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What is Slow Fashion? Why Slow Fashion? Why is Slow Fashion so important?

What is Slow Fashion? Why Slow Fashion? Why is Slow Fashion so important?

By Chandra Wong

 

Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. It encompasses an awareness and approach to fashion that keeps the processes and required resources at the forefront. It advocates for buying better-quality garments that will last longer. It also recognizes the value of fair trade through the fair treatment of people, animals, and the environment. Slow fashion and sustainable or ethical fashion are similar with significant overlap, The main difference with slow fashion is that it targets reducing consumption at all stages in production up to and including consumer purchasing.

 

The term slow fashion was coined by Kate Fletcher at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. Fletcher saw the need for a slower pace in the fashion industry and the need to repeal the fast fashion movement. In the late 1990s and 2000s, brands like H & M, Zara, and Forever 21 took the fashion industry by storm. With a business model set up to have new merchandise in the store 3 - 4 times per week, the fashion cycle accelerated to an unprecedented pace. With the cheap clothes based on an extremely short production turn-around time, consumers could buy more clothes more often. The average number of clothing items purchased in the U.S. per capita is about 5 times higher now than it was in the 80’s - the age of the Material Girl. Half of those new purchases are worn three or fewer times. 

 

Trendy clothing is cheaper than ever and cheap clothing is trendier than ever. Fast fashion retailers scour the latest trends and their new designs and can go from a sketch to the rack in as little as three weeks! Fast fashion is about making trendy clothes quick, cheap, and disposable. 

 

Fast fashion may be easy on the consumer’s bank account (and lucrative for the producers), but there are many other costs. As recently as 1990, half of the clothing purchased in the US was made in the US. Now only about 2% is domestically produced. The rapid production speed in fast fashion is often achieved with  sweat-shop labor and child labor producing knock-offs. Labor regulations in other countries can be near non-existent. Self-regulation has been lacking with headline-making tragic stories coming out every few years. Even with the best of intentions, companies send orders to approved factories overseas that meet labor and safety guidelines, but their orders can then be subcontracted out to unapproved factories. There is a real human cost in fast fashion. Thousands of lives have been lost in fires and building collapses used in fashion production due to lack of regulation. Reporters often find pre-teens working in unapproved factories that are still making products for US brands. 

 

On top of the human cost is the environmental cost. In 2015, textile production created more greenhouse gasses than international flights and maritime shipping combined. It takes over 10,000 liters of water to grow the cotton for one pair of jeans, but synthetics are even worse. 342 million barrels of oil a year are used to produce polyester, nylon, and spandex. Viscose is another fast fashion fabric with a huge environmental impact. About one-third of the viscose in clothes comes from ancient or threatened forests and the process involves a huge amount of waste. As much as 70% of the harvested wood is dumped or incinerated. Many toxic chemicals are used in the manufacturing, processing, and finishing of textiles, and these chemicals often get dumped in rivers near villages.

 

Getting rid of unwanted clothing is another huge problem. The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothes a year. Most of the clothes that are donated still end up in the trash in the US or it is sold by the ton to buyers in the developing world. Even there, much of last year’s fashion is filling this year’s landfills. What isn’t thrown out is burned. 87% of the fabric used for clothing ends up incinerated or in a landfill. Buying less means less disposal.

 

Much of slow fashion comes down to supply chain management. Design, sourcing, manufacturing, and distributing a garment for slow fashion can take nearly two years. However, the end product is diligently made with more environmentally friendly products and processes, and it was made with better working conditions for employees. Slow fashion takes longer to produce but also slows down consumption. It allows brands to produce long-lasting, timeless garments that the consumer truly loves. By buying well-made, classic pieces, consumers actually save money over time, fewer natural resources are used in the process, and there is less waste. Garments are kept for a much longer time and therefore stay out of the landfill and incinerators.



How to be more sustainable in fashion

How to be more sustainable in fashion

There are 4 keys to making product more sustainable/reducing your carbon foot print, and better for the planet: Transparency, earth friendly Textiles, Re-shoring (Make it Local), and Work Direct. All of these are not always viable for one reason or another but the more of them you can achieve the gentler your product is aka the more sustainable.

1. Transparency

Knowing your supply chain:

    • Where are your textiles and trims coming from
    • What are they made out of and who is making your product of?

 

2. Textiles

Try and buy from sustainable textile mills (This is not a huge market yet):

    • Educate yourself on the different global impact textiles have.
    • When you are not able to find the accredited fabrics you want, select fabrics that have a lower cost to the environment and the community

 

3. Re-shoring

In the 1980s 70% of our clothing was made in the US, and now it is ONLY 2% right! Shocking statistics, right? Let's change that! Make it local:

    • Help your immediate economy.
    • Minimizes the environmental stress that comes with shipping.
    • Less shipping = less polluting our oceans.
    • Help build a stronger workforce.

 

4. Work Direct

Work with suppliers who can receive customer orders and ship directly to customers.

Industry Focus: Technology—As 2021 draws to a close, what types of technology should apparel businesses consider investing in to successfully navigate 2022?

Industry Focus: Technology—As 2021 draws to a close, what types of technology should apparel businesses consider investing in to successfully navigate 2022?

With the new year arriving in a couple of weeks, a sense of opportunity and new beginnings has been felt as businesses look back on the progress made and lessons learned during 2021. Entering 2022, the apparel industry is looking toward a fresh start. To support this optimism that has been cultivated through overcoming challenges and applying for hard work, businesses will need to continue to invest in technologies that allow them to remain agile, ready to shift direction with solutions when an obstacle lands in their path.

Whether solving issues within the supply chain, advancing retail strategy or approaching production from a different perspective, fashion businesses must invest in technologies to support their work when a problem strikes in order to avoid disastrous outcomes. California Apparel News asked apparel-technology experts: As 2021 draws to a close, what types of technology should apparel businesses consider investing in to successfully navigate 2022?

