Blog: Leonie BarrieDigital pieces of the fashion supply chain take shape

Leonie Barrie | 12 June 2017

The digital pieces of the fashion supply chain puzzle are starting to come together, according to executives at the recent Texprocess apparel technology trade show in Frankfurt, Germany.

And they advise that not only does digitalisation have the potential to provide agile support for existing products and reduce time to market for new ones– but that now is the time to start planning to make digital part of your strategy.

The use of robotics in the apparel production process is a frustratingly elusive panacea, but fully automated worklines for T-shirts and workcells for jeans operations are finally on the horizon – and with them the potential to disrupt and redesign the traditional clothing supply chain.

The latest figures from the US show the volume of apparel imports climbed in April, with six of the top-ten garment supplier countries booking gains – including double-digit hikes for both Vietnam and China. But Bangladesh recorded yet another decline in apparel imports into the US.

Unrest in Bangladesh over workers’ attempts to form a union at several factories, as well as ongoing concerns over worker safety, continue to weigh on buyers’ sourcing confidence.

However, China's leading position as the top textile and apparel supplier to the European Union (EU) is continuing to be eroded by the increasing competition from other production zones, a new report shows.

Just days after floods and landslides ravaged parts of Sri Lanka, the country's apparel manufacturers warned they may need more time to honour current orders. But they are also confident the sector will recover so that 2017 exports are not seriously affected.

And a sudden shortage of leather in India, prompted by government religious policies on reducing cattle-related trades, is forcing major fashion brands to look for alternative sources of supply.

Confronting child labour in the complex global garment industry will require brands to commit to a collaborative supply chain mapping process that prioritises trust and transparency, a new research project has found.

And the International Labour Organization (ILO) is to set up a global network to share information and data following corporate calls for help to prevent forced labour and human trafficking.

The unexpected result of last week’s UK general election raises a number of questions for the country’s economic prospects and future position of the retail sector – with the uncertainty of what happens next likely to be more damaging than any policy.

Brick and mortar companies cannot compete online: if they try, they will lose, and they will lose hard. We take a closer look at why brick and mortar is not dead, but is just being mishandled.

Meanwhile, in other news, Under Armour has introduced a new platform for customising its athletic shoes; C&A has launched the first T-shirt certified to the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Gold standard; and Millard ‘Mickey’ Drexler is to step down as CEO at J Crew.

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