The state of the apparel supply chain has certainly changed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, but for Lever Style, staying out in front of these changes has been a five-year process. Within that time span, the Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturer and supplier has committed to a faster, nimbler operation by pivoting to work primarily with flexible digital natives and designer labels focused on manufacturing smaller-batch orders.
With an array of expertise and services at its disposal and base values focused on strong factory compliance, on-time delivery and premium quality, Lever Style has made it a mission to become the “indispensable partner of choice” for these brands.
While the company offers a wide range of solutions for apparel, design, development, sourcing and manufacturing, Lever Style’s true value proposition lies in extending these services across all apparel product categories, according to executive chairman Stanley Szeto.
“In our industry, the top players tend to be specialized—shirts, denim, sweaters, tailoring or soft-woven products,” Szeto said. “If they grow they might have two or three product categories at maximum, whereas we cover pretty much the entire range. Our clients don’t just buy one product category; they are all lifestyle brands and platforms that purchase across a wide range of categories.”
During the pandemic, Lever Style stepped in to fill an even bigger role for its clients, especially as many sought out common ground with their suppliers, whether through compliance, speed to market or product quality. In select cases, the company served as the only apparel supplier for brand partners, and thus needed to help augment their sourcing and production capabilities. Lever Style’s breadth of categories allows brand partners to reduce overhead costs and fill in gaps when necessary, especially if they have a small sourcing and production team, or none at all. This positioning was essential during the pandemic as manpower budgets were dwindling, according to Kimberly Wallis, vice president of product development and sales at Lever Style.
“Many of the services that we already provided were utilized more during the pandemic,” Wallis said. “Instead of just seeking fabric sourcing, many companies also started requesting design work. They had to downsize and really needed our support. We also saw that many companies weren’t able to present to their clients in person when lockdowns and travel restrictions kicked in, so we stepped in to help them create virtual presentations through our 3D Browzwear software.”
With this back-end support, including an in-house design studio and extensive fabric library, Lever Style aims to free brands up to focus on their core competencies on the front end of the business, such as distribution or marketing, Szeto said.
Lever Style’s services have expanded since going public in late 2019, acquiring four companies in the past eight months and rolling them into its ecosystem. But while Lever Style has benefited from its new performance apparel, knitwear, denim and technical activewear offerings, the future and success of its brand partnerships will continue to evolve as shopper data becomes more pivotal to the apparel experience. Lever Style analyzes sales data provided by e-commerce partners as well as market intelligence from international trend shows and mill partners to inform future trends and product development.
“It’s an art and a science. The science part is getting all the data. On the art side, we work hard to stay on top of the market and understand the needs of high-end brands so we know exactly what is coming down the pipeline in terms of trends,” Szeto said. “We can marry data with the intel research we gather from these various resources to produce the most relevant products for our brands.”
As apparel brands rush to prioritize digital transformation within their supply chain, especially if they don’t have an established IT infrastructure, Lever Style can even serve as their turnkey supply partner. The company offers solutions including Browzwear, supply chain compliance and quality platform Pivot88, Centric PLM and ERP platform Microsoft Dynamics 365.
“We become the main part of the IT ecosystem, and the brand can just access Browzwear or the PLM in one terminal,” Szeto said. “We can make it into one holistic experience so that a small brand using us exclusively as a turnkey solutions provider won’t need to implement anything.”
Although Szeto described the apparel industry at large as only in the “early stage of digital transformation,” he has set a high goal for Lever Style: capitalize on the “winner-take-all” environment that permeates among digital platforms, such as Uber in ridesharing and Airbnb in home rentals.
Learn more about Lever Style and its products and services here.