Social Entrepreneurs and the Apparel Industry

Social Entrepreneurs and the Apparel Industry

Social entrepreneurship is quickly gaining a foothold in the apparel industry, and it’s refreshing to watch the transformation it brings. The social reputation of the fashion industry has traditionally not always been a positive one. A history of unethical treatment of workers, little to no focus on sustainability and massive waste is has shaped the industry’s reputation of the past. As social entrepreneurship grows in popularity, however, that reputation is evolving. Social entrepreneurs work to establish companies that reflect their values and as consumers respond favorably to socially conscious goods by granting them greater market share, traditional companies must rise to these new standards to remain competitive. The apparel industry is becoming more eco-conscious and ethical as it takes steps to keep up with these social entrepreneurs and respond to consumer demands.

What exactly is social entrepreneurship, and why is it so influential in the fashion and apparel world? At its core, social entrepreneurship is simply using a company to advocate for social, cultural, and/or environmental issues. The fashion industry has been plagued with issues centered around sustainability and ethical treatment of its workers. Burberry, the British high fashion house, made headlines in 2018 when it was revealed that the company had a practice of burning and destroying excess and unsold stock in an effort to keep the brand’s reputation of exclusivity and luxury. In 2013, a factory building in Bangladesh known as Rana Plaza collapsed, killing over 1000 people in one of the worst industrial accidents on record. Both of these issues highlight a serious issue in the fashion industry – many brands have historically been indifferent to the environmental impact of their products and the workplace conditions of those who manufacture them. Social entrepreneurship has become popular within the apparel industry, as consumers recognize that this kind of intervention is necessary to create meaningful change. Social entrepreneurs are also innovating as they seek original ways to deal with social and environmental issues while still producing a product that appeals to the marketplace.

Sudara, founded by Shannon Keith, works with women in India who are at risk of becoming a sex trafficking victim, or who have escaped from trafficking. Because of a lack of income makes women more vulnerable to trafficking, Sudara employs at risk Indian women to sew their loungewear and offers the opportunity for them to explore other roles in different fields such as IT work, cosmetology, and tailoring. Workers can develop the foundational skills they need to find different types of jobs outside the company. Sudara also works with partners who help to train women throughout the year, and this program currently results in an 89% job placement rate for participants. Keith’s brand just is one of many brands using social entrepreneurship to enact real change in the world.

There are numerous other social entrepreneurs fighting to change, and ultimately better, the apparel industry from within. Akshay Sethi, founder of Ambercycle, uses her brand to upcycle polyester (a major contributor to microplastic pollution) into a new type of fabric. Collective impact and action are essential when it comes to enacting lasting change, and it’s part of the reason that Ambercycle, and others like it, have come together to connect with and learn from each other.

In all, it is clear that social entrepreneurship has come a long way in trying to transform the apparel industry from within. As more and more brands begin to take on various causes, it’s vital that they support and lift each other up in an international and interconnected network. Their success will inspire others to join in and can pave the way in supporting businesses that use their capital and influence to transform the industry and influence society.
Smart Manufacturing Going from Traditional to Digital

Smart Manufacturing Going from Traditional to Digital

Innovation is the name of the game for almost any industry today. In order to keep up with the constantly changing market, manufacturers recognize that it is time to get serious about adapting and finding smart solutions in order to remain competitive. As a result, much of the fashion world is turning to digital or technological solutions to keep pace in a rapidly evolving industry. Manufacturers in every industry are considering the benefits of “smart factories” powered by IoT (Internet of Things) tech[MOU1] .

The ultimate goal for any factory of the future is to minimize, and ultimately eliminate, problems such as inefficiency, waste, and downtime. While smart factories may differ in specifics from company to company, the general principle is that processes can be improved through self-optimization and automation using the combination of production, information, and communication technologies.

Smart factories also allow for the possibility of integration across the entire supply chain. The benefits of smart factories go far beyond just physical production – development, logistics, and planning can all be improved by a smart factory’s data collection and access to real-time information. Interconnected devices are able to communicate with each other, and through their communications, the factory gains far more transparency and visibility, which can all be used to make better and more informed real-time decisions.

