The supply chain is becoming part of luxury designers’ branding strategies

The Council of Fashion Designers of America is encouraging its vast network of designers to bring their supply chains out of the shadows.

CFDA president Steven Kolb said that over the past decade, two issues have emerged that have given designers unprecedented shifts in customer behavior to grapple with: A faster production cycle that’s in line with customer behavior and a growing emphasis on sustainability in fashion.

With the help of partners like Lexus and DHL, the CFDA has laid out resources that approach both problems at the source: the supply chain. A recent study done in partnership with DHL, the CFDA’s official logistics partner, found that the traditional supply chain and production cycle is siloed, making it inefficient. The way forward for both emerging designers and established brands who hope to stay in step with a changing customer is to overhaul the supply chain by emphasizing relationships with manufacturers, understanding data, aligning production cycles to consumer behavior and practicing transparency.

“We’re pushing a new production cycle,” said Kolb. “A lot of designers spin their wheels around a lot of issues that can be sourced right back to an inefficient supply chain, because how do you adjust your supply chain from start to finish? It’s not something that will change overnight. But we’re laying out a plan.”

Facing a customer who both wants new product more frequently, as well as more eco-friendly fashion, designers are being encouraged to view their production cycles as part of their customer-facing brand.

The strategic supply chain
Startups like Everlane and American Giant have helped to make transparency in fashion trendy: They lay bare their pricing models and supply chain partners, in an attempt to rope in conscious customers and keep them along for the ride as they figure out the future of sustainability in retail. Mass companies like H&M, Zara and Gap Inc. have adopted similar habits in order to do the same; for fast fashion brands, speaking out about transparency and sustainability helps keep protesters at bay.

It’s taken longer for luxury designers to catch on.

“Luxury is kind of opposed to this amount of openness. Designers like to keep to themselves,” said Kolb. “They’re afraid to do even a little bit to change their ways because they’ll be criticized for not doing it all. Our ethos is encouraging small steps to be taken…

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