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business Comment data e-commerce Editor's pick Retail Startups technology

Buy, build or partner: A new model of working with startups

Earlier this summer Nike announced it was acquiring AI startup, Celect, in order to “beef up its predictive analytics strengths”. It’s a smart move. A data move. Like all things artificial intelligence, this solution needs a lot of consumer or retail data to get smarter. And Nike, with its $36.4 billion in revenue last year, has a lot of data. 

A tech acquisition is a complicated beast that comes with as many challenges as it does advantages. And it should not be seen as an innovation silver bullet by most corporates. 

Take augmented reality by comparison for instance, an area where we’ve seen multiple acquisitions over the past couple of years. This space is changing so rapidly, the tech you buy is almost immediately obsolete. There is higher image quality every day, new capabilities in what it can read – like skin diagnostics and not just makeup in beauty for instance – and constant challenges to stay ahead in the market as a result. 

For a company that has pulled such startups in-house, there needs to be serious commitment to advance the technology. Unfortunately, what tends to happen is that a lot of the potential development work gets lost. A startup on the outside, by comparison, has to keep evolving in an aggressive way in order to survive. But how can an acquired startup remain competitive if they can’t seek out your competitors as clients? 

Another approach to innovation is building, where brands create solutions in-house, or with agency partners, from the get go. More often than not, this sort of work comes under the experiential header: a tech solution based on the creative. What we frequently see as a result, is big investments (six figures and above) for little return due to the fact the technology just doesn’t rise to the task. 

Not that there aren’t successes within all this – there are many examples of building solutions internally, especially foundational or backend tech – that do make sense. But in our experience with the companies we work with and have gotten to know, it often doesn’t work. Even for basic technology needs, building in-house can frequently be met with many of the same challenges as an acquisition does, namely the fact progress and development gets caught up in the politics and daily grind of everyday business. 

It doesn’t matter what size of organization you are in this case either. We work with large public companies that are leaders in the industry – and we see the same challenges time and again. Things don’t evolve quickly enough and objectives are not met. Eventually, no one is watching that investment any more and innovation gets a bad rep. 

So we believe in a third option. 

With the challenges presented by buying and building, not to mention a lack of progress in internal culture making room for innovation to be successful, we decided to create a platform for partnerships. This middle step is known as open innovation. 

Very simply, this is about setting objectives internally, creating a blueprint of what you want, and then searching exhaustively for the best external partners that fulfil that brief. 

One of the benefits of this tends to lie in the quality of output you receive. When working with an outside partner – particularly at the startup level – a new large corporate client could become the centrepiece to the startup’s growth. This often means the team will continue to update the product and guard its integration after launch. It becomes part of their story. Having the chance to work with an established brand or retailer is almost sacred to an entrepreneur, which is a very different mindset to what you may find in an employee. 

But startups struggle to deliver work ethic with a full understanding of execution needs, deadlines and ability to navigate the red tape in corporations that could hold back the project. That’s why we believe open innovation is most successful when it comes with an assigned partnership manager. Our ultimate role is about providing the framework that can lead to success. 

What we’re increasingly being asked for more recently however, and thus now offering, is essentially a hybrid model – one that is all about partnerships, but unique ones that more closely align with the optimal version of building. This is where we start talking about having your cake and eating it too. 

Many companies have figured out that working with curated top startups is the most cost-effective and efficient option. But then last year, we started to see a new conversation emerging around the fact that often what retail executives look for just doesn’t exist as yet. The kind of solution you have in mind is not what is being pitched to you. You look at all the possible startups in the space and all of them are missing that one thing. You don’t want an incomplete approach. You want the full package.

How are you thinking about new innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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business data Podcast product Retail Startups

Neighborhood Goods: Making retail relevant

Physical retail traditionally exists in a vortex of information, which doesn’t make sense for brands these days, says Matt Alexander, co-founder and CEO of new department store Neighborhood Goods, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

The company’s inaugural space, which launched in Plano, Texas, in late 2018, carries a selection of new and established brands in an environment that is hyper relevant to both its location, and its customer, through the use of data. 