This interconnectivity allows fashion manufacturers to better manage quality assurance, particularly because the technology allows for constant monitoring of products before release. If something goes wrong, workers will be alerted, and the mistake can be easily corrected. This translates into more quality products being delivered, which also reduces waste and improves customer satisfaction.

Due to smart factories’ self-optimization features, processes throughout the entire plant can be tested and then streamlined. Fashion manufacturers are able to see which parts of the process may be broken or redundant, allowing for a more optimized and efficient supply chain to come into play. The biggest benefit, however, comes as smart factories collect and analyze data from all parts of the supply chain. Manufacturers are able to access a wealth of information, allowing them to make better informed decisions. In addition, companies can now respond to problems as they arise in real-time, thus creating a more adaptable and flexible environment.

Despite all the benefits, some organizations will be slow to adopt smart factories due to concerns about the costs associated with implementing new technologies and adding the network to connect them. This is often a misconception. Partnering with the right fashion-specific technology provider can ensure a cost-effective and smooth transition to smart manufacturing. At Exenta, our clients find an overwhelming ROI just months after implementing our ShopFloor Control solution.

As the apparel industry increasingly embraces the benefits of smart manufacturing, those who wait to adopt new technologies will find it very challenging to compete in this era of fast fashion.

 [MOU1]Please link to IoT and Fashion blog post unless that is an SEO issue

The Future Of Retail Technology

The Future Of Retail Technology

Today’s culture surrounding retail and how consumers shop seems to be rather primitive when compared to the technological advances that have occurred in many other areas of the fashion industry.

Fabrics and textiles are becoming far more innovative, thanks to the use of smart fabrics and wearables, while designers are toying with the power of livestreams and social media when it comes to marketing their brands and products. Retail, on the other hand, hasn’t really seen much of an advance when it comes to in-store physical shopping. Why aren’t brands and companies investing in software that could revolutionize the way consumers shop for their clothes?

The future for almost any industry right now is personalization. More and more consumers want things that are tailor-made for their preferences and needs, and customization is becoming an increasingly popular product for companies to offer. The retail industry understands this – imagine how nice it would be to walk into a store and have a sales associate already know which items to hand you. These offerings would be based, of course, on previous purchases, but also on your specific desires (material or fit preferences). It would cut down on the inefficient and often stressful nature of in-store shopping.

This type of technology is not entirely far-fetched, as there are companies that can and do deliver these highly personalized and effective recommendations, but the tech has been slow make the jump to the retail world. This level of customization could increase customer satisfaction and loyalty to a particular brand; shoppers are far more likely to return to stores that can offer them the perks that only personalization brings. As a result,it’s important for retailers to focus on this technology, but it’s also important for them to work with consumers when it comes to addressing privacy and security concerns.

While most consumers would love to have a personalized experience, they are wary about allowing brands access to such private information and data about their shopping preferences and needs. There is a “creepiness” factor – just how much data will these companies collect? As a result, request for information to enhance personalization should be presented in an “opt-in” manner, to allow those consumers who do not wish to participate an option to protect privacy.

In addition, retailers can look for different methods of distribution; instead of suggestions coming from a sales associate, they could come via a mobile application. This is where artificial intelligence and big data can come into play, as their capabilities are perfect for fine-tuning this type of retail experience. AI can help match consumer preferences with a certain product depending on its characteristics, while retailers can analyze the data generated from their sales in order to predict which trends might be popular and which might not. All of this, of course, can only be implemented in a way that will not spark resistance, and changing culture is perhaps the hardest part of implementing any form of technology. Retailers simply have to convince consumers of the benefits that can come with this type of software. And its ability to simplify their shopping experiences.

The retail industry must consider adapting, or they will be put out of business by their online competitors. With the plethora of options now offered through the Internet, consumers need an enticing reason to visit brick-and-mortar shops, creating the perfect incentive for the retail industry to start backing innovative and futuristic tech.

