We are at an inflection point, and the end of mass production and consumption. No more business as usual.
In our ongoing content series examining 'Fashion: Reimagining Supply and Demand', we’ve been exploring the drivers of digital disruption in fashion and sharing our vision to empower fashion industry innovators.
This week, we wanted to give you an expert perspective from the fashion frontline with Unmade sales director Bruno Mattia.
Bruno embodies the increasing nexus between fashion and technology in 2019. With over 15 years’ experience working in fashion and a background in engineering, Bruno is perfectly placed to take the pulse of digital disruption in fashion.
“Of course. Well, I actually began my career as a mechanical engineer - quite different to where I’ve ended up now!
“I moved to software development quite early on and have had experience in a range of roles including customer support, project management and ultimately sales.
“Around 15 years ago I moved to Lectra, one of the leaders in solutions and hardware for the fashion industry. For more than ten years, I had a strategic role leading the fashion business.”
“Actually, Unmade approached me.
“The timing was good, I had been at Lectra a long time and although I had (and still have) the utmost respect for them, I was open to a new challenge.
“I was approached by Unmade co-founder Hal Watts and from our earliest interactions, I really got a good feeling about the company. It felt like a naturally good fit.
“Our first meeting is a good story! Hal offered to come to Paris, where I am based, and his suggested venue intrigued me - a very well-known, lively bar! It was an unusual choice but I was impressed, and in fact I thought it was a good sign.
“It was quite an informal process so by the time I actually saw a role description, I was amazed by what a perfect fit it was. Background, experience, everything. It just was me.
“All my conversations with investors, with the co-founders, it all convinced me that this was the right move and I really shared their vision.
“Working with Unmade has offered me the chance to continue my passion for engineering and my love of fashion. I really find it such an exciting and challenging mix of creativity and artistry but also problem solving.”
“This is an important question. In my view, there are two answers to this.
“The overarching drivers are clear.
“The new generation of fashion consumers expect something above the average. They want a new experience, a mixed experience that is exciting and they want it to be consistent across retail and online. Everything is changing in terms of demand.
“This is linked to the changing demand - customers want to be able to buy more sustainable products. Fashion is the second worst industry after oil and gas for waste - we are in bad shape! We must transform to become more sustainable. It’s really becoming very visible that we are not.
“Digital is driving many changes for us, but it is also an enabler. Fashion needs to rethink its business model, as digital opens up the relationship between consumers and brands. New possibilities are opening up and the industry must rethink its approach.
“Now to my second point, and that is the intangible problem around addressing the changes needed.
“Our manufacturing systems were established 30 years ago and the changes in manufacturing demand are pushing those systems to their limits.
“We are at an inflection point, and the end of mass production and consumption. No more business as usual.
“The companies we are engaged with and the people we are speaking to tell us they are creating new functions for innovation, this is very telling. This indicates they know it is no longer business as usual. The roundtables, the events - everywhere I go I hear about how the industry needs to change.
“But these companies don’t know how. They don’t know where to go. They know the system is at its limits and they must change but they don’t know how to do it.”
“Two challenges here.
“The first one is that, part of the fashion industry is doing well but with the recent fall in profitability that some players are facing, confronting change carries a big risk. No one wants to risk their short-term profitability, and instead they continue to focus on optimising what exists.
“When you face change that is more fundamental, it’s hard to justify the business case with the financials. This makes it hard to move forward and to change the long-term vision.
“The second thing is the fragmented nature of the fashion industry, unlike other industries. There are lots of countries, lots of factories, lots of brands. With so many players, there isn’t a clear power monopoly, which makes top-down change more difficult. It’s hard to convince such a diverse ecosystem about the need for change.”
Next week, we’ll be speaking more to Bruno and diving more into the detail of what needs to change within the fashion supply chain, and what role he envisages technology playing in this shift.