Alexander’s view? Success lies in information. “If you’re a direct-to-consumer, digital-native brand, you’re going to look at this world, and you’re going to say: ‘We should be able to capture a certain amount of informative data to dictate how we should run that store, and how we should merchandise [it]’.” he explains. “That’s what they do on the web all day long. The moment you land on any of their websites, they know a huge amount about you, and exactly how you’re interacting with that site. And they optimize around it.”

His brilliant phrase: it’s all about operating in an economy of relevance. 

It’s for this reason many legacy retailers are otherwise struggling, he explains. In a basic sense it comes down to them not creating the goods, services and experiences that they know for fact the consumer wants. There is therefore a lot for them to learn from D2C incumbents – from Everlane to Casper – who have placed this front and centre in their strategies. 

Join us for this episode as we also explore why experiential retail needs to go beyond just putting a ball pit in the store, how modern brands are using the physical space for entirely new reasons, and why Alexander believes legacy retailers may still have the ability to play catch up after years of ignoring consumer needs after all.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business Podcast product Retail

Thom Browne: Choosing authenticity over hype

A brand’s success depends on authentic relationships and good design over hype, says Rodrigo Bazan, CEO of designer label Thom Browne, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

“I tend to like less anything based on hype or cool, or the hot thing of the moment, because by definition that’s going to cool down at some point. So I still believe that the big things that are happening are led by a very, very strong design idea,” he explains.

It’s for the same reason that dressing rapper Cardi B for this year’s Met Gala in a larger-than-life ruby ballgown made sense for the luxury label, he notes. 

The Thom Browne team does little PR and has no internal VIP team, meaning the relationship with Cardi, as well as sports superstars like basketballer LeBron James, happen organically.

Since launching in 2004, the brand has gained a loyal audience that appreciates its modern take on classic silhouettes. The designer’s discrete nature (he himself is not on social media) and timeless designs mean it has managed to stand out in a world of overconsumption and celebrity designers that rule social media, from Virgil Abloh at Off White and Louis Vuitton to Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. 

Bazan explains how the brand is averse to overexposure and flashiness, instead focusing on creating more of these meaningful partnerships, from dressing Barcelona FC players off the field to creating bespoke tailoring with Barneys. As a result, it is steadily growing a business aiming to survive the influencer fatigue that is starting to pick up speed. 

Join us to learn more from Bazan about what that means in practice, including how music and celebrity help fuel its success, why the brand believes in sportswear over streetwear, and just how its thinking about the balance of data and design today.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business Editor's pick product Retail technology

6 brands driving consumer engagement through customization

The availability of data and an increased purchasing power has pushed retailers to create products and services beyond the standard selection. Whilst traditionally customization was seen as a luxury feature, the democratization of fashion has led to many high street retailers offering the service as another way to engage consumers.

In today’s digital era, the abundance of data has made it easier for retailers to personalize marketing content, but this is now going one step further to individual design and styling. Consumers want products tailored to their own specific needs and style, and by offering customization, retailers can increase their value and differentiate from the competition. 

From a business perspective, offering customization can be financially rewarding too, as 1 in 5 consumers will pay a 20% premium for personalized products or services. Customization can also be a sustainable method of production, as products are created to meet the exact demand, thus minimizing the risk of excess stock. 

Meanwhile, as manufacturing processes become more sophisticated and streamlined through features like 3D printing and automation, customization is something we will see more of in the future. As we continue to watch this trend develop, here are 6 brands driving engagement  through customization.

Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton custom Run Away sneaker

The sneaker industry is expected to be worth $95.14billion by 2025, and Louis Vuitton is another luxury brand hoping to tap into that booming market by offering consumers customized sneakers. Consumers will have the option to customize the Run Away sneaker by changing its colour, material and stripes and for an extra personal touch, get their initials printed or hot stamped on the shoe.

Fame & Partners
Fame & Partners bridemaids dresses

Fame and Partners is a contemporary womenswear brand based in LA trying to combat overproduction in the fashion industry by offering made-to-order garments. Through their Custom Clothing studio, consumers can customize any item by choosing the silhouette, sleeve length or neckline. The brand’s strategy eliminates the need for excess stock, helping to reduce waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill. 

