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Inter-Disciplinary Collaboration is Shaking Up the Apparel Industry

In recent years, collaborations within the apparel industry have not been limited to just one sector. From Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) to intimate wear and sportswear among others, collaborations have become key to fulfilling the evolving habits of consumers who are demanding more from the products they choose to purchase.

The ensuing blurring of lines has led to an increased need for products that suit and adapt to all aspects of a consumer’s lifestyle, and are able to blend performance and functionality with comfort and style. This shift has transformed the industry value chain. However, to ensure the long-term competitive value of inter-disciplinary collaborations, it is important not to neglect quality.

The global apparel industry is no stranger to this trend, with more and more brands seeking to diversify their product offerings in response to consumer purchasing patterns. Consumers are expecting more from the fashion industry, with a renewed emphasis on comfort, versatile functionalities and increasingly, sustainability.

Brands such as Nike, which arguably paved the way for collaborations with designers such as Riccardo Tisci and Virgil Abloh, have been blurring the lines between comfort and high fashion. Sportwear is helping to drive this change due to the emergence of new technology that can provide consumers with an innovative new product. One such example is Under Armour’s Athlete Recovery Sleepwear, which aids recovery through infrared technology treatment in the fibers. These inter-disciplinary collaborations are a physical manifestation of consumers looking to seamlessly blend their lifestyles and needs.

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Looking beyond sportswear giants, however, collaborations are also evident between brands and suppliers. Corporations have been looking out for what consumers and customers want, and adapting their supply chain and product offerings to suit. These collaborations are reflective of what consumers want, but ultimately echo a need to address how the global apparel industry intends to remain competitive. Especially so when it is faced with increased pressure to keep up with not only industry innovations, but also apparel trends. This can be done by improving the entire fashion industry ecosystem, both horizontally and vertically, and understanding exactly what consumers what from their products.

One such change has emerged from growing awareness of the negative impact production processes tied to fast-fashion have on the environment, such as in the UN Climate Change Report. In turn the adoption of sustainable practices and integration of high performance, high comfort sustainable fibers will have a positive effect on the environment.

The Lenzing NEA Summit 2018 recently held in Taiwan, sought to address issues around the negative impact of fast fashion by bringing together leaders from across the global apparel industry. The Summit was also the first event held by Lenzing to integrate both the vertical and horizontal value chain across the textile market.

With participants from leading manufactures and quality fiber mills, the Summit explored a wide range of cross-industry applications offered by products such as Tencel branded fibers. The range of applications under the Tencel brand, such as Tencel Intimate, Tencel Active, Tencel Denim, and Tencel Home allow fashion brands and industry partners to explore further possibilities while delivering the qualities consumers are seeking. Such offerings are indicative of how inter-disciplinary collaborations are shaking up the apparel industry and seeking to integrate new technology into their eco-system. Yet to continue to drive this change, producers and suppliers throughout the industry need to work together to look at the entire industry value chain.

Inter-disciplinary collaborations have pushed the industry to look beyond just delivering fast-fashion products at low prices, and adopt processes that offer customers products that deliver more in terms of quality, value, sustainability and comfort. But more needs to be done to ensure the long-term success of the apparel industry value chain.

Just as industry giants like H&M have sought to address vulnerabilities in their supply chain, the global apparel industry must follow suit. Platforms such as the Lenzing NEA Summit are part of this process, as they facilitate discussion inside the industry. In addition to providing a platform for engage across the industry, there needs to be a heightened emphasis on quality. Brands will need to choose to partner with producers and suppliers who use high-quality fibers to ensure long-term competitiveness of inter-disciplinary collaborations. This collaboration and integration across the horizontal and vertical value chain will benefit the entire industry, creating a win-win situation in the long run.

Judy Chen does Global Business Development – Innerwear, for Lenzing.