Can Technology Fix Fashion's Failures?

Can Technology Fix Fashion's Failures?


Welcome to the next instalment of our exciting new content series, where we’ve been examining how we’re reimagining the fashion industry supply chain. (Missed any? You can recap our previous articles here).

So far, we’ve examined the drivers of change and heard invaluable first-hand insight from Unmade sales director Bruno Mattia on how brands are responding to the challenges.

We’ve learned that brands must adopt a customer-centric approach to engage this evolved customer and deliver a frictionless customer experience on all channels, but even the most pioneering brands are discovering that ageing supply chain processes and systems are failing to meet the changing demands of the new breed of connected customer, impacting their ability to stay relevant.

Coupled with this pressure is the reminder that although technology is driving change, we mustn’t forget to put the changing demands of our consumers at the forefront of any investment (you can read more about our thoughts on the new generation of customers here).

This week, we take a look at the natural next question - could emerging fashion technologies and smart digital innovation be the answer to pushing through the changes we need? And how do we place the consumer at the heart of these developments?

The Digital Experiential

Consumers are increasingly shifting between the in-store and online experience, with online retail now edging ahead in popularity, according to recent research.

Stores and online are nearly neck and neck – 40% say they prefer bricks and mortar, while 45% say they prefer shopping online. Mobile took 13% of the vote.

Connected Consumer: Multichannel Insight Report 2018, Drapers Online

Engaging digital experiences with no compromise on service and quality are the way forward.

Playful digital tools that draw the customer in including 360 product videos, helpful product descriptions and peer reviews that all work perfectly on mobile can engage.

Putting the Custom into Customer

But how can brands go beyond helpful tools to delivering an inspiring customer experience?

By investing in customisation.

Generation Z shoppers are a new breed of consumer driving this demand. Affluent, influential and vocal, Gen Z is at the forefront of personalisation.

49% of Gen Z shoppers value unique products and personalisation. Criteo, The Gen Z Report

From limited edition merchandise to seasonal collections, mass market appeal is waning in favour of creating more meaningful items - all the more powerful if the customer has the opportunity to participate in their creation.

Collaborative design tools are a unique way of bringing brands and customers closer together.

Rapha is an innovative brand that Unmade has partnered with to empower their customers to design custom team kit apparel, with fully integrated production to support.

The result is Rapha Custom, the first opportunity for Rapha customers to fully design their own team garments.

The market was crying out for a design-led and fully digital customer experience that was seamless in manufacturing and delivery.

Ed Clifford, head of Rapha Custom

Challenging Production Technology

Fashion is seeing the start of a seismic shift where products are 'pulled' into the market, based on actual demand rather than 'pushed' based on best-guesses and forecasts.

McKinsey, The State of Fashion 2019

Innovations in consumer-facing technology are only as impactful as the processes that support them, and more specifically, in the abilities of the fashion supply chain.

Bruno Mattia, Unmade sales director, spoke candidly in a recent interview about the failings of the existing fashion supply chain systems and processes:

"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."

If brands embrace customisation, and the evidence suggests they should, they must acknowledge also that mass manufacturing cannot accommodate this type of production and needs to transform.

Disruptors are already entering the market with intelligent software and systems that can cut down production times, open up process transparency and redefine manufacturing cycles. Some of the more innovative brands are disrupting internally but those that aren’t are at risk from new players to the market.

Unmade’s technology is helping brands like Rapha to make sure their customisation ambitions are matched by agile and robust manufacturing and order fulfilment, that integrates with their existing infrastructure.

We worked with Rapha to establish an exciting new proposition to enter the cycling team market, to empower smaller teams to smaller teams to create quality team kits but at much smaller minimums with an engaging customer experience.

Rapha’s vision was clear - to offer a digital solution that was fully automated and didn’t require manual steps or costly artworking on the production side, at the same time as offering the user a great quality design experience in keeping with Rapha’s brand identity.

Unmade’s end to end team technology solution for teamwear created a seamless process from design to manufacture, maintaining brand identity for custom product using a collaborative approach. (You can read more about our work with Rapha here).

These types of innovations are not just supporting how brands need to respond to changing demand but have the potential to open up data analysis opportunities along the supply chain.

Extracting real-time insights into custom orders can give us a much more accurate picture of what consumers are actually buying and where the demand truly lies, and give brands a dynamic overview of production.

Focusing on Tech

Technology is one of the main drivers of change in fashion production but conversely it is also one of the solutions. Emerging, disruptive players and their products are reshaping the landscape but we mustn’t forget to start with the customer and their demands.

Do the work to understand what your customers want and be willing to invest in the technologies that will help deliver that, all along the chain.

Next Week: Waking Up to the Conscious Consumer

Sustainability is high up the agenda for Gen Z consumers and consequently for brands too. With fashion one of the worst global environmental offenders, how and why should the industry respond to consumer demand to clean up its act?

Be sure to catch the next instalment of our ongoing series.