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Technology & Sustainability in the Sewn Products Supply Chain


This month, as Behind the Seams explores technology in the sewn products industry, we also wanted to briefly highlight another topic that is becoming more and more intrinsically tied to technology: sustainability. Sustainability takes on many different forms and meanings when it relates to supply chains and sewn products, from environmental impact to human rights to the most basic definition of simply being able to sustain operations long-term.

Below is a compilation and analysis of recent news articles exploring sustainability, technology, and the sewn products industry.

As Sourcing Journal pointed out in its 2020 Material Innovation Report, many of the recent technical advances in textiles center on reducing environmental footprints, specifically through the use of recycled raw materials and the creation of biodegradable textiles. Even as the fashion industry overall struggles with the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a surge in material innovation as companies look to create fabrics that can play a role in protecting consumers.

CGS — SPESA member and global provider of business applications — surveyed more than 2,000 individuals from the U.S. and U.K. for its 2020 Retail and Sustainability Survey to learn how sustainable products and business practices drive their fashion, apparel, and footwear buying preferences. Although many consumers have drastically changed their shopping habits since the start of the pandemic, sustainability continues to be an important driver for brand loyalty and pricing (slightly more so in the U.K. than the U.S.). As ecommerce becomes the norm for shoppers stuck at home, CGS suggests that brands and retailers be considerate of end-to-end sustainability, from material sourcing to product packaging.

Another SPESA member and technology specialist, Lectra, recently acquired data analytics company Retviews and conducted a survey of sustainable fashion among leading fast fashion brands. The survey determined the Covid-19 crisis could be a turning point for fast fashion brands to change the way they design, produce, and distribute their products in a bid to act more sustainably. Retviews said the pandemic has given many people the desire to live more meaningfully and act responsibly.

Interestingly, many reports indicate that brands that have focused on sustainability and created shorter, transparent supply chains, will have an easier post-pandemic recovery. Read More: Green Brands Have a Head Start on Fashion’s Post-Virus Recovery - Bloomberg - May 1, 2020

Flora Davidson, co-founder of SupplyCompass, said it best: “technology is the thing that allows a lot of the key requirements within sustainability to be scalable, affordable, and fast.” Implementing technology allows companies to have transparency in their supply chains; transparency allows companies to identify and correct problems and build sustainable operations.

Utilizing technology in product development can help companies reduce waste throughout production. At a high level, this includes many of the tools and solutions SPESA members have been promoting for years, such as on-demand manufacturing which cuts out the risk of unsold inventory. Or even on a much smaller scale, a fashion designer using a tablet to mock up products reduces the amount of paper used.

Over the past few months, more and more companies have embraced the use of 3D technology for sampling, sizing, and virtual showrooms. 3D digital value chains reduce waste across the board.

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