Companies in the apparel industry have spent the past two-plus years deeply reflecting on how they treated their employees, suppliers, and even the planet. The smart ones emerged wiser and are laying the foundation for a stronger future.
“Sometimes you need a bump in the road to make you stop, think and see what could be done differently,” said Abby Jamal, founder and managing director of ZXY International. Large global companies have even more skin in the game. The end-to-end apparel solutions company employs over 800 employees, with 120 partner factories in Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.
With a glance at the pandemic that created corporate and social shockwaves, Jamal looks ahead to the future with five central tenets to pave a smoother future.
Smart investments pay off during unexpected uncertainties
ZXY had already grown digital development investment and capability since 2012, utilizing CLO and Optitex, so digital was already a good place to ramp up when the pandemic hit. Now, it is even more prevalent.
“I truly believe we did the right thing by investing in our Design & Innovation team when the company was founded in 2002, and since then have implemented major enhancements every few years,” Jamal said. “We knew we needed to keep giving innovation to our partners and that the pipeline of newness was needed more than ever. With travel not being an option, we realized quickly we would need to do things differently.”
Today, nearly 80 percent of ZXY’s 40-person design team was trained by the CLO trainers via online sessions, and it is fast becoming its predominant form of prototyping. Another positive of such digital investment is that Design team members are based globally (Dhaka, Istanbul, Tirupur, Barcelona and Rome), so teams can keep researching newness even if international travel closes again. “This strategy keeps us ahead of the field and able to provide regular design proposals for our brand partners.”
Being a good partner means more than just doing your job
“We are not operating as a typical buying house, merely taking on work, passing it to the factory, then handing the product back to the brand when complete. We do not operate as a ‘postman’ service,” Jamal said. “Being a dedicated hands-on partner means we are committed to every stage of the process from innovation, design, raw material sourcing, product engineering, risk analysis, compliance, production & quality control, up to delivery to our partners. We take on the full responsibility and accountability. Our brand partners rely on us to deliver constant innovation, which is even more true now.”
Tough times must never sacrifice sustainability efforts
With so many pressing concerns today, including geopolitical, economic and health uncertainties, companies cannot afford to abandon existing or forward-looking sustainability efforts.
“We are in a solid position to lead eco-friendly or low-impact fibers, finishes and production processes because of their work throughout the last 3-year period,” Jamal said. “The work that [director of innovation and sustainability] Mou Nath and the sustainability teams did on new fibers and processes during lockdown was incredible, and we are carrying this effort forward.”
Relationships create a strong future
There are lessons learned from the pandemic, but one of the most important is the value of human interaction. “You can never underestimate the power of a phone call!” Jamal said. “The world we live in is ‘tech-tastic,’ and while instant messages and emails are great, some of the most critical conversations I had during the pandemic were with our customers and partners on the phone or video call.” In addition, checking in today is no longer just about business, said Jamal.
Employees and extended employees must feel safe and BE safe
Workplace safety must span the physical, the virtual and the emotional, and the effort a company puts forth on all three realms will be returned with enhanced team spirit, commitment and productivity.
“We felt like a family before, but I was taken back by the team’s all-hands-on-deck mentality during the pandemic. No task was too big, and nothing seemed impossible,” said Jamal, specifically mentioning the work the ECM (Employment Care Team) and facilities teams did to keep everyone safe throughout. ZXY added on-site healthcare with doctors on call available for consultations and made all offices Covid-safe to the highest standards. ECM regularly checked in on remote teams.
To learn more about ZXY International, click here.