Today’s omnichannel retail environment and increasingly seasonless fashion apparel calendar has changed the fundamental structure of the supply chain, which also is responding to the demands of fast fashion and sustainability. Compared to 20 years ago, supply chain management is a much more complicated job.
To help students — and career-minded individuals — prepare for this new paradigm, Michael P. Londrigan, vice president for academic affairs at LIM College with Jacqueline M. Jenkins penned a textbook on the topic: “Fashion Supply Chain Management” (Fairchild Books, 2018).
Here, Londrigan, who previously authored, “Menswear: Business to Style” (Fairchild Books, 2008), explains the driving forces in the industry that is changing the supply chain and how it is managed as well as other factors impacting fashion sourcing today.
WWD: What was the impetus behind publishing this textbook? What’s driving changes in the supply chain today?
Michael Londrigan: The supply chain has gotten very complex in the fashion industry and many colleges and universities have standalone classes in supply chain, merchandising and/or product development — not to mention buying. This text can be used for the standalone or supplemental reading for all other courses.
In doing the research I could not find any textbooks that focused specifically on the fashion industry as it relates to the supply chain. Driving forces are retailers, brands, designers and anyone who is making and selling a product (apparel, textiles, accessories) trying to figure out the best way to do it and the text provides some insight into that. It is not a be-all and end-all by any means but what we hope it accomplishes is providing students and industry people a way to look at the supply chain and make sense of it. Sort of a roadmap certainly for students to understand all the implications and complexities.
Every company I have worked for in industry did it a little differently so there is no one way to view the supply chain. Back then it was called sourcing, manufacturing, production. Today we call it the supply chain because it is looked at holistically and companies have come to understand that if the supply chain works well with all the departments in the organization working together it will spell better profits.
WWD: As it relates to your book, what challenges do students face in regard to supply chain management as they start their careers? Is the supply chain more complex than it was 10 or 20 years ago? Why?
M.L.: The biggest challenge is understanding all that goes into it and trying to figure out where they might fit. As a student, do I go into logistics, purchasing, quality control, tariffs and trade? There are so many areas to consider and most are not as sexy as say buying or merchandising so it is generally not the first area that a student would think of, so we are trying to educate them about whole different careers (rewarding careers) in the fashion industry that they did not know existed.
For the fashion student, the supply chain can be a hard sell. Yes, more complex today because as mentioned above it is taking a holistic look at what was, in the past, broken down into many departments — not to mention what is happening with tariffs and trade today. Remember not too long ago, we still produced a fair amount of product here in the U.S.; now over 97 percent of what we consume in fashion is imported. When we had domestic factories, it was easier to place an order and if you wanted to visit the factory you hopped on a plane for a few hours and were there. In addition, with all the focus on Corporate Social Responsibility, this adds a new element that was not there in the past.
WWD: How long did it take to write? And why did you include “Industry Interviews” and “Notes from the Field”?
M.L.: The text took a little over a year to write and then it had to go through a peer evaluation on three separate occasions, so that took some time. If you read the chapter on sourcing and production, some of the information is outdated already mainly due to the current administration’s changes in trade policy. I felt that it was important for students to hear from other industry professionals their views on specific topics, so we included interviews with industry experts which helps the students understand differing viewpoints.
The notes from the field are based on my actual experiences in the industry and show the human side of the supply chain and give the student an idea of what it is like to actually work in the supply chain — some serious and some humorous. The notes provide the personal touch that is often lacking in textbooks and makes for a more interesting read.