From consumers to governments to investors, everyone is demanding that fashion companies adopt more sustainable practices. While the fashion industry has expanded exponentially in the last 70 years with little regard for anything but growth—it is no longer fashionable to choose profit over the planet.
To illustrate, one of the world’s biggest fashion retailers H&M was recently sued over its ‘misleading’ sustainability claims in a New York court. Additionally, a UK court is also investigating environmental claims made by fast-fashion brands Asos, Boohoo and George in a separate lawsuit.
How fashion became the poster child of pollution and waste
There’s a rising consensus that fashion brands must do their part in protecting the environment and society. A key reason behind this is the fact that the US $ 3 trillion fashion industry is now one of the world’s largest polluters, contributing to 9 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions.
In addition, the culture of deep discounting, consumerism and fast fashion has created a disposable perception of fashion products. This forces brands to shorten their already strained production cycle. This pressure then further compounds the stress on manufacturers who now have fewer resources to produce more goods in even less time. The cost crunching has made it harder than ever for manufacturers to pay fair wages to workers—while making a profit. This cycle deprives workers of the basic right to a safe and hygienic work environment.
On the other hand, the fashion industry is also contributing to a concerning textile waste problem. In fact, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textile waste end up in landfills annually.
The fashion industry is overdue for a digital makeover
A change is needed in the way we buy and produce clothing. As more people learn about fashion’s dark underbelly, they are pushing the industry to do better. Today, fashion businesses must either adapt to the demands of today’s consumer or risk losing relevance in a world where people want to buy products that align with their values.
However, achieving true top-to-bottom sustainability is not easy in the fashion industry. Firstly, because fashion’s technology-averse nature makes it a slow adopter of new innovations. Second, the industry is fragmented across countless small businesses that lack resources and technology infrastructure needed for digital transformation. Thirdly, fashion brands often depend on third-party suppliers who provide raw materials and manufacture products on their behalf.
What the industry needs are tailored technology solutions such as smart factory analytics, fashion product lifecycle management tools and enterprise resource planners – which can all be integrated together to form one comprehensive solution. It is only through streamlined digitalisation that we can make the production and distribution of fashion goods both ecologically sustainable and cost-effective.
WFX empowers sustainability in fashion manufacturing
WFX – World Fashion Exchange, has been a market leader in developing smart, easy-to-use, digital solutions built specifically for the fashion industry. The fashion-tech company has been digitally transforming fashion brands, manufacturers and suppliers for more than 20 years.
“Our software products are all integrated to offer a comprehensive solution covering all aspects of the fashion supply chain—from product development to quality control and sourcing, to inventory and cost optimisation, to faster turnaround times,” explains Jatin Paul, CEO, WFX.
WFX works with over 600+ fashion businesses, including some of the leading brands in sustainable fashion such as Everlane, NINE&Co, ELK and Spell as well as manufacturers like Texport, Indochine and PPJ International. WFX’s solutions such as WFX PLM, ERP and Smart Factory are enabling both brands and manufacturers to instill the ethos of sustainable production into the core of their business and do it in a way that benefits both the environment and the bottom line.
Some of the ways in which WFX empowers true sustainability in fashion production:
- Elimination of Air Shipping
With production timelines continually getting shorter and shorter, the race to the finish line can make or break your business. There is a never-ending risk of late deliveries—often a result of slow approvals, material mismatches or quality issues and problems with vendor capacities. Delay in manufacturing means making deliveries by air which has both a monetary and an environmental cost. Overall, air shipments are a lose-lose game for everyone.
This problem can be solved by digitally integrating the supply chain and using Time and Action calendars to plan and monitor production efficiently. WFX PLM’s modern T&A tools give manufacturers visibility into what is happening in the factory so that they can avoid delays in critical milestones. T&A enables factories to not just streamline production but also get better visibility into their processes—meaning higher efficiency, less rework and fewer delays—which allows them to ship products on time, every time!