Function of Beauty
Function of Beauty custom hair care

This DTC beauty brand has taken over social media with its Instagrammable hair care line that target Gen Z consumers who are seeking products unique to their needs. Consumers can go online and take a quiz to determine their hair profiles, selecting up to five hair goals, ranging from color protection to curl definition. They can also choose both the scent and color of their products, creating a customized product from design to function. Each bottle is then formulated using clean ingredients, which are cruelty-free and 100% vegan.

Rapha
Rapha custom collection

Cult British brand Rapha is disrupting the cycling market by partnering with Unmade to create a customizable team collection. Customers are given the opportunity to create their own unique jersey designs, including team logos, which are then manufactured into a bespoke product. Poor user experience and long lead times are usually a set back when it comes to customization, but Unmade’s print solution allows for quick bespoke manufacturing on a smaller scale.

Puma
Puma’s new NYC flagship

To enhance customer experience in store, Puma has created an exclusive customization studio at its new flagship store in New York. Customers can customize a range of footwear and apparel using paints, patchwork, embroidery, 3D knitting, laser printing and material upcycling. The studio also collaborates with new artists on a bi-weekly basis, with Sue Tsai, BWOOD and Maria Jahnkoy being the most recent.

Levi’s
Levi’s customization patches

Levi’s brand strategy has revolved around making products your own since the original blue jean was patented in 1873. These days, many Levi’s shops have a dedicated tailor shop that can customize and repair products, such as adding patches, studs, embroidery, stencilling and distressing, so consumers can have a one-of-a-kind product. To align with its sustainability initiatives, the brand also offers a full repair service which does anything from fixing rips and holes to color fading, helping well-worn jeans gain a new lease of life.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce Editor's pick technology

Farfetch backs blockchain platform for luxury fashion

Farfetch is betting on blockchain as part of the future of luxury with the announcement of its role as a founding member of new platform, Libra Association.

It is joining forces with companies including Facebook, Andreessen Horowitz, Ebay, Spotify and Uber for the fashion-focused platform, which will launch at the beginning of 2020.

It will include a digital currency designed to ensure efficient and secure cross-border payments, as well as a focus on product authentication and transparency.

The move will see Farfetch add digital identities, such as QR codes on labels, to its inventory of 600,000 items, according to Vogue Business. It will be working with Eon, a startup from its Dream Assembly accelerator that creates digital profiles of physical products, to do so.

Farfetch CEO José Neves says he especially wants to use the technology for its resell business, which it is currently piloting under the “Second Life” header. This lets users trade designer handbags for Farfetch credit. The value of blockchain here will sit particularly in that product authenticity and provenance area – showing where an item comes from and that it is indeed real.

“Blockchain is still in its relative infancy, but we think it holds a lot of promise with regards to how it could assist the luxury fashion industry scale solutions to these consumer expectations,” Neves said. “Having data intelligence around the life cycle of a product is what really empowers the circular economy.”

Farfetch’s strategy for the blockchain platform will be developed by its new chief data officer, Kshitij Kumar.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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data e-commerce product Retail

VF teams up with Tmall to bolster product offering in Chinese market

VF Corporation has partnered with Tmall’s Innovation Center (TMIC) to up its offering in the Chinese market through the use of consumer insights and analytics.

The collaboration is aiming to give the retail group behind brands including The North Face, Vans and Timberland, access to Alibaba-owned Tmall’s 654 million-strong customer database.

The goal is to identify customer trends faster, build customer data profiles, track products to judge how well they’re selling and design new lines tailored specifically to Chinese consumers.

Other brands within VF, including Kipling and Dickies, have already made use of the insights. Kipling launched a new backpack following consumer testing, which resulted in it becoming a top-seller among all items debuted by the brand this year.

Dickies meanwhile is making use of chatrooms within the Tmall app to conduct focus group discussions and have users share photos of how they style their items. The results are helping the brand design a new clothing line appealing to Chinese street style.

