Sustainability, new tariffs and direct-to-consumer brands were key talking points amongst panelists at the 2019 Sourcing Journal Summit in New York where Edward Hertzman, founder and president of Sourcing Journal, invited “400 friends” to join him in defining apparel’s “new fundamentals.”
The summit included solving the problem of the fashion industry’s continuance of unfulfilled promises, addressing overused buzzwords and the alarming lack of traceability. “Isn’t it a little ironic,” said Hertzman, “that an industry so obsessed with sustainability, has unsustainable amounts of inventory, damaging both their businesses and the planet.” Hertzman was blunt in citing responsibility.
“The fashion industry is the new oil industry,” Hertzman said. “We’re the new ‘bad guys’ in the room.”
The summit also served to spotlight the power of the consumer. From Zilingo’s perspective, “Consumer movement toward sustainability means that a company’s environmental and social impact is directly tied to margins, making sustainability a key pillar across the industry,” as reported in a “New Fundamentals” report, published for the summit.
Separately, Zilingo announced on Friday, after the summit, that it was investing $100 million to expand in the U.S. fashion supply chain. “The fashion industry is exploitative, wasteful and, frankly, completely broken,” said Ankiti Bose, cofounder and chief executive officer of Zilingo. “We’re a technology company at heart, and firmly believe in the power of technology to improve business and the world. We’re bringing technology to a supply chain that hasn’t changed since the industrial revolution. Zilingo levels the playing field in fashion so that businesses — no matter how big or small — can have access to a fair, transparent, affordable, fast supply chain.”
During the summit, speakers revealed the role of sustainability and how it is a growing demand that stems from today’s increasingly vocal consumer. As companies scramble to match requirements, though, and continue to make pledges for change with all the right buzzwords, there is an ongoing disconnect in attainment. For real change to be seen, the fashion industry needs to change as a whole.
Stanley Szeto, executive chairman of Lever Style Inc., delivered a keynote speech that examined DTC brands’ effectiveness in acting toward sustainable efforts. “Today the younger consumer especially demands sustainability,” said Szeto, “and therefore all these DTC brands care about it.” Szeto compared DTC brands to Pacman, going after all of the available market shares, exemplifying these brands’ tenacity for meeting the consumer where they are and informing decisions on learned consumer data. DTC brands could be in a better position to serve the consumer, he said. As new digitally native brands are created, they have the ability to build infrastructure as it is needed for today’s consumer with the advantage of collected data.
Following, Ryan Babenzien cofounder and ceo of Greats; Taylor Shupe, ceo of Future Stitch and cofounder and chief product officer of Stance Inc.; Kyle McClure, cofounder and chief product officer of Rhone, and Anthony Choe, founder of Provenance, gathered on stage to share insights on what exactly DTC brands are doing to get it right. Answering Hertzman’s ask for traceability and conscious supplying, the panelists described relationships they had forged with supply chains and manufacturers, making sure to plan consistent visits to factories and provide data.
McClure said Rhone had used agents in the supply chain process to learn but quickly took over control, adding that the brand had been consistently selling out of products. Rhone is constantly working on informed supply by feeding data into the supply chain. He said, “We’re focusing on categories that share fabrics, so you can platform your fabric [as you] wait for sales to show you how consumers are responding to it and then [we can] cut into it on a monthly basis.”
Sustainable sourcing at scale will be a priority in the next five years according to a new report by McKinsey & Co., presented by Karl-Hendrik Magnus a partner at the company. Previously reported by WWD, the report predicts the fashion industry is poised to answer consumers’ demand for sustainable change. To truly deliver sustainability, said Magnus, a company must make sustainability part of its DNA.
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