Green Queen Alt Fashion Monthly | May 2021 Edition | View online
ALT FASHION TREND OF THE MONTH: DEMAND PLANNING
Every month, we’re exploring major trends & technologies that are looking to solve some of the fashion industry’s biggest issues. This month, we’re taking a closer look at Demand Planning.
Many fashion companies don’t plan their stock well, and end up with massive amounts of unsold inventory. This creates an issue: brands can either directly mark down prices (and risk brand-damaging discounts), resell via solutions like On The List, redirect to outlet malls such as Bicester Village in the UK, or, in extreme and scandalous cases like Burberry, burn their excess stock.
All options affect the product margin or bottom line, and none are good enough in terms of reducing fashion waste. Enter: demand planning.
“The future of demand planning will rely upon new technology and consumers slowing down to reflect on their purchase decisions.” – Sarah Garner, Founder at Retykle
The real issue is that brands and fashion houses are creating the waste in the first place. Demand planning could improve sustainability along the entire fashion value chain. While redistribution helps to a certain extent, and there are brilliant companies out there taking the excess in hand, proper forecasting should avoid waste altogether.
It’s all about aligning supply and demand. This means relying on accurate forecasts of consumer demand to efficiently allocate, replenish and transfer inventory as well as to optimize pricing throughout the season.
Sarah Garner, Founder at kids’ fashion resale platform Retykle, told us: “Excess inventory is a built-in cost of doing business in fashion today and ballooned since the 90s when all brands began racing to keep pace with fast fashion. The anticipated seasonal sell-through of the average fashion brand is between 80-90% at the end of the markdown period. Residual inventory is the result of misallocated demand and supply.
The industry is moving towards better tooling and predictive demand planning that will allow for targets to be 100%. The shift towards advanced or custom ordering will lead customers to make more considered purchases, which in turn will decrease impulsive and compulsive shopping, decrease returns and brands will have the opportunity to better match their supply and demand.”
Having been a Buyer/Merchandiser in a previous life, I know that planning is tricky. It’s often manual, based on complex, unhelpful data, and done with a certain amount of ‘gut feel’. The whole industry needs better tools and solutions. AI technologies have the power to increase sustainability from production all the way to the point of sale:
Reducing over-production and impact on raw materials. The fashion industry produces 20% of the world’s water waste, and according to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, not to mention the toxic chemicals that are released in the production process.
- Reducing the impact of the distribution of goods. If fewer are produced, fewer are shipped around the globe. With the fashion industry emitting 10% of the world’s greenhouse gases, this would have a huge impact on its carbon footprint.
- Reducing the loss of margin through markdowns or redistribution.
- Intelligent price optimisation ensures that retailers can clear out inventory by the end of its lifecycle, minimising waste, because textiles can take up to 200+ years to decompose in landfills. Its focus on core styles in a limited range of fabrics gives it better purchasing power, which translates to better consumer pricing.
WHO’S DOING IT WELL?
- The Digital Disruptor: Stitch Fix, Inc. offers personalised boxes for consumers and has seen double-digit growth in Q1 2021 but reduced its imports by 6.9% YOY. Instead of showcasing a wide variety of options to consumers, its ‘curated’ model means that it can maintain a leaner inventory.
- The Plucky Upstart: Suspicious Antwerp has created a unique following through its focus on unexpected collection drops, limiting the availability of its products, and using influencer marketing. It uses an AI sizing tool to limit returns of its custom sizing, and shuts down its site in between pre-order drops.
- The Mega-Fast Fashion Player: Uniqlo‘s product planning, design, manufacturing and distribution capabilities are all in-house, which means that it is able to stay close to customer needs based on what customers are buying in its stores, allowing it to save costs on overproduction or unnecessary overheads.
FUNDING & INVESTMENT
💡Clothing and home goods marketplace Vinted recently announced the closing of an all-equity round of EUR€250M (approx. US$303M). As a result, its value now stands at approximately US$4.5 billion, a significant jump from its end 2019 US$1 billion valuation.
Why it’s important: founded in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 2008, Vinted currently has operations across 13 markets including the U.K., U.S., France, Germany and the Netherlands, and has established itself as one of the largest online secondhand C2C marketplaces in Europe. It will use this funding to further increase its foothold and expand its operations. It also plans to extend its offerings to users uploading and selling goods for a charity of their choice and to facilitate those that buy to donate to charity.
