Categories
Comment data e-commerce Editor's pick sustainability

Sustainable fashion: the rising need for quantifiable standardization

Search Google for the meaning of “sustainable fashion” and you’ll quickly discover there’s no standard for it in a qualified way, let alone a quantifiable one. 

Some of the definitions are so sweeping they could in fact refer to nearly anything loosely associated. The Victoria & Albert Museum’s version in London, referring to it as “ethical fashion”, reads: “An umbrella term to describe ethical fashion design, production, retail, and purchasing. It covers a range of issues such as working conditions, exploitation, fair trade, sustainable production, the environment, and animal welfare.” 

Does that mean as a brand you have to do all of them? Or does considering just one or two count? Arguably even then these groupings only touch the surface. 

And therein lies the problem. While the industry is wrapping its head around more sustainable practices against each of those different factors, there’s no agreed-upon guideline as to what each of them are, let alone how they should be accurately measured. 

At a time when consumer awareness is only increasing and the need for education is so high, having a different understanding of what sustainable actually means, is potentially a risky game to play. 

Take the new Net Sustain strategy from luxury e-commerce player, Net-a-Porter, released two weeks ago, for instance. This includes a list of brands it now refers to as “sustainable” as per key criteria identified with an agency that include locally made, craft & community, considered materials, considered processes and reducing waste. 

To qualify, items only have to hit one of these five areas, which means, for now, something that is made from organic cotton for instance, is classified the same as something where over 50% of it has been made in its own country or community. 

Farfetch meanwhile announced its Conscious Edit in April as part of its Positively Farfetch strategy. This comes via a partnership with ethical rating system Good On You, which tracks products in terms of impact to society, the environment and animals. As with Net-a-Porter, Farfetch has identified the need for “rigorous, independently-assessed criteria”, in which brands need to score a minimum of four out of five in one area to qualify. 

Another UK-based e-commerce entity, this time at the fast fashion end of the spectrum, is ASOS. It too has a new “Responsible Edit”, which appears as both a page on its site and a filter that can be used when browsing. It reportedly includes garments made from recycled materials and sustainable fibers, such as those using less water and resulting in less waste.

So that’s three major players all now actively thinking about sustainable fashion in a qualified manner and communicating such to consumers, but all in slightly different ways and to varying degrees. 

The actual means by which measurement is carried out is seemingly different for each too. Net-a-Porter is auditing all of the brands themselves with the agency they’ve brought on – interviewing the key players involved to determine whether what they “say” is true, is actually the case. One of the biggest challenges in this space is proving there’s authenticity in what is being shared – and not just because of falsified information, but often because the brands involved think they’re more sustainable than they really are. A rigorous approach to selection and curation is therefore essential. 

It’s for that reason Net-a-Porter has only put forward 26 brands right now of the 800 it sells. The plus side is that it’s doing that curation on a product-by-product level, not just at the brand level. There can of course be a big difference in sustainability from one piece in the collection to the next, which must also be taken into consideration. 

Yet that also makes this a huge undertaking for the business. An enormous amount of resource needs to be involved, making the likelihood of scalability another challenge. 

ASOS by comparison has over 3,700 products included in its Responsible Edit, and says it’s going to be adding new products daily. Though this isn’t clarified, presumably those are not each independently verified – again for reasons of resource versus scale. 

Again, this is an indication that what we’re talking about here are different qualifiable definitions, standards and methodologies, and not quantified ones. 

And yet achieving the latter is incredibly difficult at present because of the fact there just isn’t enough data available to enable it. The majority of the fashion industry has no true view of its own supply chain. Can we categorize individual products as sustainable against individual criteria? Yes. But can we truly show depth of impact? No. 

I know this from our work with Google. We’re building out a data analytics and machine learning tool powered by Google Cloud technology that will enable fashion brands to make more responsible sourcing decisions at the raw materials stage of the supply chain. Without that, a lot of this is guesswork, or it’s a case of global averages and assumptive results. 

Creating regulated measurement for the industry is of course intensely hard. There have been numerous attempts already, but nothing that has been universally accepted under that umbrella phrase of “sustainable fashion”. Some of the strongest ones out there that could achieve this remain either too hard or time-intensive to use, or indeed just not proven as accurate enough yet. 

As an alternative, there are a multitude of standards and certifications brands can choose from to help them on this journey, but that space is also overrun and confusing, not to mention costly. One only needs to look at the enormous list Net-a-Porter is referencing on its breakdown of categories to see what I mean here. 

