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.

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How to Get Into the World of Fashion: Formal Education and Self-Education

Perhaps you want you to do more than just dress well. Perhaps, you would love to the part of the fast-moving world of setting trends, but why stop there? You might even want to be able to experience fashion week in New York, Paris, or Milan.

How do you get into the field? What does it take to find employment that will get you there?

The answer to these questions is twofold: Get a formal education about fashion and initiate your own self-education about fashion.

A Formal Education About Fashion

Choose a school that has an excellent reputation. LIM College fashion graduate programs are ranked among the best in the world. A Master’s degree will give you general knowledge about the world of fashion, help you get hired by the top companies in the fashion industry, and give you the foundation you need to excel in your career. You can choose from many programs—Fashion Marketing or Fashion Merchandising & Retail Management, or Global Fashion Supply Chain Management.

Besides the educational benefits, you’ll also develop a whole network of friends, mentors, teachers and industry contacts. Some of these relationships may play a key role in the evolution of your career over the years.

Initiating Your Own Self-Education About Fashion

When it comes to educating yourself about fashion, your goals are to learn how to develop a fashion sense, how to evaluate the different aspects of any outfit, and how to identify your own personal preferences.

While a formal education and getting a job in the field will give you a good understanding of the fashion industry, your self-education serves a different purpose. You’ll increase your own self-awareness about what kinds of clothes you like and why you like them. You will understand your preferences when it comes to color, fabric, and design. And you’ll gradually become much more confident about your own ability put together a fashionable wardrobe.

Your self-education could consist of learning how to observe what other people are wearing and learning how to model what other people are wearing.

Learning how to observe 

A skilled fashion observer will notice many things about a well-dressed person in a few seconds. They will notice what pieces the other person is wearing. They will notice what colors blend and what colors clash. They will notice whether the accessories work or look clunky. And they will notice what shoes the other person pairs with their outfits.

Besides sitting in coffee shops and casually watching people pass by on the streets, you should also pay close attention to the people in your fashion school and in your class, as well as in other places you frequent.

You’ll also want to inform your understanding of what works and what doesn’t by reading fashion magazines and blogs to learn about a broad range of styles.

Another thing you can do is talk to people who have a well-developed fashion style to find out how they think about fashion and come up with their outfits. You will learn a lot about fashion by discovering how fashionable people see the world.

Learning how to model 

Modeling isn’t just about magazine covers, catwalks, and fashion shows. A deeper definition of the word is to study a craft. Although you are developing your own style, it’s a good idea to also experiment with how other people dress. For instance, pick an outfit someone in a magazine is wearing, then buy the same clothes. Notice what you like and what you don’t like about how the outfit looks on you.

Modeling what others are wearing will force you to pay attention to many details that you would otherwise not have noticed. Additionally, it will also help you have a much stronger awareness about what it is that you consider attractive.

In conclusion, think of formal education and self-education as projects that you can work on at the same time. While a formal education will teach you about the world of fashion, your self-education will teach you about your own preferences and increase your self-awareness and self-confidence.

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