PARTNERSHIPS & LAUNCHES
💡Material science company Pangaia recently joined forces with connected products innovator Eon to launch ‘digital passports’ for its products in an effort to promote transparency, traceability, and circularity in the fashion industry as well as encouraging responsible consumer behaviour.
Why it’s important: through the technology, consumers will gain access to the product’s origin, its path to purchase, transportation, and aftercare. In addition, the system will allow consumers to map the garment’s production and distribution facilities. Through visibility around lifecycle data and aftercare guidance, Pangaia hopes that the shelf life of the products will be extended. Founder and CEO of Eon, Natasha Franck, said: “Through product digitization, Pangaia is redefining the relationship between brands, products, and customers – pioneering an entirely new model for sustainable commerce and taking a mission-critical step towards realizing a fully circular business model.”
💡Reports of global sportswear behemoth Adidas and sustainable shoe company Allbirds working together to develop a near-zero carbon footprint shoe dominated last year, and now the wait is over.
They have partnered on a running sports shoe dubbed Futurecraft.Footprint, that boasts a carbon footprint of 2.94kg CO2, which they claim is the lowest carbon footprint ever recorded for a shoe.
Why it’s important: a traditional running shoe produces about 12.5 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions as calculated by Allbirds, and Adidas states that the new pair has 63% fewer emissions than its own Adizero RC3 sneaker. The shoe is made of a compound that utilizes Allbirds’ sugarcane-based SweetFoam, lending a low-carbon natural component to the footwear. In addition, the upper material is created with 70% recycled polyester and 30% natural Tencel, a material developed out of wood pulp that provides a lightweight upper built for high performance.
💡Designer lifestyle brand Tommy Hilfiger announced its Spring 2021 Tommy Jeans ‘Luv the World’ capsule, in an effort to extend the lifespan of its products, facilitate 100% recycling and promote creative ways to upcycle.
Why it’s important: the mono-material styles promote circularity, as all garment components from fabric to trims to branding are developed from around 98% of a single fiber, further enabling the entire product to be recycled after use.
“The TOMMY JEANS ‘Luv the World’ capsule goes beyond end-to-end social and environmental sustainability considerations. It aims to inspire fans to join us on our mission to create a more circular, inclusive future of fashion.”
– Tommy Hilfiger
💡Swedish startup Returnado, which focuses on the process of return and helps brands across the globe promote a circular economy, is working with slow fashion brand ASKET in its new Revival Program. The aim of the partnership is to prolong the life cycle of garments long after their return period through the new Returnado Rescue platform.
Why it’s important: CEO and founder of Returnado, Haider Abdo, said given that the company is one of the leading providers of online returns technology, the team realizes that it is critical to break the fashion industry’s linear production model. “By extending the life of an item, we also extend the life of the resources required to make it.
That is why when ASKET, a brand synonymous with ending over consumption, reached out to Returnado about doing this project, we were more than happy to collaborate and use our knowledge and tech to support their vision. We are delighted to be able to open up this technology to help brands all around the world move towards more holistic and sustainable business models.”
💡On a mission to divert the piles of fashion waste from landfills, a new repair and restore service has opened up in Hong Kong to help breathe new life into your old clothes. Instead of throwing out your preloved pieces, customers can bring them to the just-launched Fashion Clinic, where “fashion surgeons” will redesign everything from garments to handbags to lengthen their lifespan.
Why it’s important: Fashion Clinic wants to close the loop of our unsustainable consumption cycle, and make sure that our clothes can be worn, then repaired or even completely redesigned so that they can be worn again and again, because “fashion should not be disposable, and being fashionable should not be wasteful”.
CONSUMER TRENDS & NEWS HIGHLIGHTS
💡American denim brand Levi’s recently launched a new campaign ‘Buy Better, Wear Longer’, designed to raise awareness about the environmental impacts of the apparel industry, that features Jaden Smith, Xiye Bastida, Melati Wijsen, and Marcus Rashford among others.