 

Shahrooz Kohan, Chief Executive Officer, AIMS360

The market is changing fast because of supply changes and buying patterns. The whole supply-to-delivery process is now omni-channel as it is impossible to know what will happen next. Costs and selling prices are constantly a moving target for each channel. One day goods are stuck in the port and brands require domestic production and the next day it changes again. We have had to upgrade our omni-channel automation software to accommodate the day-to-day changes in production, order taking, and delivery. Our client brands are staying in business by being able to quickly adapt to changes.

 

Jason Wang, Chief Operations Officer, Alvanon

When it comes to samples, imagery and production, physical textiles have been the standard in fashion. One of the solutions to combat this waste is digital technology, with digital sampling and 3D digitized models that can not only help within the supply chain but also solve customers’ fit issues by creating realistic virtual body models to make clothes that fit every body.

Today, we’re using digital to help us get a more efficient supply chain by making 3D models streamlined across digital and physical forms. Alvanon enables companies to generate and leverage their authentic 3D digital assets across multiple platforms and applications. We have seen how 3D avatars can change the way we design, produce, merchandise and sell fashion. 3D digitized models will change the fashion production game in 2022.

 

Mark Kwong, Head of Business Development, Brandboom

As we’ve seen over the last couple of years with the pandemic, everything can change very quickly. Many countries still have heavy restrictions in place—and those restrictions change frequently. As the pandemic continues to create challenges, buyers often can’t, or don’t want to, travel. As a result, the ability to do everything online is not only expected—it’s demanded.

The name of the game is flexibility. Brands that have always used the standard seasonal approach to their lines now need to be more agile with planning and inventory. We’ve also seen brands benefit from expanding their product lines; for example, incorporating a new casual line or focusing on regional markets to accommodate the ever-changing “new normal.”

So, apparel businesses should be investing first and foremost in flexible technologies that are immediately fully functional while being able to accommodate frequent and unanticipated changes at super-fast speed.

 

Dan O’Connell, Co-founder, BrandLab360

Our unique technology is at the forefront of the rapidly building trend of using gamification to elevate e-commerce inside the metaverse. To successfully navigate 2022, it’s essential that apparel businesses consider investing in technology where people can meet, transact, work and play online. We believe this will be the catalyst for a cascading cultural shift in the future of e-commerce supported by the metaverse and Web 3.0.

 

Michele Salerno, Director of Marketing and Assistant Vice President, Celerant Technology Corp. & CAM Commerce

Apparel retailers have learned over the past 21 months how vital technology is for their businesses. Retailers who were still using inadequate and/or aging software to run their business definitely had a disadvantage versus retailers who were already using an innovative and more modern software solution.

Implementing new fulfillment methods such as buy online, pick up same day—whether it be in-store or curbside—was virtually impossible if you didn’t have the right technology foundation to support these initiatives. Flipping your entire store’s available inventory to an instant virtual store online to continue serving your local customers when perhaps they couldn’t come into your store—and doing this quickly across the many local communities you may serve with 100 different store locations—is virtually impossible without the right software as your business’s backbone.

Moving into 2022, we have all learned a lot from the past 21 months, and the most successful retailers have come out on top and will continue to thrive because they understand how important an innovative and comprehensive software solution is to manage both their bricks-and-mortar and online businesses.

 

Paul Magel, President of Business Applications, Computer Generated Solutions

If recent history is any indication of what the apparel industry will universally focus on, it will be the supply chain. However, brands and distributers individually should be evaluating and investing in their companies’ greatest pain points. The supply chain has become a catchall for much of the 2020 and 2021 disruptions, but the specific technology needs within the supply chain can depend upon where the business priorities lie. Is the priority sustainability and compliance, reduction in supply-chain costs, or production lead times? How ready they are, as an organization, to adopt and implement technology will also be a consideration.

When priorities and corporate readiness are identified, only then can the appropriate technology be selected and deployed.

In 2022, the digitization of the supply chain will be critical, and that can mean anything from deploying a PLM platform that connects an apparel business’s designers, production and vendors to installing a shop-floor-control solution that allows for real-time production tracking with notifications sent to the brands as the goods move through the manufacturing process. Key to the success of any initiative will be the collection of data throughout the supply chain and transforming that data into meaningful information to be used to form insights and actionable intelligence.

Accelerated technology deployment will be a necessary business fundamental in 2022 for not only success but survival. Taking careful consideration of your business’s overall goals and priorities will be the key to choosing the right area to focus on.

 

Roy Avidor, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, Cymbio

Automation has become a key driver in accelerating digital sales in 2022. The upcoming year will require businesses to lean on technology and provide the customer journey, scalability and data needed to keep up with the increasing changes. And while the rules are always evolving, in order to continue growing and moving forward businesses need to create a firm foundation today in order to grow digital sales.

Consumers are shopping differently; therefore, it’s crucial to accelerate the adoption of digital-first strategies and channels. Thanks to e-commerce, consumers have increased access to whatever they need more than ever before.

For brands, selling at retailers and marketplaces has become a must, and the only way to do this at scale is through automation. Automation enables brands to easily sell on any channel, regardless of their systems, while streamlining product data, imagery, mapping, inventory syncing, taxonomy, orders, billing, tracking, returns and reports. The bottom line is that businesses have even more power to reach and sell on a global scale with automation in their back pockets.

 

Tim Check, Product Manager of Professional Imaging, Epson America, Inc.

As we approach the end of the year, take stock in where you’ve succeeded and what has worked well. If you’ve found success in a niche market, what are other products and services that would be a good fit?

Consider investments in new technology only when it will support your path to success. That could be in the way of faster production, lower operating costs or expanded capabilities. Only you know what is best for your business.

As an example, a regional sportswear-apparel producer faced a significant drop in team-apparel sales due to the pandemic and shifted its product offerings to cater to esports apparel and accessories. The existing dye-sublimation printers worked well to enable the company to start producing products such as video game–themed clothing, personalized gaming pads and energy-drink insulators. Sales picked up and, to the company’s surprise, they seemed to have uncovered a sizable market opportunity. Direct-to-garment turned out to be the solution they needed. They were able to produce the sublimated cut-and-sew apparel without any personalization and later used DTG to add personalization.

