Last month the 3rd edition of PI Apparel took place here in HK. I was honoured to be asked to Chair the event again and lead off the proceedings with my thoughts on what Fashion Tech can, and should, do to help what is obviously the pre-eminent topic du jour, outside of Brexit, Trump and anti-whatever. That of the damage that is being done to our home, this planet.
I’ll put a transcript of the speech at the end of this post if you can muster up the strength to read.
But, back to the conference.
Two days of back to back presentations, panels, closed door session and intense networking with well over 300 people there for most of the time. At least until the champagne ran out at the end of day 1.
Intense competition in the area of inspection services meant a bit of an overload in that area and general industry feedback from the customers/users was narrowed down to criticism in a couple of areas.
The old chestnut of inter-operability and standard formats. Particularly between the main 3D design players. I can totally understand the reluctance to completely open up but as each competitor has their own strengths there should be an 80/20 solution somewhere in the mix. 80% of the file formats being compatible and a “simple” process for the other 20% to be conditional and specific to the provider. At least then you won’t have the current situation where the major players, as well as those sitting on the side line, have to consider where to play their cards or build workflows and services around 2, 3 or 4 different systems with licenses, staffing, training compounded accordingly.
The other key point was over-promising. Companies offering “out-of-the-box” solutions, simple integrations, intuitive set-ups, immediate ROI’s, need to hold back their enthusiastic sales pitches. As much as we can all see the opportunities that tech can offer the, mostly antiquated and in many cases pre-historic, apparel business there are HUGE obstacles. That’s for another ranting blog post but needless to say a high degree of practicality and realism has already set in to the expectations of many parts of the industry. I will add that is healthy scepticism, in my opinion!
There were a few definitely challenging topics with the highlights for me being the Panel Session on the circular economy with relation to fashion. Mediated by Christina Dean, Founder & Board Chair/Co-Founder & CEO, Redress/The R Collective with Aamir Sakhia from Lane Crawford, Gloria Yao from HKRITA, Jacqueline Lewis of MOTIF, and Chung Yuen Tam from SGS. This session touched on a number of areas where progress is being made before getting to whole question of consumption as a whole. Again, a whole MASSIVE area of debate which would have to touch on a lot more then re-using cardboard and recycling plastic hangers.
Then there was the inspiring talk from David Hanson from Hanson Robotics, the inventor of Sophia, the human-like robot with AI capabilities. The ideas and possibilities outside of our fashion/apparel world were awoken in a few people in the crowded room for the 2nd day’s keynote address. For me the most inspiring presentation of the conference.
So, to sign off, a great event as always from the team at PI Apparel. Solid content and professional speakers, perfectly organised. It was a sell out so make sure you sign up early for next year. See you there.
And, as promised, here is the transcript:
Good morning everyone and a very warm welcome to this third edition of PI Apparel here in Hong Kong. I am more than pleased to be here again after being your chairperson last year and I have to say thank you to the good people from PI for inviting me back. Which goes to show they must think I did an amazing job last year - or that I am incredibly cheap.
This time last year I gave a welcome introduction and used, as an example of how access to the internet has evolved dramatically over the last 20+ years, an original copy of Netscape navigator, which came IN A BOX. A prime example of how our world has massively changed through the advent of digital technology, and now, how that is affecting our industry, the apparel business, today and into the future.
As I was preparing for this year's edition I was bouncing a few ideas around with family, friends and colleagues about topics that would be of interest and was struggling to come up with something that we thought would actually be meaningful in the current climate and would not just be me voicing, again, my personal frustrations with the way the garment industry functions.
Anyway, about a week ago I was invited to an event in Hong Kong. A small and cosy evening talking shop, with the topic of supply chain. The audience and the speakers were predominantly from e-commerce, logistics and data related to the front end of retail.
What struck me during the Q&A session was that everything was focused on how to PUSH more product through the pipeline into the customers face and hopefully, their hands. There was very little attempt to address the meaningful aspects of all this effort, (ie) was the product relevant, was it really needed.