Without any unification on this, where does this all move down the line? Because frankly, we really need it. 

Two weeks ago, we also saw the UK government reject 18 recommendations put forward by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) to help move this space forward. Among them was the suggestion that government should oblige retailers to ensure full traceability in their supply chains to prove decent livelihoods and sustainably sourced materials. Without the role of regulation, we’re at another stalemate. It’s each for their own in terms of defining what is right and what is wrong, creating ambiguity at a time when consumers increasingly want to be told and thus guided.

Here’s the other thing: fast fashion brand BooHoo.com, as with others before it, just announced a new line called “For the Future”, which sees 34 pieces made from recycled polyester. Yet the brand was one of many that came under scrutiny for its standards more broadly in the EAC report. So the question is, even if this new collection is quantifiably better for the environment and for the people involved in making it, if the mainline brand is not, does this make it a better business overall all the same? 

Or rather, is this an example of brands jumping on a new market opportunity both because the consumer demand is growing and the industry expectation is there? In which case, the alternative we’re facing right now is the question of where the line is on greenwashing? Seemingly it’s moving ever more rapidly to a place that’s harder to identify. 

The result is that all of this presents more questions than not. Due credit goes to many of these businesses for moving in the right direction with their sustainable edits particularly, but there needs to be a common and quantifiable set of standards and measurements for us to all understand and use for the long term if we’re to achieve true change. 

How are you thinking about sustainability? 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. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
e-commerce product

Rapha launches custom cycling kits on demand

British cycling brand Rapha has teamed up with software company Unmade to launch a personalized design service that enables customers to create their own team kits.

Rapha Custom allows cyclists to design their team’s own kits by starting from a template, and then choosing from a variety of layouts (such as plain or chevron) and over 40 color combinations. To further personalize it, they can upload their team logos and add text. The software will then show photorealistic renders of the final design onto any photography, including lifestyle imagery of a group in any location-based scenario. Designs are digitally printed on demand, and delivered within eight weeks.

“When launching Rapha Custom we looked to address some of the biggest constraints for groups of cyclists creating custom kit,” said Ed Clifford, head of Rapha Custom. “The market was crying out for a design led and fully digital customer experience that was seamless in manufacturing and delivery. Unmade’s software provides us with a best in class system that is fully automated and integrated throughout the entire process.”

Traditionally, creating a custom team kit requires long lead times and a poor experience for the user, as well as from a production perspective, high manual involvement in the design and production of it. This service however offers brands seamless integration through a dedicated platform within the e-commerce site, and a much more efficient customer journey as a result.

Rapha Custom
Rapha Custom


“At Unmade it is extremely important for us to work in partnership with forward-thinking brands who share our vision for creating real change within the fashion and sportswear industries, through bespoke experiences and collections that are both innovative and efficiently manufactured,” said Hal Watts, co-founder and CEO of Unmade. “Working in collaboration with the world leading cycle brand Rapha has allowed us to expand our capabilities from a knitwear focus into print.”

Beyond the customer-facing element of this service, Rapha will also be able to create time-limited content or designs for special editions, partner collaborations as well as internally, bespoke products on-demand for prototyping and short runs.

How are you thinking about e-commerce 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.

Categories
Editor's pick product technology

Adidas and Foot Locker team up to co-create sneakers inspired by consumers

adidas is strengthening its strategic partnership with US footwear retailer Foot Locker by introducing an initiative that will co-create sneakers inspired by consumers at various moments throughout the year. The pilot will deploy the sportswear brand’s SPEEDFACTORY production process, which creates limited runs of shoes on-demand up to 36 times faster than industry standard lead times.

“We’re working with Foot Locker to create incredible product for consumers and deliver it faster than ever before,” said Zion Armstrong, president of adidas North America. “With its cutting-edge technology, SPEEDFACTORY is enabling us to reach this shared ambition. We’re excited to kick off this first-of-its-kind partnership with Foot Locker and co-create the future together.”

The initiative aims to reflect the three strategic choices of Adidas’ 2020 business plan called Creating the New, announced back in 2015: Speed, exemplified through SPEEDFACTORY; Cities, wherein the group has strategically selected six key cities globally (including Tokyo and London) to disproportionally invest in marketing and retail; and Open Source, which aims to bring in external collaboration in order to spur more creativity and innovation.

