Business 101: Understanding Efficiency and Sustainability in the Fashion Industry
From the earliest days of the industrial revolution, companies in all industries have sought after technology that would improve efficiency in the workplace. With the introduction of the power loom in the 1800s, the development of cotton gin, and the mechanized cotton spinning techniques the fashion industry saw technology improve their businesses.
Two centuries after the industrial revolutions, technology is revolutionizing how the world works in life-changing ways.
However, now that a pandemic has struck the world, the fashion industry will have to embrace sustainability to overcome these unprecedented challenges. Although sustainability is in danger, the companies that commit to it will be among the leaders of the renascent fashion industry as we reach the other side of the pandemic.
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Why is it Important for the Fashion Industry to be Efficient and Sustainable?
While traditional brands and retailers are struggling to manage inventory, overstock, and decrease consumer spending, some fashion brands are thriving in the corona crisis with sustainable designs.
Currently, sustainability and efficiency in fashion is a hot button topic. Fashion brands, both large and small, are trying to prove their green credentials. Nevertheless, the world’s desire for new attire makes the industry one of the largest polluters.
A significant amount of environmental resources go into making the clothing we wear. For instance, it requires nearly 20,000 liters of water to make just a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. This is almost the amount of water that a person will drink in 13 years.
Furthermore, harmful chemicals, non-biodegradable packaging, and global transport of goods add to the environmental cost.
However, consumers are more mindful. They want to know where and how their clothes are produced and demand ethical practices and responsible retailing. Also, technology is shaping the industry in unpredictable ways. It is undeniable that the fashion industry needs to adapt. Both manufacturers and retailers have to find innovative solutions like the few brands already doing so.
How Can You Improve Your Company’s Efficiency?
From social media apps to augmented reality, technology is changing the way people shop. Fashion brands are adapting to these changes to get their products in front of customers. Here are a few examples of technology that can significantly improve your fashion brand’s efficiency:
- Invest in PLM software
Apparel chains are complex. Thus, maintaining control and the right level of communication between all the parties involved is highly essential. Using apparel product lifecycle management software, you will be able to coordinate and directly track every aspect of the brand, from product design to development, sourcing, and retail.
The record of end-to-end design, production, and retail process in a single place helps companies deliver accurate and transparent information to the consumers and, in turn, make smart decisions. The improved efficiency brought about through better communication and more predictable costs and timelines further leave a positive impact on suppliers.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence (AI) adds value to almost every part of the fashion industry. Leveraging AI and machine learning, fashion brands can improve the efficiency of the system through intelligent automation and improving sales processes using guided sales processes and predictive analytics. Additionally, the introduction of chatbots and voice assistant devices helps fashion brands gather data by asking customers questions to understand their needs and purchase patterns.
- Inventory Management
Optimizing inventory management adds to the agility and overall performance of your organization. Moving inventory quickly through the supply chain prevents the need for huge discounts and unwanted inventory pile up.
Keeping track of your inventory will allow you to have a quicker inventory turn around, which will positively affect your company’s bottom line. Knowing what you have in stock and what you need to restock will help keep your inventory margins down, waste less, and keep costs down.
- Training Employees
Training employees about sustainability helps them come up with new ideas that support the company’s sustainability goals. When each employee understands the seriousness of the matter and is ready to commit, it will become easier for the organization to set action plans and do things more sustainably.
You will also want to train your employees on inventory management to help your company waste less and remain sustainably responsible.
- Online Stores Instead of Brick and Mortar
In the era of connectivity, secure payment experiences, digital wallets, and online shops, you can easily shop online and purchase something with the click of a button. Mobile-friendly shopping experiences effectively reduce search time by helping customers find products and shops all through their smartphones.
Online stores also create less waste and use fewer resources. Online stores don’t have to operate the same way as a brick and mortar store. You can cut down on electricity, take up less space, and avoid paying to rent a retail space.
How Can You Improve Your Sustainability?
As stated earlier, the fashion industry is one of the most significant contributors to pollution. Customers, as well as brands, are inching towards sustainable fashion. Here are some vital benefits that sustainability in the fashion industry brings about:
- Meet Consumers Demands
Primarily, sustainability helps meet the changing consumer demands. As people prefer greener alternatives, adopting sustainability will help your company ace the game.
- Reduce Pollution
Sustainability in the fashion industry means a reduced rate of pollution. Sustainable products such as organic fabrics can be recycled and reused, thereby reducing waste in the environment.
- Economic Balance
Fast fashion often leads to loss and overspending. Most importantly, it leads to the dumping of unsold and outdated products when new and trendy designs become popular. When companies make sustainable products more frequently, it will help them earn profit as well as strike an economic balance.
- Social Awareness
Employees in fast fashion companies work extra hours and often get paid less due to the large number of new designs they need to produce in a short amount of time. On the other hand, sustainability will enable these employees to work regular hours since apparel will not have to create items in bulk.
- Give Back To The Community
Sustainability in the fashion industry is also about giving back to society. Companies will often take the time to support sustainability by giving back to the community in different ways, such as distributing their profits to non-profit organizations, donating unsold items to people in need, and promoting sustainability.
How Can Technology Save the Fashion Industry and Make It More Sustainable?
- With the rise of environmentally friendly and sustainable materials like alternative textiles, the fashion industry has considerably reduced waste and pollution. Natural fibers such as cotton are resource-intensive and synthetic materials like polyester, acrylic, and nylon degrade and slowly leave behind harmful chemicals. Turning to eco-friendly textile alternatives made from leaves and rinds better support sustainability.
- The fashion industry is full of options, but repairing and redesigning happens to be the trendiest of them. Following the 5 R’s of fashion – Reduce, Repair, Recycle, Repurpose, and Reinvent –both brands and consumers are becoming more sustainable.
- Low waste and eco-friendly packaging, labels, etc. are made from plant-based or fossil fuel materials. When you dispose of these materials, they will break down quickly and provide essential nutrients to the earth. Recyclable packaging can be reformed and used again.
- Thanks to the inventory management technologies, fashion’s waste problem is slowly transforming. The massive amount of unsold and surplus clothes and materials are responsible for ten percent of the world’s carbon emissions. By adopting strict inventory management and guidelines, brands are cutting down excess merchandise, reducing the environmental impact.
- Product and brand transparency allows customers to know whether their favorite brands are following sustainable and ethical practices when manufacturing clothes. Additionally, it also helps identify and protect vulnerable people and the planet.
Time to Become More Sustainable
As the world still tries to navigate its way through the pandemic, the road ahead is still unclear, and many questions remain. However, the most crucial lesson that COVID-19 teaches us is that health, safety, and prosperity are collective pursuits rather than individual ones.
By successfully weaving sustainability into your business strategy and by leveraging the latest technologies, not only can you make your fashion industry more environmentally friendly but also your business more successful.