For example, Bangladesh-based apparel sourcing company Crossline used WFX ERP’s T&A tools to centralise organization-wide operations and improve information management efficiency by 25 per cent. Martin Buffet, Key Account Manager, Crossline adds, “WFX has provided a common language and framework to everyone, which is flexible enough to meet all our buyer requirements and our back-office operations are smoother than ever.”
- Transparent and Ethical Sourcing
When it comes to working with vendors, it is important for brands to do their due diligence and make sure they are working with safe and compliant factories. However, the commitment to sustainability goes beyond that. As a brand, you must constantly stay on top of your vendor factories, particularly when it comes to inspection and compliance. What is more, brands today must ensure that even their third-level vendors abide by the same sustainability and ethical standards as the brand itself.
This can be tough, but brands and factories can boost transparency in their supply chain significantly through technology. WFX’s enterprise tools help automate the due diligence process, mandate compliances and can alert stakeholders in case of non-compliance. The software also allows businesses to keep a ready record of documents and inspections across the supplier database.
- Smart Material Planning
When you are running a manufacturing operation, it is crucial to have smart and sustainable material planning in place. It helps you ensure that the raw materials you use are produced in a way that is safe for workers and the environment, and that they are available when you need them.
If you do not have enough supplies, then you will be unable to deliver on your commitments to customers. If you have too much, then you are wasting money. The goal is to make sure that you always have enough of what you need, but not so much that it is costing you money to store it, or you must get rid of it.
WFX’s inventory management tools can help you gather and use data from all aspects of the supply chain to make better decisions about how much material you need and where it should be located at any given time. It can also help companies identify how much material they need to produce goods more efficiently, reducing waste in the process. It can also help with forecasting demand and planning production schedules based on actual demand instead of just guessing or assuming things.
The right inventory levels help reduce waste and increase productivity, as well as help companies achieve their financial goals.
- Reduction of Sampling Waste
Brands waste loads and loads of fabric, fuel, money every season to get samples right. Multiple rounds of samples are shipped across the globe before a pre-production sample gets approved. All this waste, just because a sample was not delivered correctly the first time.
This waste can be easily avoided through the implementation of technology that helps streamline the sample development process. This starts with ensuring sample specifications are complete and accurate—with a detailed digital tech pack. WFX PLM allows brands to standardise their tech packs and share them directly through the vendor portal on the platform. Suppliers do not have to waste time trying to understand the structure of every tech pack. They do not have to search through their inbox to find the right (and latest) file. Most of all, Cloud PLM allows both parties to ask questions, get real-time updates and keep all stakeholders on the same page.
In fact, Vietnam-based garment manufacturer Song Hong used WFX’s Factory PLM to increase their sample hit-rate by 60 per cent within just 9 months of implementation of the WFX solution.
- High Quality Production
The best long-term solution to sustainability is to make high-quality, durable products that last longer. We need to make sure that our products are designed for longevity- they are easier to repair and can be recycled or reused.
Technology has the answer. We will need to use technology to improve durability without making it cost-prohibitive or ugly. This could mean researching and developing better fabrics that are more durable or require fewer natural resources (like water) for production.
It could also mean using 3D design and printing technologies to create accurate prototypes more quickly than other traditional manufacturing methods.
Overall, it is safe to conclude that sustainability is no longer a trend but a core competence that every brand and manufacturer will have to achieve if they want to secure a future in the fashion industry.
Attempts to mandate some level of transparency and accountability in the fashion industry are already underway. In fact, the New York state is working on a bill that would, if passed, require ‘transparency of at least 50 percent of the goods sold from raw materials to shipping’ in terms of their environmental impact.
Transparency across all levels of the supply chain is integral to the goal of sustainability in the fashion industry. “WFX’s mission is to help fashion businesses be as sustainable and ethical as possible. We provide our customers with the tools they need to reduce their carbon footprint by making smarter decisions across their supply chain,” says Jatin Paul.
The fashion industry is changing rapidly, and WFX is leading the way in making sure that this change is for the better.
To learn more about WFX’s software solutions for the fashion and apparel industry, head to www.worldfashionexchange.com.