The shoes, which will fall under the Made For (AM4) SPEEDFACTORY line, will be introduced across the country at various cultural and sporting moments of the year. The first run, called the AM4ATL (pictured), will be a collection of running shoes and cleats celebrating different heritages and cultures of players who make up a team and showcase how they are united as one. It will debut on pro football players during a game this week and be available for purchase online and at select Atlanta-area stores.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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.

Categories
e-commerce social media

Design your own high heels: Sergio Rossi showcases WeChat mini-program

Sergio Rossi on WeChat
Sergio Rossi on WeChat

Personalization previously only existed in a high-end couture world for private clients. Now, Italian luxury shoe brand Sergio Rossi grants a similar sense of privilege to a wider range of consumers and delivers it right to the fingertips of Chinese customers with a new WeChat campaign that showcases the brand’s ambitions to court digital-savvy Chinese consumers. 

Launched on September 10, customers can access the personalization service through Sergio Rossi’s WeChat mini-program. The homepage includes an English-language video, demonstrating how consumers can design a shoe. They can experiment with a wide variety of elements to create their very own Sergio Rossi shoe – from the material, color and length of the heel to plate and customized letters. And the vehicle, the WeChat mini-program, empowers a one-stop shopping experience, from design and payment to social media sharing. 

Participating customers can see how each customization option alters the price of their shoes in real time. Of course, design decisions need to be made carefully, as there is no refund or return option for the customized footwear once it is ordered. Thankfully, the mini-program provides a 360-degree digital preview, which can help customers gauge the look and feel of their personalized footwear.  

Sergio Rossi on WeChat
Sergio Rossi on WeChat

Sergio Rossi is trying to harness the direct-to-consumer luxury trend in China. Such personalized experiences not only allow the company to better cater their productsto consumers, but it also represents a valuable marketing opportunity for the company.

According to CuriosityChina – A Farfetch Company, who helped conceptualize and launch the campaign, the mini-program has already garnered substantial traction in China.

This WeChat mini-program campaign debuted after Sergio Rossi announced its partnership with brand management and distribution company Luxba Group earlier this year.

By Ruonan Zheng

This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a content partner of TheCurrentDaily: Design your own high heels: Sergio Rossi showcases WeChat mini-program 

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent 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.

Categories
Editor's pick product

Madewell launches sustainable denim dyed with shrimp shells

Madewell 'Eco Collection'
Madewell ‘Eco Collection’

Madewell has launched a new line of sustainable denim that uses shrimp shell fibers in the dying process, significantly reducing the use of chemicals and water needed during manufacturing.

The J.Crew-owned brand is working with the Candiani mill in Italy to use its Kitotex® product, which is made with byproducts of the food industry (such as thrown away shrimp or lobster shells) to dye textiles. The exoskeleton of crustaceans contains chitosan, which is a fiber that helps bind dyes to fabric, while eliminating some of the chemicals traditionally used in the manufacturing of denim.

By using Kitotex and organic cotton also supplied by the Italian factory, Madewell’s Eco Collection is using 65% less chemicals and 75% less H2O than conventional material.

Once the fabric has been manufactured and dyed it gets sent to Saitex, the same Vietnamese factory responsible for G-Star RAW’s and Everlane’s sustainable denim. The factory recycles 98% of its water and turns manufacturing waste into bricks for affordable housing.

Madewell 'Eco Collection'
Madewell ‘Eco Collection’

For this inaugural collection, the American label is launching six styles of eco denim, from jeans to overalls. This is a part of its fall 2018 launch, which also includes the introduction of bigger sizes to 40% of its collection. Recently, J.Crew’s CEO Jim Brett has also noted that the brand will soon be launching a menswear line for the very first time, which should help push it towards its billion-dollar goal.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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.

Categories
Editor's pick Podcast product

Shoes of Prey on beating the odds in the customization market

Shoes of Prey
Shoes of Prey

For the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators, Liz Bacelar chatted to Jodie Fox, co-founder and creative director of online custom-made shoe platform Shoes of Prey, about the company’s eight-year evolution and how they plan on changing the way women buy and wear shoes.

For Fox, the brand’s success in offering customized shoes at on-demand speed, lies in owning the whole manufacturing process, which is where a lot of other similar companies fell short during the customization boom in 2010, she says.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

In its early stages, selling the idea of building a factory that would do one shoe at a time was met with a lot of negativity. The company now employs 200 people, however, most of which are based out of their own factory in China, and can have a pair of shoes in the customer’s hands in under two weeks.