The customer-order pattern for esports products was different from team sportswear in that the number of unique orders was higher with smaller job sizes. Designing and producing personalized cut-and-sew apparel was difficult to do efficiently while the accessories, like gaming pads, were quite easy. Noting that the top-selling products consisted of a dozen esports game themes, they looked to find a more efficient solution to personalizing the apparel.

 

John Robinson, Senior Vice President of Client Engagement, Exenta From Aptean

In 2022 and beyond, companies absolutely must invest in technology that delivers real-time visibility into the key performance indicators of their business, including inventory of raw materials, inventory of product, sales, financial information, available inventory to sell and production orders against sales. Only a tailored, industry-specific ERP solution provides that level of visibility for fashion and apparel companies.

For companies designing and producing their own products, a PLM solution also delivers valuable efficiencies, helping apparel brands be not just quick to market but also smart to market. It’s important to get the right products to market at the right time. A PLM facilitates collaboration between designers and vendors, and a modern PLM really lifts administrative burdens from designers, freeing them to be creative.

Those businesses that manufacture their own products—essentially any operation that includes running machinery and having labor involved in getting a job done—want to maximize productivity from their investment in equipment and human capital. Investing in shop-floor control, or manufacturing execution software, allows manufacturers to track the efficiency of each operation and each operator in real time and delivers visibility into real-time WIP, eliminating production bottlenecks.

To succeed today, apparel companies need to bring digital transformation to every aspect of their business. Even brands not directly engaged in e-commerce often have a need to support that for retail customers who do, including a way to keep inventory current, receive online orders, drop-ship to the end customer and facilitate the process in reverse for returns. Future-proofing an apparel-business supply chain requires nonstop progression toward becoming more agile at every phase of the game, from design and development all the way through to a client’s experience in engaging with a brand online or in the retail store.

 

Tirsa Parrish, Managing Partner, Fashion Index

Going into 2022, apparel companies and retailers, even smaller retailers, should adapt their websites and platforms to ensure they have a drop-ship functionality. This will allow them to significantly speak to the commitment to socially responsible production, which provides zero waste and no inventory options!

 

Ulla Hald, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, FAVES

Live selling and planning tools are the two investment areas I recommend for 2022. But let’s be clear, making technology investments without human adaption is meaningless at best. There’s no magic pill. To be successful in the ever-changing apparel landscape, both technology and human processes need to innovate and adapt.

Live selling really took off in 2021, allowing savvy retailers a new way to connect with customers. Those who were engaging and authentic and showed up on social channels consistently were rewarded with a substantial increase in sales.

To win in 2022, I suggest more apparel retailers experiment with live selling and invest in technology platforms to help automate the process. Live selling is a game changer. It’s the unlock to connecting with customers anywhere. But as with any social presence, it requires a commitment to being authentic and present.

We can’t control global logistics, but we can control the products we order. It amazes me how many retailers use their gut when investing in inventory and all too often end up with similar or redundant products from multiple vendors or forgetting to order key styles.

Another trouble spot is losing track of when products are supposed to arrive. Nobody wants to receive an order of Rudolph sweaters on Dec. 26. Staying on top of orders and expected deliveries is essential, but it’s not easy without the right tools.

 

Chris Kronenthal, President and Chief Technology Officer, FreedomPay

2021 has shown us that consumers’ appetite for buy-now, pay-later options is growing and is not limited to bigger-ticket items or online purchases. Apparel retailers need to meet this growing consumer demand in 2022 and need the right technology to make BNPL as seamless as any other transaction. This calls for a platform that can swiftly and securely connect disparate systems like POS, customer loyalty app and a BNPL solution behind the scenes.

 

Katja Dömer, Chief Marketing Officer, inriver

As e-commerce continues to dominate the apparel landscape, both from a retail and wholesale perspective, it’s more crucial than ever that product details are consistent and accurate across marketplaces. A product-information-management solution, especially one that provides digital marketplace auditing, can be a game-changer for apparel businesses looking to amplify their online selling game, eliminate return costs and attract repeat customers.

 

Kristin Savilia, CEO, JOOR

Virtual showrooms have become a critical investment for apparel brands to maintain business continuity. As brands now consider the reintegration of in-person selling, having a virtual showroom will remain a necessity in order to efficiently conduct business with partners around the world. Selecting the right marketplace is critical, especially when it comes to imagery and intelligence. Look for virtual channels that offer rich 3D imagery, including augmented reality, and product-attribute tagging that incorporates artificial intelligence. These technologies enable better discoverability and can eliminate the need to ship samples to buyers. Regarding the global supply chain, apparel brands and buyers must rely on seamless inventory management systems, which bring together an up-to-the-minute view of their wholesale businesses.

 

Robert Zoch, Global Content Manager, Kornit Digital

The successful apparel business is one that invests in tools to minimize the time—and perhaps complexity, even more so—involved in the accurate fulfillment of real demand for its products. If there were ever any doubt that forecast-based production cycles were on the way out, a global pandemic, the explosion of e-commerce and a serious shipping crisis certainly laid those doubts to rest. On-demand production, nearer to the purchaser for quick delivery, is key to serving today’s marketplace, and the tools exist to align production with those demands, eliminating waste and driving healthier profit margins in the process.

Producers need tools to harness that demand, whether it’s coming from online stores, social media or design apps that empower users to bring their own creations to life. The Internet of Things—like smart devices—it’s all part of that digital revolution, which eliminates the guesswork for businesses that make the effort to tune in. Starting with the more effective capture of consumer demand and sentiment, they can invest in highly automated workflow software that eliminates friction from point of sale to the production floor to shipping finished goods.

A truly modern and intelligent end-to-end workflow enables immediate flexibility and agility to answer demand in real time, eliminating overproduction.

 

Alison Bringé, Chief Marketing Officer, Launchmetrics

Going into the new year, brands should consider providers that support two things: launch and metrics. When managing an apparel business, there are two sides to the coin; on one side you have technology that digitizes internal processes and optimizes resources in order to increase efficiency, and on the other you have tools that allow you to track marketing strategies by leveraging data and insights in order to make smarter decisions around your branding efforts.

