Blog: The only constant is change

Petah Marian | 4 April 2013

It's easy to forget how much the apparel industry has developed over the past 30 years. The apparel sector has evolved from being a slow moving local industry, with few suppliers based a short distance away, to the complex, fast-moving business it is today.

Rapid advances in technology, combined with rising affluence in many traditional sourcing countries have driven these changes, and mean that the pace of development is only going to get faster.

Speaking at an event looking at the 'Past Present and Future of Fashion Business', Morag Ashworth, consultant at Maitrise Consulting, described how the UK fashion industry progressed through the 70s and 80s and the shift from one with suppliers that were relatively close to home and easy to communicate with, to one with a base that was largely in the Far East.

Back then, the challenges were working with Telex machines, the slowness of drawing designs by hand and then posted to manufacturers.

From there, faxes "revolutionised" how companies worked together, said Ashworth, as it meant that companies no longer had to post images and designs to their suppliers.

In the 1990s and 2000s the rise of email changed things again, but led to the supply chain becoming increasingly complex. Multiple points of contact within brands led to confusion on the manufacturer's side about which version they are working from.

Now, PLM systems are working to ensure that everyone involved in a garment's design and development are singing from the same hymn sheet.

All of this has meant that most retailers will produce 10-12 collections per year, when previously they only had to manage two.

The industry is now poised for further revolution as smart phones and tablets provide new means of communicating information, and faster and more mobile internet connections improve its flow.

On the supply side, this will mean factories will be held more accountable, with companies able to ensure products are coming out of the correct factories, with geo-located images, and real-time feedback on audits.

But the key thing to remember is that with every new innovation comes a new challenge. Back in the old days, the problem was speed and a lack of information. These days, speed is still of the essence, but challenges of distance create their own problems.

Tomorrow, who knows? But the only thing of which we can be certain is that the only constant is change.


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