5 links in the fashion supply chain

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a young owner of a fashion merchandising company

Clothing designers, manufacturers of fabrics and ready-made garments, transport suppliers, distributors and retailers directly to consumers are part of the clothing supply chain. The supply chain in the fashion industry is divided into five key links:

1. Design

Fashion designers choose fabrics, ornaments, cuts and finishes for clothing items and carefully plan each silhouette. They often develop versions of current trendy styles or design unique pieces on the runway that define new trends. In addition, designers are often in charge of the rest of the supply chain.

2. Textile production

Every garment needs raw materials; therefore, textile production is important. Textile manufacturers weave, dye and spin fabrics and additional materials for the final product.

3. Manufacture of wearing apparel

Garment manufacturers follow the designer’s instructions for cutting and sewing fabric into wearable pieces.

4. Distribution

The distribution phase is complicated because manufacturers produce raw materials and ready-made garments around the world, and then import them to basic markets.

Manufacturers deliver to stores or use a distribution center that serves many retailers. The key to a successful distribution chain is organization. A well-organized supply chain has thorough monitoring, enabling companies to manage and optimize transportation and stay on top of inventory management.

5. Purchase of the end user

Finally, the customer buys an item that completes the supply chain. They can buy it in a physical store, buy online or use the “buy online, download in store” option (BOPUS). This segment depends on logistics and transport management.

The primary drivers of the fashion supply chain strategy are market forecasts and projections. Manufacturers and designers produce textiles and garments in anticipation of future demand. The items are then subsequently “pushed” into end-user stores.

Technology and fashion supply chain

Fashion companies automate the supply chain using technology for better efficiency. For starters, AI technology helps companies process customer data to determine where they need to direct their energy to improve the supply chain process.

Companies are also investing in cloud-based technology to improve communication. This technology makes it easier to document each step, making the process more efficient.

To enhance internal communication through real-time data sharing, warehouses and distribution centers even have wearable technology such as smart glasses and smart watches.

Most of all, technology helps fashion brands be more transparent about their practices. The need for sustainability is growing, so companies are finding ways to be more sustainable. This is important for reaching the millennials and customers of generation z who prioritize sustainable, ethical practices over brands.

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