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Innovation in Fashion Report: fashion’s chain reaction

As speed to market increases and new product technology is created, innovation will be the secret to success, as our latest report shows.

How many times have you walked into a high street store to find the rails stacked with a completely new collection of garments? Today it is commonplace, as global retailers such as Zara call on the might of their global supply chains to satisfy the increasingly insatiable demand from consumers for fresh, on-trend product.

An inability to react to such trends, particularly at the fast-fashion end of the market, will put any business on the back foot. To cope with this new retail reality where cycle times are faster than ever before, retailers must adapt, innovate and look to add value at every stage of the supply chain. It is better to think of it as less of a supply chain and more of a value chain, whereby every person that has an involvement must come together to add value and make things work seamlessly.

With this in mind, we bring you our annual Innovation in Fashion Report for 2014, in association with retail software provider Infor. This report has been created to look at the innovative approaches fashion retailers and brands are taking to improve their business processes. Over five features, we look at how they are doing just that.

Of course, for any business it all begins and ends with product. Our first feature within the report examines the advances being made in the textiles and production arena. One innovation here that could have a serious impact on fashion retail is the developments being made in 3D printing. We take a look at US-based 3D clothing printer company Electroloom, which - unlike traditional 3D extrusion printers that melt plastic and deposit it layer upon layer - uses electrospinning to lay down fibres such as polyester and cellulose, as well as polyester blends and spandex, onto complex 3D structures. In the future the process could incorporate natural fibres such as cotton. Created by engineering students Aaron Rowley, Joe White and Marcus Foley, the technology is being scaled up to print full garments that incorporate an adjustable structure, rather than the static structures it produces currently. They hope that the technology could reach consumers within a year.

Companies such as P2i are producing nano-coated fabrics that repel liquids - ideal for sports, performance and outerwear - while Qmilk produces fibres from milk that are temperature-regulating, inflammable and have ultraviolet resistance, perfect for use in garments. Meanwhile, Spanish yarn manufacturer Nylstar’s Meryl Hyaluronan polyamide yarn offers benefits including an anti-ageing effect for garments worn next to the skin. And with consumers demanding more from their garments, it’s hard to ignore the rise of wearable technology - provided by London fashion label CuteCircuit, among others.

You don’t have to look far in the fashion arena to find examples of innovation, with some companies bringing the kind of fresh thinking to the market that all brands and retailers should take note of. Our second feature picks six of the most innovative new and more established companies that are leading the way.

‘To cope with this new retail reality, retailers must adapt, innovate and add value at every stage of the supply chain’

Examples include YR Store, part of Bristol-based interactive design technology company Luma. YR Store offers live ‘all over’ printing, with a focus on bold prints. Liberty, Selfridges, Topman, Topshop and Nike have all taken note and collaborated with the company on concessions or designs. Another example is ModCloth, which since its launch in 2003 has added functions such as allowing its users to vote for what product they want to see on the site.

One inescapable fact is that the consumer is now well and truly in the driving seat, with businesses listening and adapting to their wants and needs, rather than presenting them with a pre-determined set of options. In short, we have moved to a demand-led supply chain. This means a continuous supply of fresh product, which not only puts strain on retailers, but also on suppliers, logistics providers, and systems. Our third feature looks at how fashion retailers and brands are overcoming these hurdles by streamlining communications to help different departments such as design and buying to communicate better internally, as well as externally with suppliers.

Of course, technology can help them do this more efficiently, and as a result product lifecycle management (PLM) software is becoming increasingly important to manage the complex structure of a global supply chain with multiple products on different lifecycles. The trend towards new ways of working can also be seen in the growing use of technologies such as RFID - radio frequency technology - as seen with fast-fashion group Inditex’s recent commitment to installing it in all Zara stores by 2016 to help improve inventory accuracy.

All of these moves are designed to enhance the value chain, benefiting everyone at every stage from manufacturing through to retail. And with competition in the market so fierce, those that fail to adapt their business models will be the ones left behind.

We hope you enjoy this report and, as ever, we welcome your feedback.

  • To download the full Drapers Innovation in Fashion Report 2014 visit The report is free to download - all you need to do is fill in your details.

The report includes features on the following -

1. Improving communications in the global supply chain

2. How retailers are investing in the latest IT technology to keep pace in an omnichannel world

3. New fabric innovations, including wearable technology

4. Product lifecycle management is being used to speed up the time it takes to get fashion from design to shop floor; 5. Six fashion start-ups that are doing things differently

Readers' comments (2)

  • Id love to read the report but I cant access it!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Hi Catherine,

    You can download the entire report for free as a PDF. The report, along with others, is hosted on our home-page. You'll find a number of them in grey spin-blocks on the right hand side of the home-page.
    Here is the link for this one:

    All you need to do is fill out your details.

    Very best,

    James Knowles
    Features and special reports editor

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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