Any product that launches out of TMIC will be sold exclusively on Alibaba for a period of time.

Alibaba is using Tmall’s Innovation Center to lure western brands interested in the Chinese market. With no private-label products (like Amazon’s), brands don’t need to worry about Alibaba’s customer database being used to undercut their sales on the platform in the same way.

VF is the first fashion company to collaborate with TMIC, but other brands like L’Oréal, Unilever, and Mattel have also worked with the company on product development. Last fall, Alibaba partnered with 10 global market research powerhouses such as Nielsen, Euromonitor International, Ipsos, AdMaster and GFK, to broaden TMIC’s reach.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media Startups sustainability technology

ICYMI: France to stop burning clothes, inside product recommendations, the role of automation in retail

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • France to end disposal of $900 million in unsold goods each year [NY Times]
  • Inside the multi-billion-dollar online product recommendation economy [BoF]
  • Automation in retail: an executive overview for getting ready [McKinsey]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Amazon’s Bezos says robotic hands will be ready for commercial use in next 10 years [Fashion Network]
  • Can technology keep fake handbags out of the marketplace? [Fashionista]
  • Beyond the data breach: How retail is addressing cybersecurity [Retail Dive]
  • Can “drone delivery” technology make your skincare more effective? [Vogue]
  • Apple introduces ‘sign in with Apple’ to help protect your privacy [Tech Crunch]
  • Prada’s Lorenzo Bertelli sees startups as path to innovation [Vogue Business]
  • Amazon rolls out AR lipstick try-ons via L’Oréal’s ModiFace [Mobile Marketer]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Can Kering grow and be sustainable at the same time? [BoF]
  • The beauty industry’s having an environmental awakening, but not all redemption is created equal [Refinery29]
  • Those tiny hotel toiletry bottles are on their way out [NYT]
  • Gap Inc. to source all cotton from sustainable sources by 2025 [Fashion Network]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Ikea is transitioning its print catalog to Pinterest [Digiday]
  • McDonald’s and Disney top first-ever brand audio rankings [Campaign]
  • Is China ready for LGBTQI marketing? [BoF]
  • Is WeChat’s new social commerce feature a game changer [Jing Daily]
BUSINESS
  • Retailer Revolve gets 2018’s third-best U.S. trading debut [Yahoo]
  • The RealReal files for IPO [Retail Dive]
  • Topshop named mostly like to join ‘retail graveyard’ [Drapers]
  • The Modist secures investments from Farfetch and Nicola Bulgari [Harpers Bazaar]
  • Louis Vuitton sees ‘unheard-of’ growth in China [BoF]
  • Lacoste owner buys The Kooples [Drapers]
  • How China tariffs could make your sweaters and pants cost more [BoF]
CULTURE
  • Catwalk cover-up: how the west is falling for modest fashion [The Guardian]
  • Miley Cyrus takes a stand for reproductive rights with Marc Jacobs [Vogue]
  • ‘The models have bellies, hips and thighs that jiggle’: the rise of body-positive swimwear [The Guardian]
  • The Nike London flagship now has plus-sized mannequins [Teen Vogue]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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e-commerce Editor's pick Retail technology

Westfield to launch AI-powered pop-up stocking trending items

Westfield London is set to launch a pop-up powered by data based on what is trending online, as determined by an artificial intelligence (AI) system.

Every morning, Westfield staff will stock the brick-and-mortar space with 100 items from throughout the mall – across menswear, womenswear and accessories – that the AI has determined to be most popular online that day.

“We know that the UK is shopping online, but we’re also seeing and hearing from consumers that they crave the human factor that shopping in person provides – the ability to touch, feel, try and seek advice, to ensure the products are right for you,” says Myf Ryan, chief marketing officer for Westfield. “The Trending Store provides the best of both worlds via a unique shopping experience, one that we believe represents the way we will all be shopping in the future.”

The pop-up, dubbed The Trending Store, will open from July 3-7. The AI system, which was developed by NextAtlas, a company focused on using the tech to determine emerging trends, chose merchandise for it by tracking 400,000 of the hottest influencers, which the platform refers to as “trend innovators”. The platform then analyzed what these influencers were wearing, filtering out the 100 items that it deems to be most trending on that given day.