Why it’s important: 76% of all Levi Strauss & Co. products, and 70% of all Levi’s bottoms and trucker jackets are developed using its water technology that follows certain water recycling regulations thus saving more than 4 billion liters of water and recycling nearly 10 billion liters of water since this was implemented. Its methods are open-sourced and available for anyone in the industry to adopt. Jennifer Sey, Brand President at Levi’s commented: “We are using this campaign to encourage consumers to be more intentional about their apparel choices: to wear each item longer, for example, to buy secondHand, or to use our in-store Tailor Shops to extend the life of their garments,” so its approach covers all bases.
💡In the fall of last year, global athleisure brand lululemon unveiled its impact agenda, marking its commitment to an equitable and sustainable future, and pledging to limit its environmental impact by creating products from alternative materials and end-of-use solutions. To reaffirm this commitment, the brand is launching two new sustainable initiatives this May: the lululemon Like New Recommerce program and the Earth Dye product capsule.
Why it’s important: According to the company, if a shopper purchases an item from the lululemon Like New program they could save 50% of the product’s carbon footprint and 310 gms of waste. The limited-edition Earth Dye collection will feature clothes created with earth-friendly dyes upcycled from the waste of oranges, beets, and saw palmetto trees, that require less water, carbon and chemicals than conventional dyes.
💡After ten years of organising secondhand pop-ups and setting up a permanent headquarters in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong, in June of last year, environmental charity Redress has converted the space into a permanent curated secondhand clothing and accessories shop. The Redress Closet offers consumers an opportunity to buy pre-loved clothes and reduce the impact of their wardrobes on the environment, continuing the brand’s mission of reducing textile waste.
Why it’s important: the shop aims to address Hong Kong’s massive textile waste problem, with data from the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department showing that on average 339 tonnes of textiles were thrown away every day into the city’s landfills in 2019, a whopping increase of 56% from 2011, with 50% of these figures attributed to clothing.
ROUNDUP OF THE MONTH: ETHICAL BRAS & ECO BRIEFS
💡 We’ve put together a list of our favourite eco-friendly underwear labels, who are not only ticking boxes for being ultra-cute, but are also taking the health of the planet and humans seriously.
Why it’s important: sustainability is taking over the entire fashion industry, and underwear brands are no exception – there’s nothing pretty about unethical or environmentally-unfriendly bralettes or briefs. Let’s face it, underwear is essential, and these brands have you covered.
ALT SNEAKER CRUSH OF THE MONTH
Hails From: Brooklyn, New York
Mission: “Because we believe that the end of life of a product should be considered from the very beginning, we take a reductionist approach to designing our shoes,” states the brand on its website. “The result is a product that is completely new to the footwear industry, built by applying modern technology and heritage techniques to plant-based materials.”
Claim To Fame: For the beta-launch, the Kengos Lace-Up was available as a limited-edition sneaker to be tested amongst a small group for 30 days. After the trial, the company used feedback from questionnaires and interviews with the designers and founder of the brand to improve the shoe for the final product. We can’t wait to see how it turns out!
Alt Tech: Called the Kengos Lace-Up, the modern and clean-looking vegan sneaker is made using four main plant-based materials that make up an astonishing 98% of the entire shoe. The footbed of the shoe is made from natural cork bark, a self-regenerating resource harvested from southern Portugal, while the upper and laces are made from the brand’s trademarked Amaize fibre, a durable material derived from corn. The outsole of the shoe is made from natural rubber, and touted to be as durable as a work boot while decomposing 35-times faster than the average outsole in landfills, and the knitted upper of the sneaker lined with eucalyptus, which gives natural antibacterial properties.
The global fashion industry is going through a major reckoning. Unethical supply chains, unsustainable materials, fast fashion, over production, textile waste, labor exploitation, microfiber pollution, lack of diversity, size discrimination…We need brands, manufacturers and designers to CHANGE, from top to bottom.
Circularity, alternative materials, upcycling, renting, preloved- this is what the industry should (and will) look like and our Alt Fashion newsletter is here to inspire and inform with a monthly roundup of the top sustainable fashion headlines you need to know across Asia and beyond, including new startups, funding news, industry trends, product launches, event highlights, inspiring interviews and more. We know you’ll love it.
Today’s edition was brought to you by Nicola, with graphics designed by Ana.