In all, while there are concerns surrounding privacy and security, it seems that the retail world is heading towards a culture built around personalized and customized shopping experiences powered by smart software. If industry leaders can convince consumers that it’s in their best interest to allow this type of technology into their lives, the future of retail could look very different from what it currently is today.

Real-Time Information in Fashion Is A Fashionable Must

Real-Time Information in Fashion Is A Fashionable Must

Staying alive in the Fashion Industry has always been tough. It is one of the most competitive environments in commerce. The apparel companies and designers who once thrived did so by having vison. They knew what their customers wanted, even before they knew what they wanted.

In the past, intuition, business judgment, and vision successfully introduced the newest fashion trends to the runway, and then to the market. Victory in Fashion was once an art. Visionary designers led the way into the latest trends and fads as if only they possessed crystal balls. What they produced sold, and fast. The good news, and the bad news, is that victory in Fashion is no longer just an art. It is also a science. In fact, merging the two is now necessary for survival in the Fashion Industry today.

Today, prospering Fashion companies must have two things: Vision and Real-Time Information. Creativity is still a must, but apparel companies must also know exactly what is happening, at all times, from design, to manufacturing, to fulfillment. Where is the inventory, how much of it is on the shelves at this very moment, when is it moving and to where? What garments in particular are customers buying, and in which sizes and colors? There is no time for mistakes. The apparel companies that have this real-time information are constantly taking design concepts to consumers faster and faster, and perhaps most importantly, they are profiting by most accurately predicting demand and fulfilling it. They are leaving little room for their competition to bear the cost of waste, obsolete inventory, chargebacks, and even Fashion prediction and guesswork.

Apparel companies and designers without Real-Time information have no choice but to implement new technology or to upgrade their legacy systems. In short, this is now a world that responds immediately to consumer demand rather than first predicting what consumer demand will be. This is now a world where to stay alive, one must live in harmony with the tech giants. It is arguable that Amazon alone has created an environment in which Fashion companies have no choice but to deliver what the customer wants to the customer’s door, preferably not tomorrow, but yesterday. The only way to do this is through turning a lot of data (Big Data) into real-time information.

The available technology choices for success are arguably many, but still there are a number of things an Apparel company must have in place to best convert real-time information into cost-effectiveness and a profitable bottom line. A few of these are:

1. Accurate real-time supply and demand prediction. What is happening with product and materials, right now? In today’s climate, with such short inventory cycles, there needs to be complete visibility into the supply chain. With the right system in place, an apparel company can predict future consumer demand by using technology that allows immediate visibility into materials, inventory and product flow. For example, with the right system in place, a manager can see what the consumer or retailer is buying today and then make relevant purchasing decisions in real time. Without the right system in place, procurement and fulfillment becomes guesswork. Buying decisions are verified long after the fact, sometimes months later when the old legacy system reports are finally produced and delivered by the accounting department.

2. Real-time purchasing decisions.  When real-time purchasing decisions can be made, apparel companies minimize the cost of materials, an expense which is nearly always the greatest burden to managing cash flow. With real-time purchasing at one’s fingertips, via a vendor portal system or module, vendors submit bids or quotes in a matter of minutes. There is no wait time. The best prices are known and acted upon without any guesswork. For many companies, success is found in a real-time competitive bidding environment that only the right technology can provide. Real-time bidding competition often gets the best materials pricing.

3. Predictive analytics and Business Intelligence (BI). It should be highlighted that just having real-time data, or the information derived from it, does not currently provide the most competitive and leading edge real-time information. The best technology in the market now not only provides visibility into real-time information, but also turns this information into graphs, data-charts, and predictive analytics. In other words, the best BI tools visually (in a snapshot) show exactly where inventory movement is lagging and where warehouse shelves are being depleted. They show in pictures exactly how much of every item, and in which geographies, materials and inventory are moving from the shelves, to the retailer, and ultimately into the hands of the consumer.

If you have questions or would like to learn more, please contact us.