In 2022, as we settle into the new era, it will be pivotal that brands invest in both in order to enable their executives to succeed with the right tools and services while implementing a holistic approach to their brand performance. If the past years have taught us anything it’s that we need to be more efficient so as to spend more time on what really matters.

 

Leonard Marano, President Americas, Lectra

As we look back on the challenges of both 2020 and 2021, we realize the need for digitalization to increase transparency and agility in the supply chain. Digitalization creates a seamless data workflow and reduces the number of errors, time wasted and money spent, which today is vital to the health of any business. That digitalization combined with automated technology and Industry 4.0–enabled solutions reduces the exposure producers have from shipping delays, raw-materials shortages and hard-to-find labor.

To operate in a more effective way, businesses need to implement fully connected workflows across the entire supply chain. One example is the use of AI to gain competitive analysis and make more-accurate decisions about what is needed to produce, avoid overstock, optimize price and margins, and save time and money. Another is leveraging a fully connected suite of products that connects data, accurately, from PLM and development in 2D/3D CAD to production planning and manufacturing. Whether you are producing made to order, customized or mass-produced garments, seamlessly connecting the data eliminates errors and reduces the labor gap.

 

Catherine Cole, Chief Executive Officer, MOTIF

Our industry is changing so rapidly and will go through so much disruption over the next decade due to sustainability and 3D development imperatives that individuals and companies can’t be complacent. The best thing newcomers and industry veterans can do is make sure their arsenal of skills is well stocked. We all need to embrace continuous learning with an open mindset to successfully navigate 2022.

Learning should never be a one-time event but ongoing with built-in opportunities for immediate application. We are launching a new series of live virtual master classes between February and June 2022 so learners can interact in real time with an instructor.

 

Tommy Fazio, Fashion Director, NuOrder

Investment in digital transformation is key for brands and retailers in 2022. This year, we have seen more and more companies making the move to digital, allowing them to more efficiently run their businesses through real-time data and insights, immersive storytelling as well as virtual selling between retailers and brands.

 

Greg Flinn, Solutions Director of Planning and Optimization, Oracle Retail

Retailers should focus their efforts in three areas as they finish up 2021. First, they should explore robust, AI-native forecasting capabilities to better understand if the category shifts that occurred over the last two years will maintain their trajectory and for how long. Second, apparel retailers should investigate enhanced order-management systems that take better advantage of the supply chain to most efficiently and profitably fulfill orders from any selling or inventory-holding location. Finally, retailers should evaluate mobile POS systems that facilitate the ability to service the customer wherever they want to shop. Certainly the existence of a powerful planning solution sets the framework on which to build these focus areas and better manage open-to-buy as well as productivity across the entire enterprise.

 

Esther Kestenbaum Prozan, President, Ruby Has

Apparel businesses should think deeply about technology-enabled services overall and specifically about the technology capabilities of third-party e-commerce-fulfillment providers. It’s not enough to have the right technology if it doesn’t integrate with the provider. Invest in a relationship with a fulfillment provider who has a robust and comprehensive set of integrations with every platform and utilizes seamless e-commerce demands. Also look for intelligent use of automation and robotics such as world-class sortation systems that can bring speed as well as economies of scale.

 

Galina Sobolev, Chief Marketing Officer, StyleScan

As we have learned in the time since 2020, apparel businesses should continue directing significant efforts toward enhancing their e-commerce, specifically by digitizing clothing into 3D. Many large industry names—Levi’s, Ralph Lauren, PVH and Lululemon—are embracing the digital direction and have already begun using 3D apparel for B2B and B2C sales.

For B2B, digital clothing enables garments to be designed, merchandised and sold before being manufactured. It increases speed and efficiency, saves costs and helps the environment.

For B2C, 3D apparel can also facilitate virtual try-ons, be worn in the metaverse and digitally dress endless photos/videos—all the elements necessary to position apparel brands for the future.

 

Guy Courtin, Vice President and Industry Principal of Retail, Tecsys

What we are experiencing with our supply chains is not seasonal, pandemic-driven issues; rather, they are the result of some fundamental weaknesses within our networks. At the macro level, governments and NGOs will need to take concrete actions to fix infrastructure, deal with labor issues and rethink how we structure our global supply chains.

But what about further down chain? The act of shopping is happening across more and more channels, both online and offline; this is introducing a great deal of complexity on two fronts: digital orchestration and physical execution.

Digital orchestration refers to the technology backbone that allows retailers to operate more-sophisticated and -optimized order routing. This entails virtual pooling of inventory and its network of dispensing nodes like stores, distribution centers, dark stores, micro fulfillment centers, pickup lockers, pop-up stores and more.

Physical execution refers to the warehousing activities involved in managing the complexity behind the curtain that makes these brands so shoppable. Warehouses are being asked to balance the traditional function of pallets and cases moving from manufacturer to store but then also to layer on top of that all the wrinkles involved in fulfilling online orders, processing direct-to-consumer channels and managing distributed dispensing nodes. And all this while meeting increasingly uncompromising consumer expectations in terms of deliveries and returns.

 

Joe Walkuski, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Texbase

Sustainability and traceability will affect the value of your brand more than anything else in the next two years. Get it right and you’ll succeed. Get it wrong and your brand may never recover.

As such, it’s imperative that companies solidify their strategies and invest in software to create fact-based supply chains defined by accurate data in support of their sustainability and traceability objectives.

Consumers are demanding to know what’s in the products they’re buying and where they come from. Companies need to be fortifying the processes and systems they use to define and manage supplier, material and product interactions. Only then will they be able to accurately educate the consumer and therefore gain their trust.

 

Chris Walia, Chief Operating Officer, Tukatech

The most important technological aspect of the fashion business in 2022 will be agility. Is the technology going to allow you to pivot to meet market demands or face the kinds of global supply-chain disruptions we’ve seen over the last two years? Consider adapting at least part of your business to a demand-manufacturing or micro-factory production model. You could design, develop, sell, then make products rather than sitting on expensive inventory and waiting for it to be sold.

