MILAN — What are the next challenges for digital innovation in the fashion industry?
“I really hope technology will become more invisible,” said Brunello Cucinelli chief executive officer of digital Francesco Bottigliero, who was among the speakers of the e-Pitti Summit, held in Milan on Nov. 20 and 21. “And I also hope it will help reduce lots of leftover stocks,” he added, shining a light on overproduction, one of the biggest issues that the global industry has to face.
Actually, in order to make its production system more efficient, Hugo Boss Textile Industries managing director Joachim Hensch explained that the company has adopted a three-year innovation plan, which kicked off in 2018. “The first step was pushing our people operating at any level of the organization to think out of the box, putting the focus on their intuitions,” Hensch said, revealing that the task for next year is to accelerate the incubation of projects, which in 2020 will lead to becoming independent on its innovation strategies.
Among the transformations operated within the company, Hugo Boss has adopted a strategy which by combining the analysis of big data, robotic automation and artificial intelligence enabled it to develop a more agile and adaptable structure and see a 24 percent reduction in the manufacturing error rate.
According to Hensch, the company also understood the importance of changing the physical layout of production plants and operating a nearshoring “to deliver personalization and get closer to consumers.”
As Bottigliero highlighted, Hensch put the accent on invisible digitalization — “talking to machines it’s going to be normal and natural,” he said — and on the importance of virtual reality to develop efficient training systems for employees. In particular, through the Virtual Dojo technology, Hugo Boss employees in different areas can have access to a self-managed learning program. “If in 2017 we needed eight weeks to train a new employee, in 2019 it will take four weeks,” said Hensch, adding that in 2020, Hugo Boss will also become “a platform for products and services” by delivering digital consultancy for other players in the industry.
With digital sales accounting for 20 percent of its total business, British leather goods brand Mulberry combines technology and human intuition to continue to evolve its strategy. “We have established an innovation committee where the members are not older than 30,” said Mulberry ceo Thierry Andretta. “Its task is to develop solutions, which are meant to have a global perspective and meet the needs of global customers,” he explained, revealing that the company mainly relies on a “test and learn” culture, where speed and execution play a key role.
The human factor stands out in the business approach of a luxury label like Cesare Paciotti, which with the spring 2019 collection changes its name into Paciotti. “I think this will help put the focus on the idea of brand, rather than anchoring it to its founder,” said the company’s ceo Marco Calcinaro, who revealed that New York-based stylist Ada Kokosar will be the creative director of the label. Kokosar was on the e-Pitti summit’s stage with Calcinaro to talk about the Midnight 00 luxury footwear label, which, born as a collaboration with Cesare Paciotti, turned into a standalone brand. “I have a lot of dreams and the idea is to extend the brand’s business to different fields to execute an integral, spontaneous lifestyle vision,” said Kokosar, who will also continue to design Midnight 00.