The data gathered by NextAtlas is then communicated to the in-house stylist team at Westfield London. The finished range includes pieces from across the price spectrum, from entry-level to premium.

The pop-up also supports Westfield’s humanitarian mission, helping to raise funds to support its long-established charity partner, Save The Children.

The Trending Store pop-up reflects the need for big retailers to adapt to a changing consumer that shops both online and offline. Activations such as this one are potentially effective ways of attracting customers to the store, as the physical retail channel has suffered from falling footfall in recent years.

British department Harvey Nichols, is another example of this. At the end of 2018, it created an installation that also combined online, offline and philanthropic elements in the spirit of the Christmas season. For the experience, a real-life choir assembled in the store whose looks were available to shop via Instagram, with proceeds supporting the Smart Works charity.

How are you thinking about immersive experiences? Want to learn more about how we worked with Google? The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to hear more.

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data Editor's pick product technology

O Boticário pioneers the launch of AI-developed fragrances

Brazil’s O Boticário cosmetics brand is launching two new fragrances specifically for millennials that have been developed through artificial intelligence.

Created in partnership with IBM, they are the result of a data-driven study by Symrise, a major producer of flavors and fragrances, that collected 1.7 million fragrance formulas – including scents sold to Coty and Estée Lauder.

This was combined with fragrance sales information, customers’ location and their age, human usage patterns and responses, to enable IBM to develop the scent AI tool called Philyra.

Philyra uses machine learning to create fragrance combinations that will match specific demographics. For Brazilian millennials, for instance, it suggests notes of fruits, flowers, wood, spices, and even caramel, cucumber, and condensed milk.

It’s not all algorithm however. The human element still exists on top with both perfumes ultimately tweaked by a master perfumer at Symrise to emphasize a particular note and improve how it lasted on the skin.

O Boticário is also known for being a brand that champions diversity and inclusion in their ads, so both AI-generated perfumes will be sold as genderless. “Fragrances are fragrances, and men and women should use whatever they prefer. We want to make our fragrance development process less bias,” said O Boticário’s marketing director, Alexandre Souza, to Exame’s publication.

Symrise’s perfumer working on fragrances created by IBM’s Philyra.

Now, Symrise plans to distribute this technology not only to master perfumers but also to its Perfumery School to help train students. Beyond developing fragrances, IBM believes the technology can aid in other uses, like flavors, cosmetics adhesives, lubricants, and construction materials, as reported by Engadget.

The two O Boticário fragrances will hit the market on Monday, May 27.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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data Editor's pick sustainability technology

Google collaborates with Current Global to launch sustainable fashion pilot

Google today announces the launch of an experiment in collaboration with innovation consultancy Current Global, to build-out a data analytics and machine learning tool powered by Google Cloud technology that will enable fashion brands to make more responsible sourcing decisions.

The initiative, revealed at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the fashion industry’s key sustainability events of the year, aims to focus on the raw materials stage (referred to as ‘Tier 4’ of the supply chain), providing brands with greater visibility as to the environmental impact of different textiles. The hope is to translate data into meaningful insights so the industry can take action.

Sustainability in fashion is a global environmental emergency. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the fashion industry accounts for 20% of wastewater and 10% of carbon emissions worldwide. The 2019 Pulse of the Fashion Industry report also shows the fashion industry is not implementing sustainable solutions fast enough to counterbalance the harmful environmental and social impacts of its rapid growth.

Current Global, an innovation consultancy that empowers fashion brands to reach their sustainability goals through the use of relevant technologies, analyzed where the industry’s largest environmental challenges are, and worked with Google to determine how it could help be part of the solution through the use of cloud-based tools for data collection and analysis.

What was identified was the need to focus on Tier 4, where brands have little to no visibility. This is an industry wide problem, where supply chains are highly fragmented, unregulated and with little transparency, yet where the majority of negative impact occurs.