Data analysis, algorithms, targeted marketing, returns policies, are all well and good but if we are still producing goods based on guesswork and fingers in the air to check the wind direction, carrying inventory models based on already decided discount plans, and deciding the best way to show success is purely by growth then we are missing multiple opportunities now available to us.
And this leads me to where I hope, and believe, that these next 2 days of presentations, conversations, workshops and networking should be able to address, particularly from the manufacturing and the development and design sides of the business. We now have the tools and the technology to be much more efficient, much more sustainable and much more economically viable as we create and deliver fashion product into consumers hands.
If you're in the fashion world it's simply not enough these days to just keep creating and selling. We have to be much more aware of the repercussions, and potentially the damage that is done to the environment, by just creating product for the sake of it or because markets “want stuff” and shareholders “demand” growth for its own sake.
Through the use of technology, whether that be virtual prototyping, efficient communication and data sharing, through to automation and robotics and flexible production methods, we have the opportunity to actually make sure that we are giving consumers what they need rather than what they think they want. And, if we are prepared to really embrace the benefits of all these tools and tech, we, as businesses, can definitely be more efficient and profitable.
As the father of what are commonly termed “millennials”, but I prefer to call daughters, I am of the firm belief, gathered through first hand experience, that the expectations that will be placed upon the fashion industry, as well as every other consumer product and lifestyle choice, by the next generation of consumers will have the health of the planet and its occupants at the forefront.
While I accept that the world is a very complex place and the culture of scepticism has tended to override facts and science in recent years AND that there are economies and individuals where basic needs will take precedence over “woke” consumer choices I will happily point out that the majority of people in this room have the awareness, capability and resources to contribute and, hopefully, make a difference to making our industry a positive force as we deal with the challenges the world faces.
There are many companies that are taking meaningful steps, and some making huge leaps, to effect change and I am sure we ALL applaud those companies and individuals.
So, to wrap up on a positive note lets all get stuck into two days of engagement, sharing, learning and, at the end of Wednesday, I hope that at least a few more of us will leave charged with ideas and enthusiasm on how to make even a small difference to their business, or even transform it by applying something they have learned from the various sessions and interactions with the sponsors and exhibitors here at PI Apparel 2019, Hong Kong.
We have been a bit quiet recently, for which there are plenty of reasons, but mainly because we have been busy working hard on our trial runs that validate the Brand New Vision business model.
Recently we proved that a garment created virtually can then be produced from the data created (pattern, construction, BOM, details, etc) by a factory with ZERO amendments or tweaks and deliver a perfect product within a couple of days. To be frank, those of us in the room ready to open the parcel were quietly cautious and expecting a so-so sample. We were buzzed! Practically perfect.
So I will say thank you to Amy, Johnie, Ben, Alyasha, Stanley and Kathleen as we move on to the next stage.
Here at Brand New Vision we have exactly that. A vision of a completely new concept for designing and developing, selling and marketing, producing and delivering fashion concepts faster and more efficient than ever before. Forget fast fashion and the inherent wastage and damage caused. Forget about the “we’ve always done it that way” naysayers and those who can’t see the possibilities that technology offers to our staid and slow industry. Instead embrace the new and see the future of a more sustainable, fairer and relevant business model.
We have our manufacturing partners in place BUT we are looking for more. Not many, just the right ones. Those that get that the future of our industry is about speed, flexibility and responsibility and with that comes smaller orders than “normal”. But, using technology to speed the work and data flow, removing duplication of work and putting the responsibility for quality and execution in the hands of the people with most knowledge. The people on the factory floor.
To be frank, the tools to create and sell and deliver are all out there but without good production partners that means nothing, therefore we would like to get to know you. We can be in business but only after we have drunk a lot of tea (or coffee), had a few lunches and probably got drunk together. That’s the proper type of business relationship so please, don’t direct us to any of those Tinder sourcing sites, we are looking for more than a casual fling.
If you are one of those people, or a company, that wants to know more please take a couple of minutes to fill in this form so we can get the basics out of the way.
Before it sets off…..
