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Up Close: In Conversation with Shima Seiki’s Hayato Nishi

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, Hayato Nishi, public relations manager at knitting machine manufacturer Shima Seiki U.S.A. Inc., discusses his company’s move to help customers make PPE and the need for demand-driven production.

Hayato Nishi Shima Seiki
Hayato Nishi, PR manager for Shima Seiki U.S.A. Courtesy

Name: Hayato Nishi

Title: PR manager

Company: Shima Seiki U.S.A. Inc.

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?

Although no industry truly has a complete grasp of their supply chain, I would say the food and beverage industry has shifted their supply chains to respond to the needs of the consumer. In recent years, we’ve seen a drastic shift in people wanting to know where their food is sourced from, who made their meal, and purchasing at local farmers markets that support the communities around them. In addition, organic groceries and products are increasingly becoming the norm. For beverages, there has been an increase in microbreweries with localized production and more attention towards natural, organic and sustainable wines.

These eco-conscious decisions we make on the things we intake have shifted the marketplace for food and beverages to supply more of these demands. Fashion can learn from these by trying to reduce middlemen for increased transparency and clearer understanding of the products’ origins. With more visibility into the products’ sustainable story, customers can have a better reasoning to make a purchase. They can feel that their purchases are supporting everything from eco-friendly materials, sustainable manufacturing practices, a brand with solid core values, and eventually helping the environment. All just by choosing to purchase a sustainably made product over an imported product created in massive quantities at a low cost.

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How would you describe yourself as a consumer?

I would say that I am an old-school shopper. I still prefer seeing products in-person, then checking online to see if there are any cheaper options available.

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

The story behind the product is what wins my loyalty. If the brand is focused on sustainable practices, it helps me feel comfortable with wearing something that I can support. In addition, having a personal touch would also draw me to purchase an item.

What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?

Definitely something that includes a baseball cap, T-shirt, thrifted vintage pants and a pair of sneakers.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

I would say the ’80s and ’90s, when fashion became more casual.

Who’s your style icon?

Pharrell Williams.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?

Shifting to create knit programs for Wholegarment 3D knitted masks. This development has allowed our machine customers and brands to create their own versions of masks for their customers to keep everyone safe.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

Progressive, innovative and collaborative. This allows us to adapt to new projects and inquiries and shift to market demands accordingly.

What can companies learn from Covid-19?

Companies can shift their business to produce goods that are needed. If you’re able to forecast demand through pre-orders and produce goods in real-time, you can maximize sell-through and avoid creating any unneeded waste.

What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?

The apparel industry must improve its ecological footprint. There are many improvements to be made in this labor-intensive industry to digitalize to streamline developments.

What keeps you up at night?

Companies that misuse the “sustainability” term just for marketing purposes. There are more sustainable manufacturing solutions available, but when companies prioritize costs over sustainable practices, it makes me wonder why we cannot pay more for a better product.

What makes you most optimistic?

I’ve seen a great recent shift in brands willing to collaborate. In the past, brands considered each other competitors in the industry, but nowadays, we are seeing more brands collaborate across luxury and sportswear markets to highlight each brand’s expertise. This makes me optimistic because I see the similar occurrence in the production side. Fiber companies are collaborating with knitting machinery companies to revitalize the industry and inspire them with new technologies and capabilities that were previously considered impossible.

Tell us about your company’s latest service:

We recently released ApexFiz and Yarnbank, two online services that can streamline your developments digitally during these troubling times. Yarnbank is our online digital yarn library, where we work with various yarn mills from across the world for you to download digital yarns to simulate with our Apex. The ApexFiz is a new software version of the hardware system SDS-One Apex4 we’ve had in the past. This allows designers to digitize the development supply chain from planning and design to virtual sampling. It even links to production and e-commerce for fashion and other design-related industries.