Virtual design tools like readymade pattern templates and 3D software are a must in order to visualize how a garment will look before it is cut and sewn with very little technical skill required. Then fabric can be printed as needed and laser cut according to what has been ordered. The beauty of the micro factory is that it doesn’t have to mean small. It can be scaled to suit the needs of any level of production.

 

Suresh Menon, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Software Solutions, Zebra Technologies

Today’s apparel-store associates have seen their roles shift dramatically over the last couple of years, with more change on the horizon. Understaffed workforces throughout the retail industry, including those on the apparel side, have led to increased workloads, making it difficult for them to complete their daily tasks in an effective and efficient manner.

With a substantial increase in demand for omni-channel services, apparel associates continue to manage increased demand for curbside pickup and buy-online, pickup-in-store orders, online returns, and in-store appointment-scheduling services. Apparel retailers will continue to see these challenges well into the future, which means that this pressure on store associates will not abate anytime soon.

By embracing intelligent retail technology, retailers can alleviate some of the burdens on associates, fostering a more agile workforce that can react in real-time to challenges. Forward-thinking apparel retailers have been investing in artificial intelligence–driven workforce management, real-time store execution, and prescriptive analytics to simplify work and drive continuous operational improvement at stores. Empowering workers with mobile access to intelligent retail technology ensures that they always have access to the most accurate and up-to-date information. Whether it’s an important communication from their manager, a new high-priority task or other key operational information, these solutions ensure that staff is in the right place at the right time to elevate the customer experience.

3D Fashion Myths: Facts vs. Fiction

3D Fashion Myths: Facts vs. Fiction

So many businesses are missing out on the incredible power and versatility of 3D tech. Why? Myths are prevalent in the fashion industry– and 3D is no exception. The truth is the right tech can help you transform your e-commerce presence while increasing sales, reducing returns, and entertaining. It can also help you deliver immersive and unforgettable fashion shows in your virtual showrooms and, most significantly, help you reduce your environmental impact while optimizing operations and reducing costs. In fact, the best 3D tech could have helped countless retailers and brands continue with business as usual in those critical early days of the pandemic.

The truth awaits. Don’t let these common myths stop you from harnessing the power of 3D tech.

 

E-COMMERCE
Myth: All 3D is the same.

Fact: When you explore the world of 3D tech, you’ll realize there’s a lot of variation on offer. 3DReal™  by The OHZONE is very different from 3D CAD, 360 photography, and spin photography. There are very important differences among all four in terms of quality, capabilities, use cases, pricing, onboarding requirements, and more.

Myth: 3D is nice to have if you can afford the extra bells and whistles, but it’s just another trend.

Fact: Your brand, marketing, and digital presence (including social media) can bring customers to your website. However, 3D product imagery can encourage purchases, increase average order value (AOV) and reduce returns thanks to their high-quality, detailed, accurate representations of your products in the digital realm.

Myth: You need extra hardware to get interactive.

Fact: You don’t need VR headsets or other fancy hardware and gadgets for an interactive e-commerce experience. All you need is the right partner– The OHZONE can provide you with draping so realistic you can almost “feel” the fabric’s texture and movement in motion.

 

VIRTUAL SHOWROOMS: FASHION SHOWS

Myth: Your fashion show won’t be effective or regarded as credible if it isn’t expensive or doesn’t take place offline.

Fact: Virtual fashion shows are just as effective and credible – and they don’t need to cost a fortune. Save money and go easier on the environment with exciting 3D fashion presentations for consumers, wholesale buyers, and the press.

Myth: Virtual fashion shows must be pre-rendered or pre-recorded videos.

Fact: You can host an extra fabulous fashion show in real-time virtually, just as you would offline! The difference is you’ll have a lot more opportunities to immerse every single viewer into a fully-encompassing, branded experience with extras that wouldn’t translate well offline. With virtual fashion shows, every viewer enjoys the front row experience.

 

SUSTAINABILITY

Myth: It takes a lot of work and massive investment to become a sustainable brand.

Fact: With 3D tech, you can be more sustainable as soon as today– whether through sharing virtual samples or walking buyers through your new collection online. Interested in joining the circular economy? 3DReal™ by The OHZONE can get you there. You can leverage high-quality, immersive, and interactive 3D graphics to sell luxury resale fashion, upcycled clothing, or luxury fashion rental subscriptions. You’ll be able to better engage shoppers with better visuals, more detailed views, and soon– virtual try-on too. The future of circular is noteworthy! According to the Circular Fashion Report, the circular fashion economy may be worth up to $5 trillion.

Myth: 3D tech can only be applied to planning, designing, and product development.

Fact: You can reduce the environmental impact of your samples with high-resolution 3D tech. For instance, 3DReal™ allows brands to automatically produce virtual samples in as many colors and patterns as they may need. These brands produce far fewer physical samples, drastically reducing their carbon footprints by producing less excess material waste and reducing shipments, energy use, and more.

Are you ready to bring your designs to life as captivating 3DREAL™ garments? Request a demo with The OHZONE, Inc. today.

INCUBATORS ARE BACK — AND GOOD THING, BECAUSE FASHION REALLY NEEDS THEM

INCUBATORS ARE BACK — AND GOOD THING, BECAUSE FASHION REALLY NEEDS THEM

When the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) announced its Fashion Incubator in 2009, it was with the intention to create a blue-chip support system for the next generation of American designers. For nearly a decade, the initiative handpicked fledgling labels to complete a two-year residency program, offering mentorship opportunities, business advice and perhaps most alluringly, subsidized studio space in Manhattan's Garment District.

By 2017, as its fourth and final class was on its way out, the program itself was ending, too, and in 2018, the CFDA rebooted its accelerator model into a more democratized digital platform called "The Network," open to all active CFDA members.

