Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Julie Pont, fashion and creative director of trend forecasting firm Heuritech, discusses the impact of incorporating data into creative processes and the cost of fast fashion.
Name: Julie Pont
Title: Fashion and creative director
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
I don’t have any particular knowledge of the supply chains of other industries, but from an external point of view, the automotive industry and the food industry seem quite efficient in their process. And this is mainly by their ability to calculate costs with multiple parameters and to anticipate problems. To do this, they surround themselves with innovative solutions that advance their businesses. I think it’s starting in apparel but it’s still tentative, and a lot of things are just changing.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I would say that I am demanding and attracted by quality and originality. I like unique products and discoveries.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
The coherence of the brand between its values, its aesthetics, the experience and the quality of the products. Commercial efforts—such as gifts or personalized promotions—as well as the personalization of the customer experience are a plus.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
A vintage shirt or blouse, straight pants, a pair of heels or vintage Paraboots.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
The moment when art and craft and fashion mutually influenced each other. I like the ‘50s a lot too.
Who’s your style icon?
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
The company undertook a hunt for superfluous costs, which led to streamlining a lot of the budget, especially marketing. It made us realize that while we were effective, we could do as much with less. We were able to allocate [marketing] savings to other budget items and also explore the implementation of new employee benefits.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Our culture is based on autonomy, freedom and ownership. We, therefore, favor flexible schedules between time in the office and teleworking, all punctuated by team-building meetings. We are a very young company—the average age is around 28—and our corporate culture is marked by this, which has surely shaped this DNA.
What can companies learn from Covid-19?
Each company is different, but I have the impression that most have become aware of the importance of being agile in all circumstances and quick to anticipate any event by rationalizing the cost-benefit balance as much as possible. They understood that the data on which they relied to make their decisions were sometimes too limited and that changes in the economic environment could now happen from anywhere. For those operating in B2C, Covid will also have been an opportunity to observe that consumers are more and more volatile and that the channels to reach them are becoming more and more complex and expensive.
Covid has also drastically changed work life and relationships between colleagues. Remote work completely changes the game in HR.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Rationalizing and reducing collection plans to get the best out of them, namely products that are desirable to the greatest number. To do so, it must analyze the desires of consumers with more acuity and without bias. Past sales data is not sufficient to understand a market and benchmarks are limiting. Consumers are more alert and more connected, and their desires are constantly changing, especially among the youngest.
Trends no longer just spread from leading brands or celebrities. Influences come from everywhere and make the markets difficult to decipher. This is why at Heuritech we seek to quantify and forecast weak signals as much as possible and modulate our recommendations on macro trends with more precision—by geography, by trend behavior, etc. The reduction in the waste of raw materials and finished products may result from this better prediction of real needs and the anticipation of tomorrow’s desires.
What keeps you up at night?
Mainly environmental issues as well as the generalization of a certain form of celebrity of the mediocre. From an apparel industry point of view, the galloping growth of ultra-fast fashion companies and their glorification by some who consider their success beneficial from an economic and financial point of view. The environmental and human cost is too high to show any pride.
What makes you most optimistic?
The fact that the word “sustainability” is now a bit overused. This means that it has passed into everyday language, that it is part of the obvious. Young children seem to no longer question the necessity of certain actions, they simply do them. The search for quality, simplicity and reuse is spreading among a certain category of consumers, and I bet that will continue.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
We are a trend forecasting company that allies fashion expertise and AI power to spot and forecast trend behaviors on the market on a SaaS platform. To do so, we have developed several features, including a “Trend Radar.” We recently improved our Trend Radar view to help customers have a snapshot of the top trends across categories at a glance. Trend Radar now gives a forecasted state of the play, simultaneously providing five top trends in four categories: colors, fabrics, prints and shapes.
One hundred percent of our trend catalog—including 1,100-plus more granular trends—can be now accessed via Trend Radar. It is now possible to view macro trends specifically for the categories of interest—for example, colors for tops, prints for dresses, and more. Why? To support the creative process from the early ideation stage. The overview of the hottest trends encompassing all the categories at once helps you envision a future collection, in which all elements are interconnected to serve as a medium of communication.