Fast fashion and speed to market were at the forefront of conversation at this season’s edition of Fashion SVP, as buyers asked for smaller minimums and shorter lead times.
The sourcing event on 16-17 January at London’s Olympia, got off to a “buzzing” start as buyers from Boohoo Man, N Brown Group, Lipsy and Shop Direct were among visitors spotted speaking to prospective clients.
New features at this season’s show were the Fashion Station – an area that provided advice for people entering the industry – and The Trend Edit, which showcased new trends and designs.
Eight seminars (see boxes, below) took place throughout the two days, starting with a panel discussion on sustainable sourcing, the advantages it can bring to business, and the threat of microfribe pollution. The speakers also featured included Angela Gaskell, head of sourcing at N Brown Group, who spoke about building flexibility and growing a long-term sourcing strategy, while Richard Benson, director of Guide Clothing, highlighted the importance of good supplier relationships and using this to leverage growth.
“All of the first day was busy,” said Mak Toor, director at Leicester-based Oaktarget Garments, which exhibited at the event for the first time. “Buyers have been on the smaller side, but JD Williams, Shop Direct and Boohoo were here.”
Debra Kitsell, business development manager at manufacturing and wholesaling company Haddow Group, agreed the first day was busier than the second: “It’s hard to keep track of how many contacts we’ve made. It may sound like things are dire in the industry at the moment, but they aren’t. There’s been a real buzz here and it has spurred us on.”
She added that requests for lower minimums were common, adding there had been a “sudden change” in the past six to 12 months towards requests for smaller orders: “The overall quantity being ordered is the same, but in more instalments.”
Hardeep Khatkar, merchandiser at supplier L & Co Apparel, also said that “shrinking minimums” were a constant at this year’s event: “Now it’s all about price. Disposable fashion triggers the need to get something new in quicker, and consumers get bored. It’s all about disposable items at the moment.”
Activewear was also a common query among buyers, said Khatkar: “Everyone is asking for sportswear. It used to be popular [among consumers] in January, but now it is all year round.”
Vicky Topaloudis, senior sales director at manufacturer New Age Clothing, said retail’s shift towards ecommerce has been a key instigator of change: “There’s been a shift away from traditional retailing, and there have been a lot of changes as a result, particularly in relation to speed to market.”
Ricardo Rocha, marketing manager at manufacturer Rorene agreed: “Speed is going to be the future – buyers always ask for a [short] lead time, and it’s very difficult to deliver within a week.
“But it isn’t the only factor at play. [Manufacturing] is going to be more about product and delivering good quality to customers, too.”
Visitor numbers were up 35% on the previous winter edition. Buzz Carter, event director at Fashion SVP, said the show had a great reaction overall: “This is the second winter show we’ve done and we’re comfortably up on the first winter show, and seminars have been packed. The flow of people has been steady since the doors opened, and it’s been busy throughout.
“The industry is changing, and manufacturers must be more proactive. They can’t be waiting for the phone to ring – they have to be on the front foot.”
Sourcing and social media
In his seminar session Jon Tromans, CEO of digital marketing training business JTID, highlighted the importance of social media in clothing sourcing. Not only can a business learn about its customers with the right use and monitoring of hashtags, he said, but about their competitors too as a careful utilisation of apps, influencers and platforms provide a competitive edge.
Is the fast fashion era over?
Chaired by Drapers deputy editor Kirsty McGregor, The White Company’s clothing director Barbara Horspool, Vivienne Westwood’s international head of couture Brigitte Stepputtis and George Clothing’s senior director Melanie Wilson joined together in a debate about fast fashion and ethics. As consumers want their product quickly, they concluded that fast fashion is far from dead, but that retailers must ensure their supply chain is transparent to maintain consumer trust.