Shoes of PreyThe importance of creating a company anchored in technology means that as fashion evolves and becomes more embedded with tech, Shoes of Prey is at the perfect standing, Fox explains.

“One of the things we as a brand are really lucky not to have is legacy (…) Traditionally fashion is a very creative environment and I do believe that there is that desire to be innovative, but the way we get those ideas into market is still very broken. And that’s one of the key places that technology can power to simply be fashion,“ she says, stating that fashion and technology shouldn’t be mutually exclusively as they can both leverage one another.

Liz Bacelar and Jodie Fox
Liz Bacelar and Jodie Fox

As a consumer, Shoes of Prey offers over 10 trillion combinations of a shoe’s design, which include changing heels, silhouette and colour. Although the company began by offering a blank canvas, it soon realized the importance of striking the balance of giving consumers choice, but not overwhelming them. For this process, the input of a team of designers has been crucial in creating a controlled yet flexible shopping experience.

The platform also enables shoppers who once considered customization cost or time-prohibitive to see it as a tangible choice, particularly for those who fall outside the standard shoe sizing sold across the West, a group which Fox states 77% of women are part of. For the founder, it is surprising that shoe sizing has remained untouched for so long, which means consumers have become accustomed to the fact that wearing certain shoes – such as heels – won’t always be comfortable.

Fox, who alongside her two other co-founders has raised $30.6 million for Shoes of Prey since launching in 2009, says success has come from leveraging a simple rule of innovation: by being an industry outsider (in her case, with a background in law) she was able to find a common problem, and create an unbiased solution for it.

“One of the reasons why Shoes of Prey managed to make a difference is probably naivety, and not being indoctrinated in the expertise of manufacturing in the industry,” she says. “You can’t let expertise get in the way of an idea.”

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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.

Categories
business data digital snippets e-commerce film social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Browns’ new tech store, Gucci’s millennial advisors, Amazon’s fashion gap

The new Browns concept store in east London
The new Browns concept store in east London

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past fortnight.


TOP STORIES
  • Browns opens a nomadic concept (tech) store in London’s Shoreditch [Wallpaper]
  • Gucci has a “shadow committee” of millennial advisors [QZ]
  • Amazon ‘still has a long way to go’ in conquering fashion market, says report [BoF]
  • Alibaba’s 11.11 shopping festival is ready for its biggest global event [BrandChannel]
  • Opinion: What’s wrong with fashion’s sustainability strategy [Glossy]
  • ‘Terry Richardson is just the tip of the iceberg’ [NY Times]

BUSINESS
  • Hilfiger says making clothes in America remains unrealistic [Bloomberg]
  • H&M denies burning good, unsold product [Racked]
  • Greenpeace on why fashion is at a crossroads [FashionUnited]
  • Vogue and Vice are starting a new website together [Jezebel]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • You can now PayPal friends in Messenger and get help via chat [TechCrunch]
  • WeChat is becoming a sales tool for luxury brand sales associates [Jing Daily]
  • Snap’s misfire on Spectacles [The Information]

MARKETING
  • Sephora cast its own store employees for its most diverse campaign yet [Racked]
  • Selena Gomez is party-ready in Coach’s glitzy holiday ad campaign [Fashionista]
  • Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter unveil “Party with the Porters” holiday campaign [TheIndustry]
  • The land of Fenty: The Rihanna masterclass in brand-building [BrandChannel]
  • Why visceral storytelling is the next brand-building territory [LeanLuxe]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Take a look at Apple’s first ‘Town Square,’ its most beautiful retail store yet [TechCrunch]
  • Now Amazon wants to leave a package inside your house [Marketplace]
  • The most successful e-commerce brands build for mainstream America, not Silicon Valley [Recode]
  • Hudson’s Bay to sell Lord & Taylor Fifth Avenue store to WeWork [RetailDive]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Target.com rolls out augmented reality experience for smartphones [StarTribune]
  • The Under Armour ArmourBox: Subscription gear handpicked by an AI [BrandChannel]
  • Walmart’s Store No. 8 showcases the future of VR [RetailDive]
  • Nike’s focus on robotics threatens Asia’s low-cost workforce [CNBC]
  • Wal-Mart’s new robots scan shelves to restock items faster [Reuters]

START-UPS
  • How Stitch Fix’s data-driven styling could boost its IPO value [Bloomberg]
  • Harvey Nichols partners with Bink on “Payment Linked Loyalty” [TheIndustry]
Categories
Editor's pick product technology

Loewe unveils 3D printed bracelet in new menswear campaign

Loewe's autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign featuring the 3D printed bracelet by VOJD Studios
Loewe’s autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign featuring the 3D printed bracelet by VOJD Studios

Loewe has teamed up with Berlin-based VOJD Studios, which specialises in 3D printed luxury goods, to produce a bracelet made from a newly developed ceramics material. The design was unveiled as part of the Spanish brand’s autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign shot by Steven Meisel.

