As the fashion industry has grown over the years, with more people shopping for garments and more clothing options than ever before, companies have had to show how quickly they can adapt. In the constantly evolving industry, brands everywhere have to stay up to date with the latest technological innovations so that their supply chain can keep up with an ever-growing demand. Luckily, technology is helping the industry along the way. High-tech, efficient, and sustainable supply chains are now more realistic than ever.
The revenue from the fashion sector increases year on year. By 2025, predications state that revenue will reach over £30 billion in the UK. The largest chunk of that revenue is generated by apparel sales, followed by footwear and accessories. Consumer interest in clothes shopping is not slowing down. As this accelerates, it leaves us to question how fashion supply chains can keep up with the demand.
Consumer demand paired with increased costs and a move away from local resources has led to more complex processes in the fashion industry. Many factors must be considered for fashion companies to minimise waste while keeping their customers happy.
The good news is that tech and fashion can work in unison to keep up with customer demand. Technological supply chain solutions allow fashion companies to update their processes regularly while ensuring that their supply chains are safe, transparent and efficient. This is no small trend—50 per cent of large global companies are set to be utilising artificial intelligence, advanced analytics and the internet of things (IoT) in their supply chain operations by 2023. There are many ways in which tech is helping fashion keep up with the ever-growing demand. Here’s how technology-fuelled fashion supply chains are becoming more efficient than ever.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming the way that fashion supply chains function by allowing companies to process massive amounts of data to find out faster than ever which products are seeing the most interest or the highest purchase rate at any given time. This really speeds up the supply chain process and allows manufacturers to know where to focus their resources. For example, if there’s a surge in demand for women’s sport shoes, brands can adapt. The benefits of AI in this respect can be seen both in the warehouse and in the product designing stage.
A successful and efficient supply chain largely comes down to excellent communication. Cloud technology is revolutionising the way that different elements of fashion supply chains function and communicate. These cloud-based systems allow employees at every stage of the supply chain to document and share crucial information.
Automating your supply chain by creating a web of working parts that are controlled by technology has become essential for tracking and reporting on your products. With the fast-paced nature of online shopping, an automated supply chain is essential for big brands to keep up with consumer demand. Fashion brands have to deal with changes in order or returned parcels, which runs smoother with an automated supply chain.
Another innovation that has helped the smooth-running of fashion supply chains everywhere is wearable tech. For big fashion brands, wearable tech is often utilised in warehouses and distribution centres, allowing for increased communication and efficiency. There are many ways in which wearable tech helps out—from in-house communication to real-time data sharing. It offers employees the ability to map the warehouses at a quicker speed. Communication and data gathering can happen on the go, negating the need for staff members to be tied to their computer screens.
These technological innovations improve the efficiency of fashion brands’ supply chain processes. But they also make it easier for them to be transparent about their practices. This is particularly important when appealing to younger shoppers. Gen Z and millennial customers prioritise ethical practices more than any previous generation. 54 per cent of gen Z shoppers and 50 per cent of millennials are willing to spend up to 10 per cent more on sustainable and ethical products.
Technology is helping fashion brands everywhere produce clear and transparent reports on their supply chains. This is beneficial both for the brand themselves and ethical consumers.
By utilising tech in new and innovative ways, the fashion industry is able to modernise its supply chains and keep up with ever-increasing consumer demands. The next few years are set to bring more efficient, transparent, and ethical supply chains than ever before.
In 2015, designer and creative director Matthew Williams decided to channel his vision towards the creation of his own fashion brand 1017 Alyx 9SM. Following an already praised career during which he worked as a creative director with celebrities like Kanye West and other top fashion designers, since the founding of Alyx, Williams has added outstanding collaborations with brands like Moncler, Nike, and Dior Men to his impressive catalogue. Constantly pushing the boundaries of design, technology, and sustainability, Williams announced recently that Alyx was going to be the first brand to introduce blockchain technology to unveil the garment production in a way that is 100 percent accurate.
Sustainability has been part of the brand’s agenda from its start. Alyx uses recycled materials, as well as a leather dyeing process that consumes CO2, and has always been transparent about who—and under what working conditions—the collections have been produced by. Working closely with the worldwide leader in adhesive technologies Avery Dennison and the Internet of Things (IoT) software company Evrythng, Alyx has now implemented supply chain transparency into the brand by launching a blockchain-powered pilot programme on nine of its garments. Taking the brand’s history into consideration, it feels like a natural yet visionary step forward to add blockchain ledgers to its supply chain, making it visible and understandable to clients.
The nine products’ tags now feature a scannable QR code that reveals the entire supply chain history of the garment. According to Vogue Business, the data—which can be accessed by phone—include information about where the materials were sourced, where the product was manufactured, and its shipping movements. With 80 percent of its garments produced in Italy, the process of uploading and tracking the data of the garments is easily doable for Williams. In this transparency procedure, each supplier is in charge of entering the data into the chain.
Not only is this change innovative, but it could also prove the implementation of this feature to be a crucial addition to the brand’s history, and, if it works, to other fashion brands. “That’s what we want to continue to communicate, and that’s what brings value to our pieces,” Williams said. “It becomes a really great storytelling element”. Alyx belongs to that category of brands which promote durability rather than fast-fashion consumerism. In this regard, Williams and Dominique Guinard, founder and chief technology officer at Evrythng, believe that by knowing the digital identity of one garment, or its ‘journey’, customers might get more attached to the product. In an industry where overproduction and exploitation are toxic constants, sustainability and transparency are increasingly demanded by consumers. Alyx’s experimentation with blockchain technology stands as one of the finest examples of fashion innovation. By exposing its own brand’s data, Williams seeks to inspire a new approach in fashion, calling for other designers to follow suit.
The sustainable production process behind Alyx’s collections, which is now traceable thanks to the new technology, makes sure that its aesthetic is coherent with the message. The use of innovative technologies and the emphasis on transparency never overshadow the technical and aesthetic research that makes the brand’s design so on point. Some say that Alyx anticipates design trends, I’d argue that Alyx is doing way more than that. It is paving a path for a new way of thinking about fashion, technology, and most importantly, an industry future that is sustainable.