As international and even regional travel shut down around the globe last year, fashion brands were left to navigate product development without the typical tools at their disposal. Designers could no longer venture beyond their homes to discover trends, creating a creative void. But necessity is the mother of invention.
Reacting to this new need, South Korean garment manufacturer Hansae sprang into action, using its New York-based research and development office to serve up inspiration and support for its brand partners in the new normal. While Hansae’s R&D division has always been a one-stop-shop for everything from trend research and design to fabric and wash processes, the supplier to major U.S. and European brands had generally followed direction from its clients. However, the pandemic changed this as Hansae helped guide and direct customers’ collections more than before.
“Because of our expertise and capacity, we can tap into resources to gather market intel that leads and inspires customers to make smart business decisions,” said Julie Lee, vice president of the R&D division at Hansae.
In lieu of the usual face-to-face meetings between Hansae and brands, where they would plan out the upcoming seasons, retailers made a switch to video calls or direct communication as everything shifted to remote collaboration. To illustrate trends and insights during these conversations, Hansae built interactive multimedia presentations and cyber showrooms indicating what would be hot at retail.
As an example, for a fast-fashion retailer, Hansae created a website featuring trend and color stories illustrated with video. Meanwhile, Hansae presented children’s wear in a gamified experience complete with a virtual fashion show cast with 3D models. For a performance-focused brand, Hansae laid out textile ideas to spotlight characteristics such as comfort and durability, as well as dye and wash treatments.
When it comes to proposing fabric and wet processing options, Hansae is encouraging partners to go green. Around 80 percent of the textiles suggested to clients are eco-friendly, and the R&D division is creating new sustainable dyeing and wash treatments as part of its environmental efforts.
During lockdowns, Hansae’s New York location proved beneficial, since the R&D division could source current ideas from their local base. Hansae is encouraging its clients to continue to leverage the office’s real-time trend research capabilities, even after Covid-19.
“Hansae R&D recovered the limitation of travel restrictions and lack of face-to-face meetings with more creative solutions to increase aesthetic alignment,” said Lee. “We’ve actively and aggressively reached out to our brand-side partners to remind them of our capability and eagerness to support them beyond the pandemic.”
Looking ahead, Hansae plans to take a more data-driven approach to trend forecasting and planning. “Since our clients appreciate our market intelligence and high-level point of view, we will utilize more big data at the pre-development stage to save time and bring more accuracy going forward,” said Lee. “Since we have strong teams for research and development with sourcing capabilities up to the production stage, clients can easily find solutions to fit their needs and get full support at competitive prices.”
Along with providing product development teams with trend research during the pandemic, Hansae’s digital push has also impacted sustainability. For instance, Covid-19 boosted adoption of digitalized samples, while transitioning some fabric selection to virtual showcases meant Hansae could cut back on the environmental costs of shipping.
During the pandemic, Hansae cut its physical garment sampling back by 50 percent, and it plans to reduce physical samples by 80 percent each year through 2025. In Hansae’s case, necessity has bred innovation and adoption of new, more efficient workflows. “By proactively presenting ideas in 3D forms, we’ve inspired customers to shift their mindset and showcase to them what’s possible in virtual development far beyond their imagination,” said Lee.
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