The design part is the intangible section of work in a value chain that could give the highest return.
In the fast fashion world, not only the manufacturing, transportation, distribution & marketing has become speedy but also the designing process. Fast fashion brands are looking for all solutions to speed up the process of introducing new design bringing new ideas and products.
As designing requires a great understanding of the market need, mostly this is being done in the zone close to the fast fashion market. The brands invested in the design studio and product innovations mostly close to their selling points in the west. However with the increase in complexity in consumer demand and so in design requirements, fast fashion market is demanding all sorts of variation in material, color, effects, appliques, feel drape, comfort, outlook and many more.
Designers at the west naturally don’t have much latest feel and knowledge what is happening on the ground in the manufacturing world. As the supply chain is very fast and changing pattern every day, people close to the manufacturing can contribute ever more to design and development for fast fashion.
And so a new trend is very clear in apparel value chain is that designing is gradually shifting at the manufacturing places. However the biggest reason for this shift is not only the increasing complexity of the products and its backend supply & manufacturing, rather it is the cost pressure. Fast fashion competition is putting pressure on every stage of the value chain and now the companies are looking for all options to reduce cost. They are digging out not only in manufacturing stages but also in design and development process.
If the product development and designing remain at the manufacturer’s end, the brands enjoy multiple cost advantages. These are:
As designing requires huge investment and if the manufacturers do this, it is a great saving for the brands.
If the brand chose a design from manufacturer end, the learning curve and the development process get much shorter and costs get
Manufacturing a product designed by an insider is always efficient and cheaper than that of an outsider.
If the manufacturer builds on their ‘core competence’ and that matches the taste and position of the brand, it brings a win-win situation. This is the synergy that can solve the biggest challenge for all parties in fast fashion; gaining ‘competitive advantage’.
So this trend is bringing a great opportunity for the apparel manufacturers in Bangladesh and other similar countries to invest more in design and product development. This will not only increase profitability but also give more control and negotiation edges in the value chain. The fast fashion brands have to support this process for their need now. So, manufacturing companies should invest rapidly in building design capacity and infrastructure.
Factory Tales section of this issue covers some outstanding success stories of investing in design and product development.