4 Ways The IOT Is Making Fashion Even Faster

4 Ways The IOT Is Making Fashion Even Faster

The world of fashion has become faster than ever—and it’s still accelerating. Technology will continue to propel all stages of apparel design, manufacturing, and distribution in an increasingly connected global marketplace.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will have dramatic effects on the supply chains for clothing, fashion accessories, and other soft goods. While the potential applications of connected devices extend all the way from the factory floor to the point of sale (and even into the consumer’s home), in this blog we’re going to focus specifically on how IoT will improve efficiency in the manufacturing environment. This is where some of the most transformative changes are possible—and where you can achieve some of the best return on investment.

Here are the top four ways that your brand can benefit from implementing IoT technology in fashion manufacturing.

Reduce Cycle Time to Get Products to Market Faster

This is the big one, because the fashion cycle is continually shrinking. Style trends used to last a decade (think “the 60s”), then it was year to year, now you never know when you’ll wake up and find that your entire collection has become outdated overnight. All it takes is a few trendsetters sporting an unexpected look on their blog or Instagram, and suddenly everyone is desperate to get their hands on the goods before the next wave hits.

In this fast-paced market, brands need to be able to pivot on a moment’s notice to keep their production in line with the latest trends. Connecting your manufacturing processes to the IoT enables you to better keep up with changing styles, both by increasing the efficiency of hands-on work in the factory, and at a strategic level by providing real-time visibility into your products, people, and processes.

Increase Labor Efficiency with Better Visibility and Control

Visibility has been a growing challenge in the era of globally distributed manufacturing, but the IoT may finally provide a cost-effective solution. It’s hard to keep tabs on all your operations at far-flung plants when you’re dealing with not only vast physical distances, but also language barriers, different time zones, and other obstacles. Implementing IoT devices in your supply chain helps mitigate these issues and gives you more control and visibility over manufacturing operations.

Imagine if, instead of trying to get a plant supervisor on the phone or waiting for an email response to get a status update, you could simply open an IoT application on your computer and immediately view a detailed dashboard showing the status of your current production cycle. With the right sensors and back-end software, you can get instant visibility and review key metrics related to productivity, efficiency, and cycle time. This real-time data enables you to make fast decisions so you can keep up with your customers and stay ahead of competitors.

Efficiency gains are amplified by time and labor-saving applications on the shop floor. For example, workers can move faster from one task to the next when you replace cumbersome manual interfaces with smart sensors. Rather than putting everything down to enter information or configure a piece of equipment, a worker might use IoT sensors to do everything with a wave of their hand or verbally. Sensors also enable automated record-keeping to ensure accurate accounting for every product and process.

Another valuable application of IoT sensors concerns equipment downtime. When you can track vibrations, temperatures, and other relevant indicators in real-time, you can reduce costly unscheduled shutdowns with targeted preventive maintenance. This helps keep costs down and ensure the fastest possible cycle time for your goods—enabling you to get products to market before the inevitable next shift in style turns today’s top-shelf fashions into tomorrow’s clearance sales.

Go Green with Smart Environmental Controls

In areas like energy use, sustainability is not only good for your bottom line, but it’s also become incredibly trendy. At a time when both companies and consumers are increasingly focused on sustainability, the IoT can help you stand out as a “green” brand. As a practical example, consider lighting and environmental controls in manufacturing plants. Busy workers can hardly be expected to interrupt their work to turn the lights on and off every time they enter or leave a work station. However, connected sensors can automatically detect presence and motion to optimize the work environment in real time.

Lighting, air conditioning, and other features can all be controlled by sensory input from the IoT. This type of smart power use on the shop floor helps reduce the environmental impact of your manufacturing processes—and keep operating costs under control. In today’s marketplace, these are both good for business.

Reduce Risk with Proximity and Motion Sensors

The same types of sensors that enable you to save time and money can also help save you from the many negative effects of workplace accidents. Apparel manufacturing entails lots of heating, cutting, gluing, and other potentially dangerous processes. Smart sensors on the factory floor can help keep workers safe by tracking their proximity to high-risk locations and providing real-time safety alerts as needed.