…..let’s address some other issues
There is an interesting and detailed report out today from McKinsey and Co. While it is focused on the concept and practicalities of brands and retailers bringing production closer to their main markets (essential when we only have a dozen years to save the planet) it touches on a number of reasons why AND highlights many of the practices and mindsets which make the fashion industry inefficient and wasteful. Both of which contribute to the damage we are all doing to the planet.
I could rant on about other matters here. Politics, education, rampant capitalism, etc, etc, but will stop here and instead highlight some key statements from the introduction to the report. All of which we are directly addressing with the advent of bnv.me.
I have just quoted and highlighted the points that we are DIRECTLY addressing as part of the bnv.me business model.
“Mass-market apparel brands and retailers are competing with pure-play online start-ups, the most successful of which can replicate new styles and get them to customers within weeks. Furthermore, apparel companies have lost much of their clout in setting the tone. In most mass-market categories, today’s hottest trends are determined by individual influencers and consumers rather than by the marketing departments of fashion companies. Pressure on profitability due to decreasing full-price sell-through, as well as increasing concerns regarding the environmental impact of overproduction, call for agile production in smaller batch sizes and for on-demand replenishment. “
“The problem is, most of the established fashion players are burdened with slow commercial processes and legacy supply-chain and sourcing setups—and therefore struggle to keep up with more nimble competitors.”
“Today, the industry is at a crossroads where speed beats marginal cost advantage and basic compliance is upgraded to an integrated sustainability strategy. The traditional supply chain setup is now challenged, and as labor costs converge, brands and retailers are starting to rethink their sourcing and production models more broadly.”
“Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the traditional linear apparel production modes, and the public outcry concerning overstock liquidation is becoming louder.”
“As the mass-market apparel sector is moving to a demand-focused, agile supply model—and as labor costs are rising—automation will play a key role in increasing labor efficiency, throughput, and flexibility.”
No more comments needed at this point…….
If you want to know more about Brand New Vision or get involved just sign up HERE to get on our mailing list. We promise only to send out meaningful news!
You can download the full McKinsey report HERE.
While the world is going to hell in a hand basket with blatant and obvious “mis-truths” being, supposedly, morally acceptable currency from people of power and influence in the world what should the rest of us do?
From a personal position you can possibly state your beliefs and, hopefully, engage with people of differing opinions in a calm and rational manner while exploring the arguments and counters until arriving at mutually acceptable and practical decisions based on facts and predicted outcomes that will benefit all parties.
Or you can shout, cry, accuse, obfuscate, bully, distract and double down on the lies. But enough about all that crap, at least for now.
I mentioned in an earlier post how the adversarial relationships between suppliers, manufacturers and customers/buyers is, in the main, completely dis-functional. As much as companies like to talk about win-win scenarios and partnerships most of that is PR and BS. It’s more about screwing down the cost to eke out the slightest extra margin for the buyer while turning an askew eye to the effects on their business, employees, contractors, and onwards into the community at large. Currently, with the way the bigger purchasers of apparel (and other goods) go about their business, there is minimal interest or desire in paying more for product. Their own inefficiencies mean they have to factor in markdowns and wastage while being “forced” to maintain a margin to support a bloated infrastructure and operating systems that are inherited from 30+ years ago when costs and margins allowed everyone to make a decent living. The world is a different place now.
“The world population has more than doubled in my lifetime.”
That’s just something to think about while we go about our daily struggles.
With the advent of direct to consumer business models we now have the opportunity to change the relationships, and the rewards, for all those involved in the creation, marketing, sales, production and delivery of product. Fairly and transparently using integrated technologies and distributed ledger contracts. This is part of a Brand New Vision. A better deal for manufacturers and suppliers, in keeping with their true contribution.
If you want to know more or be involved talk to us.
A brief statement
After 30+ years in the fashion industry I have consistently been frustrated by the inefficiencies, duplication of work, lack of trust and combative nature of our business. Seeing the possibility of technology and digital tools now being able to massively transform all the key processes in a full product life cycle I decided to create and launch bnv.me, Brand New Vision Ltd.
