After Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger announced that they will start offering ready garments right after shows as well as launch men’s and women’s collections at the same time, also fabric manufacturers, garment makers and insiders consider how the production process might change, even if many of them think that the revolution already started a while ago.

Shortening times
Many are praising Burberry’s decision despite the fact that in the fast fashion market and vertical chains it already happened - no one in the upmarket segment dared to take such a step as overtly before. This step needed to be taken more generally though. The whole market needs to shorten processes in order to be closer to real life, international socio-political events, market and consumer needs - especially in times when internet, social media and smart devices keep people informed and connected in real time.

Similarly, also fashion needed to bridge long time gaps from design to availability for purchase. According to Paolo Gnutti, creative director of ITV, those are almost biblical times: “If we count the regular time a brand needs between devising trends, conceiving a collection, having it produced and delivered we can count about two years. This is a far too long process! Finally now it will all speed up incredibly for much more brands.” And continues while referring to the fact that in the past retailers – and consequently designers and product managers – most often placed their orders without knowing what trend would be highly coveted, but simply according to generic projections, when less variants than today influenced tastes and the purchasing process. “Today no one can afford to produce – nor buy in the dark anymore,” continues Gnutti. “Today at ITV we can produce fabrics in four weeks thanks to generally faster rhythms and inputs we get from the market.”

Partnerships count
Some fabric manufacturers believe that serious planning, consumption analysis and closer partnerships with their clients will help them facing this revolution. Fabio Adami Dalla Val, fabric and textile expert and consultant for M&J garment manufacturer, comments: “A typical case study I came across when graduating as industrial engineer was how Benetton group managed production and deliveries in the 1990s.

Roughly simplifying: for each knitted top they sold they had to plan in a sheep in Southern America that had to produce one kilo of wool more. Planning is everything.” And by transferring the idea to the denim business, he continues: “Today a denim brand can offer a jeans collection by ordering, for instance, four fabrics. By treating them differently they can obtain 50 distinct fabric variants. By guessing how many items they sell in a specific period they can calculate an indicative fabric order that remains stable through seasons or years. Though all this can work under one condition only – a collaboration or partnership between brands and fabric manufacturers.” And continues: “Producing 1,000 meters of fabric for a small brand or a capsule collection offering about 1,000 items out of that is much more different than providing denim for 400-500,000 pieces. It requires a totally different organization.” And continues: “I sometimes like to think that the future of fashion could become more similar to what other industries are following. Take, for instance, automotive industries or Ikea. They often launch new products whose lifetimes last for three-four years.” The idea could be interesting, but where will creativity and R&D end-up? Wouldn't the fashion industry risk to face some kind of flattening? For Dalla Val this is not the case: “Products may change in part by employing different fabrics or adding new details or incorporating new functions.”

Flexibility and productive capacity
According to others, also important is a company’s flexibility. “Almost no one has been focusing on this old two-season approach for a while,” commented Marco Lucietti, Global Marketing Director of Sanko/Isko division. “The market is almost entirely following semi-fast fashion rhythms. Though it all requires flexibility and productive capacity. We are already organized in this direction in order to serve the market: we can guarantee our customers over 3,000 different product variants because so much has changed in the last years.”
Besides denim, other fabric manufacturers believe they can already manage the faster rhythms of the modern fashion market.

Eurojersey, Italian manufacturer of Sensitive, a multifunctional and versatile fabric employed in most segments from activewear and sportswear up to pret-à-porter, believe they won't have to change their strategies. "Our company is used to just-in-time rhythms,” commented Andrea Crespi, general manager of Eurojersey. “Our industrial set-up follows very fast delivery rhythms thanks to a single verticalized productive plant hosting weaving, dyeing, printing facilities and logistics all in the same location. We think this new step can mark an additional business opportunity that can help keeping the value chain short.” Continues Matteo Cecchi, sales manager, Eurojersey: "Our production times are already highly competitive for the clothing segment. We have actually already adapted our productive system in order to become more flexible and fast when answering tailor-made requests for colors and prints.”

Forget seasons
According to Lucietti, another major factor pushing the industry changes - influenced by different consumers' purchase behaviors - are climate changes. “Most companies are focused on offering collections that are based on multiseason needs. If you consider a wardrobe – apart from very heavy items like coats and down jackets or super lightweight ones such as shorts and lightweight skirts – all the rest can be worn all year long. Plus if in winter there are, for instance, 20 degrees in Italy, one has to offer an even wider range of materials. And this is even more true when it comes to jeanswear.” Also in this case, the industry is already prepared offering a wide range of products available all year long.

Logistics counts
Burberry already started selling products during fashion shows in real time a few seasons ago because they wanted to be much closer to the youngest consumers and show them how much they care for them by getting what they want immediately, the real push factor in this whole process has been the consumer. “Driving this revolution are the Millennials,” commented Erica Corbellini, teacher at SDA Bocconi during a recently held convention organized by PLM Centric Software. “This type of consumers were born between 1984 and 2000. They are highly educated, demanding and individualist consumers. They have a high-spending capacity, are very skilled and savvy in using mobile devices, always searching for the best products and buying them via mobile. They cannot bear patience because of their internet-addiction. For this their motto is: ‘I want the best and I want it now’.”

It’s a matter of time
“In order to be able to satisfy consumers in advance with the dernier-cri products and trends right after catwalks, companies have to be highly organized,” continues Corbellini, meaning that they have to get the right raw materials and be equipped with the right software and logistic platforms for pattern and sample making, quality control and other key productive processes. During the PLM Centric Software convention other case histories were presented. Among them Furla and Balenciaga expressed how both of them could optimize their design and productive process by skipping in-between processes, avoiding long travels or meeting their designers and product managers in different parts of the world.

Time saving is the best ally – now more than ever before.