Today, some of the CFDA's Fashion Incubator designers have become bona fide industry leaders in their own right. Others are no longer in business at all. But for those eight years, the concept of a fashion incubator was in its golden age here in the U.S. And it wasn't just the CFDA getting in on the action: Big-name and highly-profitable fashion and beauty organizations like Sephora, Nordstrom and Kering started adopting incubator-like programs, as well. Some of those projects are still kicking — Sephora Accelerate only just announced its 2020 member brands this past June — while others are, well, not.

Then, a pandemic hit. The novel coronavirus shined an industrial flood light on the many long-standing pain points within the fashion industry. It took a global reckoning to prove, undeniably, just how broken the system is, and it's going to take a force of the same momentum to rebuild it from the ground up. Could incubators — big and small, in all corners of the country — resurface to lead the way?

"Covid-19 has quickened the success or the failure of a company," says Pano Anthos, founder and managing director of XRC Labs, an accelerator for disruptors in retail technology and consumer goods. "If they were headed toward failure anyway, they just move there faster. If they were headed toward success, they're accelerating their success. It clarifies whether this product, and its technology for that matter, has legs or not."

Looks from NISM designer Jake Peak, who was inspired to create luxe genderless streetwear based on the theme of tactical post-apocalyptic elements.

Photo: Courtesy of NISM

XRC Labs doesn't work in fashion explicitly, but it does invest in startups that could radically upgrade the ways in which the industry functions. In four years, Anthos and his partners have invested in roughly 80 companies across supply-chain logistics, manufacturing technology, consumer brands, e-commerce marketplaces and user experiences, among other sectors. 

It's partnered with Billie, an Instagram-friendly razor brand that's also secured $35 million in funding to scale into the next great personal-care company. But it's also worked with Gather, the world's first software-only autonomous inventory management tool for modern warehouses.

In a health crisis that thrives in close, indoor contact, warehouses have become a hot-button issue. With Gather, which is largely powered by drones, what used to take employees two hours can be done in an automated eight minutes. It's not a catch-all substitute for human employment, but it could serve as a safeguard against future circumstances that might keep workers from physical distribution centers. Less morbidly, it also just streamlines inventory monitoring, the processes for which can often be botched.

"We're so far behind the curve," says Anthos. "We're doing something the same old way over and over again, expecting a different result. And that's the definition of insanity."

Incubators, tasked with fostering the future, have their work cut out for them, and XRC Labs's focus is just one piece of the 3,000-piece quarantine puzzle (which are chic now, by the way). 

Jackie Trebilcock is the managing director of New York Fashion Tech Lab (NYFTLab), a business-development program for women-led startups. Like XRC Labs, the organization is not quite capital-"F" Fashion: It selects a cohort of fashion-focused technology companies and connects them with fashion retailers to advance the industry from within. If said retailers — which run the gamut from LVMH and Estée Lauder to Bloomingdale's and Macy's — like what they see, they'll link up with the startups directly in whatever capacity they see fit.

"I spend a lot of time talking with any and every retailer wanting nothing more than to say, 'I just want you to know that we exist,'" says Trebilcock, who previously worked in brand development at Hearst Magazines. "And, 'If you're looking for something, here's companies that we can stand behind. What they're doing could help you.'"

A group of New York Fashion Tech Lab's startup founders pictured pre-quarantine at New York City's Spring Studios. 

Photo: Yumi Matsuo/Courtesy of New York Fashion Tech Lab

 

NYFTLab has found success in its hyper-specificity, focusing on proprietary technology that could benefit retailers and brands. But despite its narrow focus, there's much variety to the types of companies the group supports. Visual search, AR and consumer analytics are all on the table. So is fit technology, the likes of which many retailers scrambled to assemble in March when their brick-and-mortar locations began to close.

"There are several virtual-fit companies that have gone through our program, but it took a pandemic for people to use them," says Trebilcock. "For years, companies have been saying, 'Take a picture of yourself and you can see yourself in an entire product category online!' That can be hard for people, but if you have no choice, you'll do it."

As the world spins faster toward complete digitalization, technological innovations remain a key solution to fashion's fundamental inefficiencies. But warehouse drones are a Band-Aid fix on some of the industry's more systemic issues, including the racial inequity, marginalization and oppression upon which the industry was built.

As Brother VelliesAurora James, who started the 15 Percent Pledge campaign to support Black-owned businesses, told The Atlantic in July: "If you systematically created your business with the intent of celebrating certain ideals, and everything has been built on that structure, then it's rotted from the root." 

One way fashion can commit to removing that rot is by amplifying those voices that have long been stifled across both race and class lines, and sweepingly so.

NISM — which calls itself part incubator, part design studio — is aiming to disrupt that racial discrimination firsthand. On the incubator front, the Los Angeles-based organization partners with multiple breakout designers, all of whom are BIPOC, and allows them full creative autonomy of their own line. But what sets NISM apart from its more traditional incubator colleagues is that it also provides all production capabilities, not just resources or design space, from the physical fabric to the construction of the finished garments. NISM then launches its designers' limited-edition capsule collections via a direct-to-consumer model on its website.

"The industry is completely dominated by one voice, so in order to differentiate ourselves, we want to bring out those voices that haven't had the opportunity to be in the forefront," says NISM founder and CEO Anmol Narula. "Fashion has been really successful in exploiting minority culture, but not necessarily in supporting and amplifying that culture. And there are not enough designers who have been given the opportunity to create the culture they can here."

Over in the Midwest, Saint Louis Fashion Fund (SLFF) launched its incubator program with a splash back in 2016, and for the last four years, has hosted designers at its 7,500-square-foot workspace in the city's Garment District.

Saint Louis Fashion Fund Lab designer Michael Drummond, who spearheaded the Fund's mask initiative to provide 14,000 masks for healthcare and frontline workers.

Photo: Ven Phommaly/Courtesy of Saint Louis Fashion Fund

 

From the late 19th century through the end of World War II, Saint Louis was second only to New York in garment manufacturing. One stretch of the city's Garment District, Washington Avenue, once claimed more shoe manufacturers than any other street in the world. SLFF co-founder Susan Sherman likes to say that fashion is as important to the fabric of Saint Louis as baseball and beer. But the pandemic forced SLFF to close its physical doors, announcing in July that it would be leaving its signature downtown studio space.

