On November 10 and 11, the International Apparel Federation held a digital ‘pre-event’ to its 36th IAF World Fashion Convention to be held June 7 and 8 2021 in Antwerp, Belgium. The goal of the pre-event was to start a global, industry wide and in-depth conversation on the Convention’s theme: ‘Transition in the Global Fashion System’.
The digital pre-event consisted of four separate online sessions with a range of partners, including Dutch association MODINT, London College of Fashion, ITMF and MOTIF, supported by companies such as AFM (includes Decathlon, Pimkie, Auchan, etc.), Hugo Boss, Lenzing, Alvanon, QIMAone, Triple Tree Solutions, the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, Chainge Capital and Pt Pan Brothers. It also includes 6 movie clips recorded by prominent IAF members giving their vision on the theme of transition from a diverse range of industry perspectives including buying relations, technology, standardization and education.
Reset the fashion system
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, IAF wrote that ‘merely adapting does not seem to be enough in 2020. Adapting is too slow’. As IAF President Han Bekke remarked in his video message, the entire fashion system needs a reset. Overstock, lost sales and the industry’s pressure on the environment are growing out of control. We believe that more than ever, the key to a successful transition can be found upstream in the supply chain. Only through better balanced, less adversarial and more collaborative relations in the supply chain, as clearly advocated in the clip by BGMEA’s President Dr. Rubana Huq, can transition be achieved.
Role of technology
The core of the transition is formed by the change of the predominant sourcing model. John Thorbeck of Chainge Capital in the IAFX MOTIF Webinar ‘Shared Risk and Reward’ spoke of the ‘high costs of the low cost sourcing model’ and highlighted that companies successfully reducing uncertainty through flexibility can reach market value gains of 30 to 40 percent. It was remarkable to hear that the different perspectives the sessions and speakers offered on industry transition all yielded very similar underlying messages. Clearly technology, and particularly 3D digital design technology is hugely important. It provides the infrastructure for huge advancements in speed, responsiveness and flexibility and it is a great enabler for cross-supply chain collaboration. Correct use of the technology will require new skill sets and functions across the supply chain, a very interesting sample of which was given in the session on fashion and technology by the London College of Fashion.
But the major key to transition turned out to be process and organisation innovation, which is less tangible and harder to grasp but which featured strongly in every session. Within companies, cross departmental teams must be formed. Across the supply chain partnering strategically and communicating transparently among partners is what enables faster, more responsive and more sustainable supply chains. It also became clear that organizational innovation in the supply chain goes beyond the brand/retailer – manufacturer relation but now also involves the academic world and raw materials suppliers. Finally then, perhaps even more fundamentally, our speakers and panelists concluded that a mindset aimed at collaboration, trust and transparency combined with a strong layer of entrepreneurial courage is needed to really create transition in the fashion system.
The IAF will take these insights into its ‘Transition’ theme to its Convention in June 2021 in Antwerp. In the meantime, it will continue to push its message of (full) supply chain collaboration through its global projects, its global network building and its messaging. The theme explanation, recordings of online sessions, the movie clips and key takeways can all be found on the event’s website.