Fashion is constantly speeding up, and the industry must keep pace with rapidly changing trends, inventory demand fluctuations and digitalization. Since most apparel brands outsource their manufacturing, they can’t achieve this alone—they need production partners that are up to the challenge.
South Korean-based apparel manufacturer Hansae, which just celebrated its 40th anniversary, is strategizing to meet expanding market demands and exceed customer expectations, with a focus on four main differentiators: trend forecasting, digital design, nearshoring and sustainability. These are the fuel for Hansae’s “growth engines” that are designed to propel the company to its centennial.
To facilitate its “Hansae 2.0” vision, the company has made updates to its leadership. It appointed former vice president Kim Kyung as its new CEO, who is succeeding Cho Hee-seon in the role. Kim Kyung will oversee Hansae’s efforts to vertically integrate operations in Central and South America, while CEO Kim Ik-hwan will lead the company’s strategies and investments.
Microtrends last only as long as it takes for a new TikTok obsession to surface, requiring real-time reads on emerging fads to capitalize on them in time.
In addition to being a garment producer, Hansae helps brands with product design and development. The company’s research and development team, situated in New York, has a pulse on the latest looks in the major U.S. market. Advanced, data-driven trend research and forecasting enables Hansae to identify what will be hot for its retail partners, such as Target and H&M. After figuring out what buyers need, Hansae’s product development teams can deliver timely designs.
Hansae’s R&D department also supports companies in technical development, such as textile selection, color and finishing processes, helping them achieve the exact look they want.
Retailers are increasingly relying on their suppliers’ digital capabilities. A 2022 Coresight survey conducted for Kalypso found that the portion of apparel and footwear companies using vendor- and mill-created 3D assets grew from 26 percent in 2020 to 32 percent in 2022. And a McKinsey survey from 2021 revealed that 30 percent of companies are planning to use virtual samples for more than half of product approvals by 2025.
Hansae has been using virtual tools for some time, but this effort ramped up during the pandemic. Among the solutions it created for clients were digital showrooms to present design ideas and trends. More sampling activity also moved to the virtual space, saving on physical material use and streamlining approvals.
Nearshoring appears to finally be at a tipping point. Seventy-one percent of the 38 chief procurement officers for clothing firms surveyed by McKinsey said they intend to grow the portion of apparel that is nearshored.
As more production moves closer to home, Hansae is equipped to support customers in the Western Hemisphere, with factories in Guatemala, Haiti and Nicaragua. The close proximity of these facilities to the U.S. allows for fast turnaround times. Hansae’s Guatemala operations are now vertical, allowing the manufacturer to quickly handle customers’ emergency orders.
Between its offshore operations in Asia and its manufacturing in the Americas, Hansae offers the best of both worlds. Companies can balance their production allocation depending on turnaround times, costs and quantities needed.
Sustainability is another hot topic for both consumers and the industry. In a Deloitte survey of U.K. consumers, 40 percent have chosen brands with eco-friendly practices, and 34 percent stopped purchasing from companies that have environmental or ethical concerns.
Among industry professionals, a third of respondents in a McKinsey survey indicated that by 2025, they expect more than 90 percent of their products to be made with sustainable materials.
Hansae has grown its use of sustainable cotton—including Better Cotton Initiative, Oeko-Tex, organic and recycled materials—from 41 million yards in 2019 to 151 million yards in 2021.
The producer is also meeting this demand through partnerships with sustainable material companies. Hansae participated in Evrnu’s Series B in 2021, investing in the maker of circular performance materials. And in 2021, the manufacturer entered an alliance with Recover, a producer of recycled cotton fibers.
Since then, Hansae customer Primark developed a range using Recover’s RColorBlend fiber. “For change to happen at scale across the fashion industry, we need partnership and collaboration, and we will continue to invest in partnerships like this to support our ambition to become a more circular business and reduce the impact that we have on the environment,” said Lynne Walker, director of Primark Cares at Primark.
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