"No one had sales," says Sherman. "People didn't really know how to immediately pivot to direct-to-consumer. I mean, it was just really difficult. But the pandemic really gave us time to look at our bottom line and really assess our mission going forward — how we can have the greatest impact for Saint Louis."

Right now, that looks like economic development: Between March and April, nearly 400,000 Missourians had filed for unemployment, and Sherman dreams of a world in which SLFF may be able to create a waterfall of jobs by bringing more manufacturing to Missouri. Not only does Saint Louis offer tax credits to those businesses that relocate to the Show-Me State, but it's damn affordable: You can get $3 per square foot, while in Manhattan's Garment District, renters can expect to pay a cool $82 for the same space.

"People need jobs and people do want to leave the coasts," says Sherman. "We just feel like it might be our time. I've always tried to make the point that, yes, you have the CFDA, but how can we play a bigger role? We're a part of the conversation. How can we do more? Please call on us."

SLFF has already clocked a major win: In May 2019, Saint Louis welcomed a first-of-its-kind, technology-driven knitwear factory to a 30,000-plus-square-foot warehouse space in the Grand Center Neighborhood, nabbing its business over cities like New York and Detroit.

With revolutionary developments coming out of all corners of the country, the onus remains on fashion's old guard to listen. This is already occurring in France, at least technologically: LVMH has operated an accelerator program for international startups since the spring of 2018. Like NYFTLab, La Maison des Startups LVMH works with early-stage companies creating forward-thinking progress for the luxury industry, and then applies their final products to the 75 brands beneath LVMH's umbrella. Now just think about what might happen if those services could be automatically applied to every fashion and retail brand.

"When the lockdown happened, we had to close many of our boutiques, but the group continues to work," says Laetitia Roche-Grenet, LVMH's director of open innovation. "It's a time where you need to innovate a lot more than ever. The pandemic has allowed us to be more impactful. What matters is that we use it as an opportunity."

THE 2021 IPO BOOM

THE 2021 IPO BOOM

In a challenging year for fashion businesses, a new generation of retailers are heading to Wall Street. Why?

The last 11-odd months in fashion have been unprecedented in its challenges, which, at times, have appeared almost insurmountable. On every rung of the supply chain ladder, players from artisans to consumers have wondered, well, where do we go from here? 

But there's at least one narrative that tells another story of stability. 

During this same period, headlines began creeping in announcing a spate of initial public offerings. To IPO, of course, typically signifies that a company is in a position that's financially solid enough to both front the many necessary legal, accounting and marketing costs and even more importantly, to risk failure that required funding may not be raised. So far in 2021, MytheresaPoshmark and ThredUp have either already debuted on the public exchange, or quietly filed to do so. Just last month, Mytheresa and Poshmark both crushed their valuations: Mytheresea raised $407 million after pricing shares at the top of its marketed range, while Poshmark's own shares climbed 141.7% to $101.50 during its first day on Nasdaq.

Poshmark's case is a definitive success story. With a market capitalization of $7.4 million, the social-selling platform is now theoretically "worth more" (per the stock the market's valuations, at least) than some of fashion's most established public fixtures, like Macy's Inc. (with a market cap of $4.3 billion), Nordstrom Inc. ($6 billion) and Michael Kors, Versace and Jimmy Choo parent Capri Holdings Ltd. ($6.6 billion).

That investors want in on retail is quite clear — but fashion and Wall Street have not always been as harmonious as the previous paragraph may lead one to believe. Take Mytheresa's London-based luxury e-commerce competitor Farfetch, which opened at a respectable $27 a share in 2018, but soon after dipped below $20 and later, to around just $11 after the company reported lackluster quarterly earnings.

So, what does it mean to IPO a fashion business in 2021? And is it set to become a more popular move in the future? Read on.

The RealReal Inc. executives applaud while ringing the opening bell during the company's IPO at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York City in June 2019. 

Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 
FASHION AND WALL STREET HAVE HISTORY

The relationship between fashion and Wall Street is well-encapsulated by the Versace episode of the 1990s. 

In 1997, the privately-held fashion empire was within months of taking its company public when Gianni Versace was shot and killed outside his Miami Beach home. As Gianni's siblings Santo and Donatella assumed control of the label, both reportedly remained dedicated to entering the public exchange, and sought to skip the Milan stock market for the New York Stock Exchange.

Yet the IPO never surfaced — until years later in 2014, when the family company sold a 20% stake to Blackstone Group LP to help finance another IPO, again. Instead, Michael Kors bought Versace in 2018 for a whopping $2.12 billion.

Meanwhile, around the time of the 2018 Michael Kors deal, a wave of companies began seeking their own public aspirations. 2019 saw successful IPOs from RevolveLevi Strauss & Co.The RealReal and Kontoor Brands, Inc., which owns and operates Wrangler, Lee and Rock & Republic. The RealReal was the year's crown jewel, raising $300 million with stock priced at roughly 40% above the company's $20 IPO pricing. (At press time, the resale company now finds its shares around $27, but as recently as this past December, shares hadn't gotten above $15 in a full year.)

"The markets are fickle and can be swayed day-to-day, or even hour-to-hour," says Thomaï Serdari, adjunct professor of marketing and director of the Fashion & Luxury MBA at New York University's Stern School of Business. "That's why retail experts are trying to block out the market noise and base their bets for longevity on consumer trends and business models."

WHY ARE SO MANY BUSINESSES LOOKING TO GO PUBLIC NOW?

As Serdari explains, the figures endorsed by Wall Street don't often tell the full story. What's missed between the digits and dollar signs, she says, is the context within which companies grow and make an emotional bond with their shoppers. All of this is to say, then, that the pandemic has actually accelerated trends that have been taking hold for some time now, like e-commerce and sustainability, but also more nebulously, authenticity.

