Brand Profile: Taylor Stitch

The fashion industry is ripe for a little disruptive innovation. For years, we’ve had a system that changes with the seasons, introducing new products just a few times a year to stay in sync with the weather. This lumbering beast is quickly going extinct: the introduction of the fast fashion business model rendered this old method obsolete (or just a very quick way to go out of business). Retailers are scrambling to adapt, testing the waters of fast fashion in an attempt to stay relevant to consumers. This spring for example, select Gap stores will start the season by bringing in small batches of new styles. Once they’ve gained traction with customers, the stores will quickly place reorders for any strong sellers.

On paper, fast fashion is genius: it mitigates risk and allows retailers the flexibility to react to trends in season. Instead of front-loading their inventory (using all of their budget to bring in product at the beginning of the season), they bring in small test capsules of new styles and reserve a portion of what’s called their “open to buy” – the money they have in their wallets to spend on new merchandise for their stores. Once these initial capsules start selling, they have money available to place secondary orders and replenish their stock in the most popular styles. What if a style isn’t tracking well with customers? No problem – they didn’t buy very much of it to begin with, so it won’t clog up their inventory the way it would if they’d bought into it heavily before ever testing it in the market. Continue reading

Material Files: PVC

Vegan leather. Sounds chic, no?

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“Vegan Leather” bag at Urban Outfitters (now sold out)

It’s also an oxymoron. Vegan. Leather. One negates the other. Yet the phrase has become so commonplace that, until recently, it didn’t even occur to me to ask – what is “vegan leather” anyway? Continue reading

Brand Profile: Boerum Apparel

We live in an age with very few secrets. News travels fast, making it much trickier to carry out cover-ups successfully. As consumers, this is important. It means we can charge companies with the responsibility for cleaning up their mess, owning up to their mistakes, and acknowledging the role they’ve chosen to play. Critical for the success of this process, however, is access to information. Without it, we are rendered powerless.

A common misconception about the fashion industry is that those on the inside hold the key to all of its secrets. It is assumed that in order to know the truth about where our clothes come from, one has to become part of the system – that on the other side of some invisible wall lies the information we seek. Often times this isn’t the case: on the inside there is just as much confusion as there is on the outside.

This is the reality Teel Lidow, founder of Boerum Apparel, stumbled upon when he set out to create his line. Tracing the supply chain back to the beginning turned out to be a fruitless endeavor – locating the starting point is impossible when only half the story is accounted for on paper. For this reason, Teel created his own starting point and built his entire supply chain from there. Continue reading

COO: There’s More to the Story

When I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, I remember imagining how sweet it would be to come back to the States toting a new Italian handbag: made in Italy, and purchased while living in Italy (you can’t get much more Italian than that). Anticipating this moment made reality’s betrayal even more poignant: I quickly learned that the bags being sold on the streets of Italy weren’t actually made in Italy. Instead, they were made in China and received their beautiful Made in Italy labels upon their arrival into the country.

My vision, which consisted of a little family-owned workshop where the craft of making leather bags had been honed and cultivated across the span of several generations, was crushed. The bags in front of me seemed fraudulent: resting on the laurels the Made in Italy label had worked so hard to earn. Attaching the label was supposed to make me think the bags fit into my vision of what Made in Italy stood for, without actually holding up their end of the deal.

After an experience like this, you can’t help but question the validity of COO (country of origin). Continue reading

Runways and Growing Pains

Picture this: you are a womenswear buyer for a department store. This month (February), you are traveling to visit each of your vendors’ showrooms to see their new fall collections. Your schedule is completely booked: at each appointment, you discuss business with the other buyers over light refreshments and then take your seat in a well-lit room. Right on schedule, the presentation begins. Models slowly circle through the audience, pausing every so often to showcase the details and features of the clothes they’re wearing. The designer talks about each piece – its construction, materials, and pricing – and takes you through the entire line one-by-one. During the show you take notes and decide which items will work best in your stores. About an hour later, the presentation concludes. You linger afterward to speak with the designer about the inspiration for the line, inspect some embroidery detail on a dress that you thought particularly eye-catching, and ultimately place your order. By Friday, you’re exhausted and ready to head back to your office. All in all, it was a successful week of fashion shows.

Wait a second. Something’s missing…

Where were the celebrities and the paparazzi and the bloggers?

Did you say the designer was there to talk to people?

Why did the show take so long?

Aren’t models supposed to walk fast? Continue reading

Luxury Leading The Way (Again)

The names Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, and Alexander McQueen have very strong connotations for consumers all over the world. Even for those of us who have never been a customer, each name stands for something. Luxury, craftsmanship, heritage, and quality are a few of the words that come to my mind. Expensive and aspirational might be others. If I asked a group of 100 people, I’m sure many of these characteristics would surface again and again. One word I am fairly certain would not make an appearance? Sustainable. Continue reading

Made In: Myanmar

In the never-ending search for cheaper labor, the fashion industry has landed on its next target: Myanmar.

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This isn’t Myanmar’s first appearance in the garment sector. In the early 1990s, apparel production companies began making their way into the country as demand for imported garments increased in both the United States and the EU. Being the only industry in the country able to connect with global and regional production and distribution channels, the garment industry grew rapidly: as a percent of Myanmar’s total exports, the garment industry grew from 2.5% in 1990 to 39.5% in 2000 – around USD $868 million. At its peak, it reached a size of 400 firms and 300,000 workers. By 2000, more than 50% of Myanmar’s apparel exports were making their way into the US. Continue reading