We will be changing the relationships between creatives, collaborators, consumers and the production end of the business. With my teams many decades of hands on knowledge and experience across the fashion world we are not a startup. But we are using technology to truly disrupt the norm. We are bringing a new way of doing business into the hands of designers, brands, celebrities and any other party that has a desire to do something different, legitimate, sustainable and transparent.
If you want to know more or get involved then hit me up. In the meantime do have a read of this article from Sourcing World from a couple of weeks ago. It highlights what is happening in regards to local/local manufacturing and the movement towards on-demand production. This is just a part of the BNV model. Some more pertinent statements in the article;
“The industry would, in theory, evolve from producing massive quantities of products in Asia with long lead times—only to be discounted ad nauseum at retail to unexcited and disinterested consumers—to producing smaller, customized capsules of on-trend, in-demand products in close proximity to the customer with no need for markdowns.”
This is the part of our industry which, especially in recent years, has confounded me. The logic of buyers to drive down a price to the point where a manufacturer has minimal incentive to produce product other than to fill capacity because the buyer has to meet minimum margin expectations due to mark down targets. On product that will be in front of the customer a year ahead!!!. Illogical in so many ways. BUY LESS, MORE FREQUENTLY, DON’T CAUSE WASTE!
“The good news is that some of the back-end technology exists today to enable this, some consumer sentiment supports and endorses the concept, and some manufacturing facilities are willing to give it a go. The bad news? Well, there’s not really bad news for those willing to be patient and invest in the future.”
That’s bnv.me. We are investing in the future. Talk to us!
First appearing less than 18 months ago Shudu has become another virtual celebrity. Coming out of London from The Diigitals, she, and a couple of room mates, are changing expectations of models IRL.
Watch this video to get the WWD picture.
Some thoughts from others
The talk of the last few years has been industry 4.0. Rather than pontificate here about what that means and the impact it will likely have on our lives and well being I'll just stick up a link here to an interesting read on 3D Insider, from EFI Optitex.
While I don't necessarily agree with all their points there is one comment that stands out;
"This scenario may be viewed as way-out-there, but it is just one of an infinite number of cases where numerous positions in the fashion industry are taken up a notch. It is also where computerized, automated processes finally answer the needs of a truly creative mindset. Long before these tech innovations evolved, this would not have been thought possible."
It's not way out there. It's happening now and bnv.me will be at the vanguard.
You can read the whole article here.
Avihay Feld of Browzwear outlines his vision of the future. This is what we are working on, now!
Can this be digitised?
Brand New Vision is tackling the three main areas of the fashion cycle.
Phase 1. How product is conceived, designed developed and validated.
Phase 2. How it is sold and marketed to the consumer.
Phase 3. How it is made and delivered to the customer and, in that process, how contributors are rewarded, fairly and transparently.
We have broken that down into various major tasks and are currently in the process of building a platform that addresses all of Phase 2 and the priority sections of Phases 1 and 3.
If you want to understand a bit more about how other companies are addressing the use of technology and digital tools have a read of this article which touches on a few companies including Levi's and also, take a look into Betabrand.
We have a great team of industry professionals, tech genii, young blood and wizened (cynical) advisors. Contact us if you would like to know more or get involved.
Give a platform...
......and we'll bring out a mint copy of Netscape Navigator from the last century
Back in April Richard Hobbs was invited to be the Chairperson for two days of healthy debate, presentations and networking as part of PI Apparel's latest event in Hong Kong.
The good folks at PI.TV managed to round up a great selection of speakers and participants at the Kowloon Shangri-La covering many angles on how digital technology, as well as other developments, are affecting the apparel industry.
Participants included buying offices, trading companies, brands big and small and plenty of manufacturers all keen to learn and share.
Back in April Richard spoke to an audience of 120 in Dusseldorf on a "Brief History of Denim". Condensed into a 35 minute presentation focusing on the cycle from Cotton to Spinning to Indigo to Weaving and finishing of fabric with a little bit of help from friends at Candiani and G-Star.
A well received early morning session before heading back to HK.
If you need a public speaker try other, more professional, people first otherwise give us a call!