I was given plenty to think about after the Drapers Fashion Summit last Thursday, which attracted a couple of hundred delegates to enjoy a series of presentations on internationalisation.
One of the most stimulating talks for me came from Anastasia Charbin, worldwide fashion marketing director for Lectra, which specialises in integrated technology systems for the industry and was a co-sponsor of the conference. She pointed out that the distinctions between brands, retailers and manufacturers that were once regarded as the norm are now being bent and blurred into a new hybrid business model. Think of how many brands go straight to the consumer through their own shops and websites to understand what she means. Also consider the voracious appetite of Li & Fung, once ‘just’ a supplier of clothes for other people’s labels, to buy up brands, especially UK heritage brands.
Charbin also highlighted how, against a background of consumers becoming more sophisticated and price savvy, fashion firms need to evolve their processes to meet growing demands for newness, quality and better price-to-value. To compete in the market and reduce time to the consumer, companies must evolve their supply chain management into a fully integrated supply flow model. It all makes perfect sense, but changing systems and working practices is easier said than done.
Lectra’s analysis can be applied to so many aspects of the industry, from how the design-to-sampling process needs to be shortened and speeded up to how independent retailers need to alter their buying patterns so they are placing more orders in season to increase the opportunity of selling more clothes at full price. Suppliers, however, need to be offering more appropriate in-season stock, so the whole question is an integrated one. In some cases the changes may have to be swift and radical; in others the approach may have to be one of constant evolution. In this instance, it is well to remember that in fashion the only constant is change. With the assistance of informed experts like Lectra, Drapers intends to bring you more examples of successful change management in our feature pages.
One sector that is in a state of flux is trade exhibitions. Our December 14 edition will carry our seasonal listing of the major fairs worldwide - and it is a long list. I enjoy visiting trade shows to catch the mood and meet with contacts, but, like many of you, I have to be more and more selective about where I go.
The likely non-appearance of Stitch in London in February and the ongoing problems of Bread & Butter in Berlin are reminders of the sector’s volatility. While Stitch never captured the imagination of many in the casualwear/streetwear area, until a few seasons ago BBB was an unmissable forum for brands and buyers. Now it is struggling to respond to the sort of changes Anastasia Charbin referred to, notably that many large brands are more interested in selling direct to the consumer than finding new trade partners.
There was a poignant reminder of the importance of people in our industry this week with a memorial gathering on Thursday at the Polish Hearth Club in Kensington to celebrate the life of Henri Strzelecki, co-founder with Angus Lloyd of Henri Lloyd. The genial and charismatic “Mr Henri” died on December 26 last year aged 87 and his sons Martin and Paul, who now run the Manchester-based company, wanted to bring together friends and colleagues who had been unable to attend the funeral last winter. As a pioneer of developing technical clothing, mainly for yachting, Henri was a fine example of how to embrace and initiate change. To create a fashion brand from such a specialist technical focus was a superb achievement from an inspirational man.
On the subject of yachting, I’d like to remind readers that Mark Newton-Jones, former boss of Shop Direct, is currently crew member in a transatlantic yacht race. His 17 or so days at sea are in the cause of the Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust and Children with Cancer UK. You can contribute by going touk.virginmoneygiving.com/MarkNewtonJones
Finally, a correction: last week, due to misinformation from M&S, I wrongly credited my smart new overcoat to Cheshire Clothing when, in fact, it was made by The Clothing Works in Corby. Credit where credit’s due.