It’s been little more than a year since Patagonia relaunched its denim collection, a journey that witnessed the brand rework the entire production process of its jeans in an effort to minimize the environmental effect of its supply chain.
The result: by using environmentally friendlier dye and manufacturing processes, Fair Trade Certified sewing practices and 100 percent organic, pesticide-free cotton, Patagonia cut water usage by 84 percent, reduced energy consumption by 30 percent and produced 25 percent less CO2.
As part of the relaunch, Patagonia enlisted Alvanon to review statistical data and customer feedback to help develop new denim styles in a variety of fits. Emily Robertson-Hood, Alvanon’s senior consultant, met and worked with the brand’s managers over two days, providing input on fabric, washes and other issues critical to the line’s success. She described the experience as “being a third party without having a horse in the race.”
“My first goal, the first day I was there, was to develop a fit framework to get the team aligned, and to do that I had to understand what the customer was saying about the product,” Robertson-Hood explained recently to Sourcing Journal. “They had given me some data in advance of coming into this facilitation and I did a heat analysis, looking at sales and return data going back five years. Some product had been in the line for a while and was considered legacy, with a strong online following and customers that were really passionate about this product.”
To that end, after evaluating customer feedback, Robertson-Hood learned that Patagonia’s active lifestyle fans often had heavily muscled legs and, thus, difficulty getting into slim-fitting jeans—meaning that the brand’s gusto for including a skinny style in the new line might not be the best idea.
“I invited them to talk about fit buckets, what a fit framework is, and how the fit buckets for denim integrated into the overall bottom categories within the brand,” she said. “Then we had the men and women fit models come in so we could see if we needed to tweak the strategy at all and also see if what we were seeing on the models matched with what the data was telling us. And no relaunch would be complete with a competitive try-on and analysis.”
Last but not least, Robertson-Hood and Patagonia took a look at the brand’s existing block portfolios and aligned existing blocks with new styles.
When the Fall 2015 denim collection eventually launched, it included three men’s and three women’s jeans that were rugged, stylish and performance-driven. The men’s offering included performance straight fit, regular fit and straight fit, while women could choose from boyfriend crops, straight and slim.
“I have been involved in many other denim relaunches and I think here the role that data analysis played was really unique. When data is available it can be a great indicator of what the customer is telling the brand. It can also diffuse passion from product,” Robertson-Hood said. “Like any brand, team members bring their external experiences to the table, bring their personal opinions to the conversation. With data I was playing devil’s advocate and reminding them what the customer was telling them.”
The insights garnered from data analytics also helped Patagonia’s sustainability story.
“Technology and data can help if the brand, for instance, reduces the number of iterations they produce and cuts transportation costs involved in getting a product across the globe,” she said. “A lot of brands are not using available data to make sustainable choices. The work that Alvanon did with Patagonia is a really great example of how data can be used to advance a company’s sustainability efforts.”