If you work in the fashion industry, you know that technology and the globalization of production and purchasing have rewritten the equation for success. Today, consumers have direct access to a vast array of new designs and goods from around the world, and the breadth of brand options before them is expanding every day.
At the same time, fashion designers have new pathways and tools available to source materials, prioritize sustainability and diversify manufacturing. The bottom line is the fashion industry’s ongoing transformation is, at its heart, a transformation of the supply chain.
For designers, then, the challenges are complex and still in transition. To grow your business and empower your brand, you must not only realize creative new designs, you must manage a complex global supply chain. The positive news is that the way that goods are planned, manufactured, and delivered is changing to give designers greater control – if they are able and willing to adapt to a more collaborative approach, and if they continue to help drive the transformation of their industry.
To help industry leaders, designers and consumers better understand the evolving supply chain and its impact, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Inc. (CFDA) and DHL have teamed up, along with CFDA’s innovation partner Accenture and Fjord, to develop a new report that explores exactly how and why such dramatic change is in motion. “The Human-Centered Supply Chain – Delivered by DHL” explores the challenges and disruptions facing the fashion industry, the changing role of fashion designers, and the overall dynamics of the future supply chain.
As the new report proposes, the human-centered approach to design, planning, manufacturing and delivery puts the designer at the center of supply chain operations. In this new model, the divide between suppliers, manufacturers and designers begins to disappear, and designers are empowered to collaborate through every phase of the process, by using new digital tools and by embracing flexibility all along the supply chain.
The study also includes a Designer’s Playbook, which is a detailed, step-by-step guide for building a design business in this transforming – and transformative – landscape. Designers face multiple challenges, including:
- Connecting with high-quality suppliers when starting out, before having an established relationship or reputation
- Finding mills and factories without a source that indexes them by location or other qualities, like sustainability
- Aligning production schedules across multiple parties, especially with difficulty controlling suppliers
- Developing a financial forecast and collecting market intelligence before products hit the markets and before sell-through data is received from retailers
The study and playbook have been devised to help meet all of the challenges head on, and offering advice in four key areas: process ownership, relationship building, brand operations and actionable information.
By taking control of the process, designers can use technology to create clear communication channels across partners, which will increase flexibility in sourcing, making, and delivering goods.
By focusing on relationship building, they can begin to view suppliers and logistics providers as true partners, rather than just activators, which will lead to a collaborative, networked approach to the supply chain. In the area of brand operations, the Playbook explains how designers can merge their supply chain approach with their brand story, and how they can proactively manage risk by building transparency into the process.
Finally, the new supply chain demands interaction and dialogue through every phase, which means that actionable information should be continually collected. In other words, designers need to have feedback systems built into their relationships with suppliers and consumers, so that they can improve and refine their operations and products at every turn.
If you are a designer or work in the fashion industry, let us know your take on today’s supply chain, and its future, on Twitter at @DHLUS.