Many organizations and brands have been trailblazers in an effort to collect and surface data that can lead to better sourcing decisions, but gaps in the data continue to persist due to its complexity and global nature. The aim of this experiment, is to bring together information in a way that will complement existing tools, consolidating and building on the data to shine a light into the furthest parts of the fashion supply chain.

Google sustainable fashion

“Lack of data in the fashion industry is one of the most pressing and complex issues we’re faced with. If you can’t see it, you can’t measure it, and if you can’t measure it, you can’t change it. In other words, without insights the industry is not empowered to make strategic and beneficial decisions for the sake of reducing their environmental impact,” Rachel Arthur, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Current Global, says. “We teamed up with Google to identify the strategic places within the supply chain that would benefit from its access to global data and its machine learning power to launch an experiment to create a decision making tool for the industry in order to enable a more sustainable fashion future. We know that if we could understand the nuance of the raw materials we source – information right now that is essentially impossible to accurately calculate – we could make an enormous dent into the overall composition of the clothes that are produced.”

To bring it to life, we’ll be collaborating closely with Stella McCartney on the first pilot project. This brand has been a pioneer in leading the fashion industry towards sustainability, helping to launch the UN Fashion Industry Charter for climate change and recently introducing Stella McCartney Cares Green, one of the arms of the Stella McCartney Foundation, to further promote sustainability and environmental protection.

As Kate Brandt, sustainability officer at Google, explains: “Stella McCartney has been a forerunner in the fashion industry embracing and leading the charge for sustainable fashion. At Google, we also strive to build sustainability into everything that we do whether that’s  operating efficiency data centers to having our own Responsible Supply Chain Program. In 2016 we celebrated 10 years of carbon neutrality and we are the largest corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world. Outside of Google, we aspire to build tools to help people understand the planet, improve environmental impact, and take sustainable action. This pilot with Stella is a great step in the fashion industry’s bid to become more sustainable.”

The tool will use data analytics and machine learning on Google Cloud, focused on sources that allow companies to better measure the impact of their raw materials, relevant to key environmental factors such as air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water scarcity.

To start, it will look at cotton and viscose, each chosen due to the scale of their production, data availability and impact considerations. More specifically, cotton accounts for 25% of all fibers used by the fashion industry, with a notable impact on water and pesticide use. Viscose production is smaller but growing in demand, and has links to the destruction of forests—some endangered—which are critical in mitigating carbon emissions.

The goal is not only to be able to determine the impact of producing these raw materials, but also compare the impacts of these in different regions where they are produced. This pilot will enable us to test the effectiveness of the tool on these different raw materials, building out the possibilities for expansion into a wider variety of key textiles in the market down the line.

Ian Pattison, customer engineering manager for Google Cloud UK, says: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. The challenge facing the fashion industry is one of information – taking fragmented and somewhat incomplete information and quickly translating it into meaningful insights to take action. In this case, understanding how fabrics are grown or made, what impact different sourcing decisions has on the environment, and ensuring that data is visible across the whole supply chain. Google’s 20-year leadership of data technologies, cloud computing and machine learning capabilities, coupled with our commitment to sustainability and our unrivalled global mapping, means that we are uniquely placed to work with the brands to address the challenge of reducing the environmental footprint of fashion.”

This is the first phase of the experiment. Google and Current Global are now actively working with further fashion brands, experts, NGOs and industry bodies with the ambition of creating an open industry-wide tool, and plan to continue driving collaboration with other key players—large and small.

The hope is that the experiment will give fashion brands greater visibility of impact within their supply chain and actionable insights to make better raw material sourcing decisions with sustainability in mind.

Adds Maria McClay, industry head of fashion and luxury at Google: “We have been hearing increasingly from clients, our industry partners and consumers the growing urgency around the fashion sector to make a dent in their negative environmental impact given the magnitude of the problem. If nothing changes, what is at stake is our future and that of our children’s. Google empowers its teams to find moonshots – really difficult, complex problems to solve where our technology can help make a 10x contribution, not just a marginal improvement. We believe that this could be our moonshot for the industry.”

How are you thinking about your sustainable innovation strategy? Want to learn more about how we worked with Google? The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to hear more.