All of these capabilities add value to your supply chain and help you move at the speed of fashion, which is only getting faster. Equally important, the cost and complexity of IoT technology is falling as connected devices proliferate in all sectors of the economy. As a result, implementing this technology is now highly practical and cost-effective for a growing range of businesses.

Are you ready to compete in IoT-enabled market?

If you have questions or would like to learn more, please contact us.

Wearable Tech: What Comes Next?

Wearable Tech: What Comes Next?

In just two short decades, wearable technology has become an integral part of many consumers’ daily lives.

Smartwatches, fitness trackers, and communication tools are increasingly more widespread and have even begun to influence fashion accessories and the health insurance industry. While some may consider wearable technology to be a passing fad, the rising popularity of gadgets such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit beg to differ. Consumers, especially the younger generation, are drawn to the flashy yet practical items and are excited about their potential for innovation and creativity.

One particularly lucrative market for wearable tech companies is the fitness industry.

Customers are constantly looking for efficient and seamless ways to track their fitness goals. These consumers have the option to choose what form they want their wearables to come in: fabrics, watches, FitBits, and more. Motiv, a new wearable tech company, has come out with a sleek and beautifully modern ring that tracks sleep, activity, and heart rate around the clock, making it a perfect accessory for those who find the technology to be too bulky when it is otherwise incorporated into watches, bracelets, or accessories. In whatever wearable form, these tools allow their wearers to measure their physical efforts, set and achieve quantitative goals, and to feel rewarded for workouts, walks, and engagement in healthy practices.

Fitness-focused technology has an immense amount of potential, as do numerous other similar products when it comes to wearables. While the already fit have embraced this technology with open arms, ecstatic with the idea of being able to fully control and track their workouts, fitness tech brands have an incredible opportunity to advertise and market to those who are not yet fully taken with the idea of wearable tech. If these companies can lure this untapped market of customers, then they can become even more prominent; they can even become leaders and participants in the future of technology advancement and innovation. A key to their growth is to not only keep and expand revenues from their existing customer bases, but to also spread out into other demographics.

Wearable technology is becoming an integral part of the Fashion and Apparel world.

Some fabrics are now smart fabrics. This means they may come equipped with virtually undetectable sensors that can monitor vitals such as the wearer’s heart rate and respiratory levels. They are able to detect, store and relay information that ordinary smartphones and applications cannot. With the ability to smoothly integrate such smart tech into garments, the wearer can be fashionable or practically dressed, all while monitoring daily personal stats and keeping on track with health goals. Potential applications are limitless, such as medical monitoring, or even allowing parents to track the whereabouts of their children. Given all the possibilities and practical uses for wearable fabrics, they may soon be worn by nearly everyone and found in households everywhere.

Currently, a few companies appear to be on the front lines of wearable tech and smart fabric research and development. Google recently partnered with Levi’s for Project Jacquard. This project is quite amazing because one of its goals is to create clothing that can interact with the wearer, others, and the wearer’s environment. Imagine clothing that can respond when touched, just as smart phone applications do. Project Jacquard is creating exactly this:

Another big name brand focusing on smart fabrics, or smart fabric applications and integration, is Under Armour. Famed for its exercise gear, this American company has demonstrated a genuine interest in the wearable apparel market, and has carved out a niche spot. The company started with a focus on wearable tech hardware, but has since shifted its focus to wearable tech software. This allows Under Armour to integrate its technology not only with its own products but also with the products of other companies, like Samsung and Apple. The net effect of this software development and entry into the market is that consumers are enabled to integrate the technology of their entire smart wardrobes. The applications and functionalities of this science are endless and thought provoking.

Wearable technology and fabrics are here to stay. Fitness, fashion and many other types of companies are going to be continuing with research and development into this practical science. With endless possibilities and uses, smartwatches, smart fabrics, integrated wardrobes and more are ready to capture the hearts and minds of every consumer, and to become a part of daily life.