Made from VOJD’s ceramics compound, a durable and flexible powder-based material processed via selective laser sintering, it is printed in one piece as an oversized interlocking chain, which then requires no assembly.

“Loewe approached us with the idea of a bracelet they really wanted to work on but couldn’t realise with other technologies because it would have been too heavy if made of metal. We managed to realise it through 3D printing in our ceramics compound – once metalised the final piece looks like metal,” VOJD Studio explains.

Loewe's autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign featuring the 3D printed bracelet by VOJD Studios
Loewe’s autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign featuring the 3D printed bracelet by VOJD Studios

The company offers consulting on material, finishing and technology suitability, as well as design, development, prototyping, manufacturing and finishing. It has already worked with other fashion houses including Alexander McQueen, Carolina Herrera and Akris on integrating 3D printing into their collections. A big long-term focus centres around personalisation.

“3D printing is already starting to re-shape several industries, including fashion, by introducing new possibilities and concepts. Probably one of the most talked-about features of the technology is its ability to build customised and personalised pieces, since each one is printed separately and there is no mold requiring the manufacturing of a large number of identical products. In the near future, this can lead to an increased role of the consumer in the ideation and creation of the final product they desire,” the team adds.

“Besides that, 3D printing enables design solutions and complexities impossible for other technologies. This, combined with the introduction of new materials and material properties over the next years, can direct the aesthetics of the future and transform most creative industries.”

Loewe's autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign featuring the 3D printed bracelet by VOJD Studios
Loewe’s autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign featuring the 3D printed bracelet by VOJD Studios

Loewe's autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign featuring the 3D printed bracelet by VOJD Studios
Loewe’s autumn/winter 2017/18 menswear campaign featuring the 3D printed bracelet by VOJD Studios

Categories
Editor's pick Startups sustainability technology

Unmade: the London start-up ‘publishing’ clothing on-demand

Unmade

For those in London this festive season, there’s a pop-up shop in Covent Garden worth taking the time to visit. Unmade, as it’s called, is tucked down an unimposing side street off the main piazza. Away from the street entertainers and busy Christmas shoppers, it’s a minimal showcase of a knitwear brand currently considered one of London’s most disruptive start-ups.

Sweaters, scarves and a full-sized industrial knitting machine are on display. You can’t walk away with an item there and then, but you can use iPads to design your own and have it made especially for you thereafter.

And that’s the USP. The name “Unmade” comes from the fact no garment is finished until you, the shopper, come and complete it.

Born through frustration at the fashion industry’s stagnant approach to mass-consumption, it’s about bespoke, personalised knitwear, produced on-demand, yet at an industrial scale. Think of it as a 3D printer for fashion, yet using the same machines that make up the $200bn knitwear market worldwide.

Head on over to Forbes to read my interview with co-founder Ben Alun-Jones.

Categories
business Editor's pick technology

Robots rule: Adidas to open robot shoe factory in 2016

adidas_speedfactory

Poor working conditions. Inability to meet demand. Slow trend response. They’re all consequences of the move to low-cost manufacturing in factories many thousands miles from brands’ creative centres… until now, that is.

Fashion has finally got what the car industry has known for decades – robots can make a difference, a BIG difference.

A German factory mainly operated by robots will open next year and be ready to make its first Adidas shoes, a reversal of the trend that has seen the company shifting production to Asia where over one million workers currently make its footwear.

The Speedfactory near the Adidas HQ will make its first 500 shoes in 2016 with full commercial production by 2017. Later there’ll be Speedfactories in the US too.

The aim is to get production closer to the company’s biggest markets, to offer super-fast response to trends and to produce the more personalised shoes customers want.

But it’s not about cutting costs, we’re told. It would have been ironic if cost was a factor as it was the main reason production moved to Asia in the first place.

Asian manufacturing will stay, albeit with less of it in China where wage costs are rising. Instead this new development is more of a complement to those production locations, a new way of thinking about production and an initiative that rivals are likely to try to match.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday