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European High End Apparel Firms Team Up to Solve Sourcing Problems

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It’s rare for competitors to collaborate, but some of Europe’s luxury and premium apparel firms are working together to solve their common sourcing problems.

High end apparel manufacturing requires custom garments and special fabrics. Production orders are far less than the usual mass-market order, without the cost savings of large-scale runs.

So, a number of luxury and premium European apparel firms have formed a new “High End Fashion Cluster.”

“The big challenge in premium apparel sourcing is that the traditional manufacturing clusters have disappeared or lost their competitive edge,” said Jan Hilger, director of operations at high-end women’s wear seller Escada.

Escada has a presence in 80 countries, with 1,100 retail outlets throughout North America, Europe and Asia.  The firm is among those that banded together to collaborate on sourcing.

High-end apparel firms face continual challenges these days.  Principal among them are pricing, innovation, sustainability and performance.

Escada’s Hilger proposed the following as a means of surmounting these issues:

“The time is right for re-thinking and breaking up paradigms about the way we source and produce premium and luxury garments today,” she said, at the 28th IAF World Apparel Convention in Oporto, Portugul, last September.

Supply chain sourcing developments was one of the featured themes discussed at the meeting of apparel industry people from the world over.

Discussions were also held on integrated planning, logistics, cost cutting and sustainability, all concerns of the new High End Fashion Cluster participants.

At the convention, Hilger cited the disappearance of traditional manufacturing clusters.

“This has made this part of the market less competitive, with every cluster dying…we lose competence,” Hilger said.

“As with most manufacturing, volume is important.  The solution to these sourcing challenges has been…for luxury firms to team up and work together as a High End Fashion Cluster,” Hilger continued.

Bottom line, according to Hilger, is “when we put ten women’s wear brands together we suddenly have the volume and importance.” High End Fashion Clusters have been “working very well” for about a year and a half,” Hilger said.

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