"What has been happening in retail started at least 10 years ago, if not longer," says Serdari. "As many businesses are moving online, they've been trying to grow their e-commerce, which has been growing really substantially in the last years. With COVID, all of these factors have accelerated and made people see the opportunity, especially in the last year and a half, to also accelerate that strategic direction for their own companies."

Now a year-plus into this pandemic, fashion retailers have gone from effectively treading water to reconsidering entire business plans. We saw this in the case of climate consciousness, for example, wherein companies have been forced to shift to more effectively cater to changing consumer habits. With the pandemic tightening shoestrings for a vast number of Americans, many shoppers have taken to shopping more locally and/or upcycling items — activities that are good for reducing emissions associated with shopping and production.

Financially speaking, the effects of the pandemic have also impacted the expectations retailers may have of their customers. In the past, Serdari says, companies relied more strictly on what she calls a "top-down authoritative decision-making process" that didn't allow the consumer to have much say in what they want from the brand itself or what they're going to find in-store. No longer, because all-powerful millennial- and Generation Z-aged consumers won't allow it.

Poshmark Inc. signage outside the Nasdaq MarketSite during the company's IPO in January 2021. 

Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

"First of all, the customer has changed a lot," says Serdari. "It's not only the younger generations who are increasing in volume. The younger customers are also influencing how older people shop, and how they go to retail markets."

Now, the so-called "old-fashioned" way that companies might relate to their customers may, in fact, lead to a fair amount of risk when pursuing the public markets. In order to even respond to the demands of shareholders after the IPO, retailers can almost certainly plan on scaling up their operations — and doing so quickly, perhaps without developing a rigid strategy around which aspects of operations are being scaled.

Today, social media and e-commerce analytics have much of that research already built into the very infrastructures of the platforms themselves. So if the primary goal in a company going public is to expand its own business and therefore expand its customer base, it's of enormous benefit to build an authentic connection with shoppers, so brands can truly address every desire in the retail space.

"I think everyone sees that opportunity, and it's the perfect time for them to jump in if they haven't already," says Serdari. "If they can boost up the way they do their business from the e-commerce side of things, they'll be getting the more information on their true customers — people who not only browse their sites, but actually complete sales on their sites. And by getting more information about these personas, companies can then start thinking about brand extensions or categories that they want to enter."

WITH AN IPO, ARE THERE ANY CONCERNS?

Mytheresa had a strong NYSE debut right out of the gate, having listed the 15.6 million shares it planned to sell at higher than its original price of $16-18. With significant investor demand, it's the latest luxury e-tailer to become a Wall Street success story.

Theoretically, wouldn't investors also be considering the crowdedness of this market — and of any market, for that matter? Though Mytheresa and a rival retailer like Farfetch reflect different consumer groups, as well as different benefits to interested shareholders, they're still two cogs in an industry wheel that isn't all that big.

Serdari has found that the public exchange allows ample space for up to five large-scale competitors, with even more room for smaller, more niche businesses to fill any gaps left by corporations. Although it's a global marketplace, consumers are still privy to regional and cultural biases that retailers can reflect in their own strategies, from their visual marketing to the actual product buy.

A customer waits to enter The RealReal store on Madison Avenue in New York City in September 2020. 

Photo: Nina Westervelt/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"Mytheresa came out of Munich and had a traditional retailer relationship with their local community, but they slowly expanded, then moved onto an e-commerce platform and continued expanding," says Serdari. "This tells me that the e-commerce industry cannot be a blanket solution. In other words, we cannot all buy from Net-a-Porter, we cannot all buy from MatchesFashion. There are different pockets of culture that demand different ways of merchandising."

Analysts warn there's a limit, however. At the start of 2020, many direct-to-consumers startups were preparing for their venture-backed bubble to burst. Companies that had previously banked millions in Series A, B and C rounds were preparing to "hit a revenue wall" if they didn't differentiate themselves in some way or another from their (many) peers, and fast. While the pandemic has granted the startup sphere a bit of a reprieve, funders and founders alike remain on high alert for the other shoe to drop. Could a rise in IPOs from fashion-adjacent businesses signal the same fate? 

Retailers may have divested from the "top-down authoritative decision-making process" Serdari referenced earlier, but by and large, analysts haven't. That dissonance could hinder said analysts from correctly assessing the values of campaigns that want to put forth an IPO, which, if unchecked, could lead to another popped bubble.

WHO'S AN IDEAL CANDIDATE FOR AN IPO IN 2021?

In business, it never exactly hurts to have a crystal-clear value proposition that makes a company or product attractive to shoppers. The public exchange may indeed support up to five competitors, but even still, a retailer's value proposition is necessary in helping to define a unique foothold in the marketplace. And this is as lucrative for the benefit of everyday consumers as it is for formal investors.

"This is where things get very competitive because sometimes companies rush into this market without a value proposition that clearly states the new aspect they bring to market, or what is, so to speak, the solution they bring to their ideal customer," says Serdari. "That's a problem that has persisted in the way brands present themselves, how businesses set up retail stores. This is the most difficult thing, but if you get that right, then you can very easily grow the business in terms of customers, which is a golden ticket when preparing for an IPO."

By that definition, according to Serdari, Goop is extremely well-positioned for an IPO. Its $95 peach-pink vibrators may already be courting investors: In September, private equity partner and LVMH executive Ravi Thakran filed paperwork for a new "blank-check company" called "Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp.," which is reportedly looking to raise $225 million to invest in "businesses with premium brands that offer an aspirational lifestyle experience to consumers."

Blank-check companies (also known as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs) have become favorable, back-door ways to take companies public without the burden of operations and assets, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

"There aren't a lot of private companies that fit the description here," one Wall Street banker who follows SPACs told financial journalist Thornton McEnery this fall. "Goop fits, and it has a big enough profile to make SPAC investors happy."

Not many retailers enable — encourage, even — shoppers to peruse four-digit gemstone heat therapy mats while simultaneously reading about antepartum depression. But such is Goop's value proposition, carefully honed over a decade with an involved community that doesn't scoff at vagina-scented candles as much as one may think. And this is exactly what an IPO is all about.