2020 heads on to be the year of action. Strategic planning, realizing the extinction dynamics for business, aligning with diverse market dynamics, investing in networks and collaborations and communicating the needs for multitudes, implementing technology in the infrastructure and motivating teams, acquiring talent that can sustain the exponentials to lead for the next generation were among the few tasks the businesses listed for their transformation. Enhanced leadership skills and thinking like an entrepreneur and focusing on the system rather than the product or services will be among the pre-requisites for the next steps into action.
The fashion industry remained to focus on the revenues during the last decade and now the companies are invited to consider earnings over revenue growth and to improve productivity while they ensure operational and financial flexibility. The response to political, economic, social and environmental uncertainties, the speed that the change is happening through digitalization, developments in data capturing, 3D printing, robotic manufacturing, AI and the immediate urge to convert fuel based industries will prevail creative solutions through platforms and partnerships where communication and dialogue will be the essential tools. Understanding the expectations of the consumers will determine the way the supply chains take action and we are looking at digital disruption, an industry that is evolving to be more and more inclusive with a peak demand on sustainability as well as shrinking margins.
More fashion brands are using 3D software to experiment with their designs digitally and this practice is becoming more streamline. The number of samples as well as the amount of wasted raw materials are reduced. Sportswear brands have already been in the game and Nike offers a 3D merino wool sweater knitted to personal size and taste preference in their Berlin store for 200 Euro. US heritage brand Tommy Hilfiger has announced plans to switch over to complete digital design processes by 2021.
Kniterate is an affordable and compact digital knitting machine which turns digital designs into knitted garments automatically. The process of designing and making knitwear is simplified allowing you to go from an idea for a scarf, a beanie, a sweater or a dress into a design ready to be made within a few minutes. Ministry of Supply has recently extended their high-tech approach to manufacturing. The company started as a Kickstarter with a fundraising goal of 30,000 USD and their phase changing Apollo shirt which controls the body heat to reduce perspiration and odor earned the name “the magic shirt” and lead to pants, suits and more designs. Lately they extended their tech-linked approach to manufacturing. If you go to their Boston-based retail outlet on Newbury Street, you can have your high-performance shirt—or for that matter, suit, blouse, and pants—3D printed while you wait only about 90 minutes. The machine they use has 4,000 individual needles and a dozen different yarns, the printer can create any combination of materials and colors desired, with zero waste. These 3D design platforms are helping to reduce waste and eliminating overproduction that contributes to the 12.8 million tons of unsold clothing send to landfill each year. The designers also have the freedom to be creative and the on demand approach offers innovation driven sustainability, the consumers get the chance to wear their values and be a part of the design process. Young consumers are demanding that the brands reflect and support do good for the world and take a stand in the global issues of our time and they have a chance to be visible with their messages through what they choose to wear. This is again related to the very direction of being a part of the action and implementing change. In 2018 Levis ran a 10-week invite only pop-up in Los Angeles where the shoppers used the FLX laser printing system to design their dream jeans in few minutes and have it washed and ready within the hour. In late 2019 Levis took the FLX technology to their stores. The development of FLX laser system is a blend of innovation, dedication, team-work and multiple partnerships within and cross industry players where digital advancements were used. Lasers cut much of the manual work and chemicals used and has helped the brand reduce inventory as well as waste. Levis managed to look at a problem using more of a “systems” approach rather than a single product and managed to incorporate multiple technological tools into creating a platform which can still evolve. The introduction of creative technologies and especially in store offers brands to have opportunities to have consumer engagement as well as cutting down on waste on manufacturing. Digital content embedded into the product not only enhances the beauty and the technicality but also allows a seamless communication with today`s consumers as it opens up a dialogue of possibilities.
In a recent project at Soorty, we co-created the first digital denim garment with The Fabricant. Fabricant is a digital fashion house as is leading the fashion industry to a world with digital garments only. The technical beauty of their work is mesmerizing and hypnotic to watch. The digital denim garment is a representation of the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Gold Certified denim fabric and garment which is a design and manufacturing marvel for the eco-friendly. C2C has not been an easy concept to grasp by the brands as well as the consumers however I find that the digital denim garment brings out the best in the project and without the need to produce a single garment – that is purely sustainable.
The supply chain is surely in disruption and as retailers now purchase raw materials, print their inventory as well as introduce speed to market with a direct to consumer approach.
The Levis FLX model is unique in the sense that it enables mass customization. It is essential to consider this dynamic in building new factories or even expanding business infrastructures. 3D printing is a means to end waste both for the brands as well as for the manufacturers and may be fully adapted for the sampling stage for the supply chain. User-designed product offer will also help gain momentum for sustainable solutions and customer designed will be available as well as designer designed. Moving from product-oriented manufacturing approach to more into systems thinking will define being a preferred manufacturer or a brand for the future consumers.