Cost, compliance and concern for the greater good of the supply chain are perhaps among the top challenges brands and retailers face when sourcing today, and seeking each leads to sourcing in new and different markets and, at times, battling to ensure sustainability and transparency in the supply chain.
Wrapping up day three of Texworld USA Thursday, three panelists touched on the questions in many minds: What are the challenges we’re facing in sourcing today and how do I maintain sustainability in the supply chain?
There’s no simple answer, but one challenge Dana Davis, director of design and production at Mara Hoffman, said her company faces is how to find the right responsible suppliers to source from.
Because the print-driven womenswear brand is still small, going into multiple markets to vet and certify factories and facilities or sending a team to be on the ground at all times isn’t as viable as it might be for bigger brands.
“That’s a huge challenge for us constantly and the key to that is minimizing your supply so your resources become really small,” Davis said.
Like Mara Hoffman, more and more brands are looking to consolidate their supply chains in order to have a better grasp on what’s happening with their product. What’s more, many brands aren’t extending the same size travel budgets for their sourcing teams to be in the field.
“We wanted to make sure everything in our supply chain was mapped out, so if we align ourselves with suppliers who have already mapped out their supply chains, it would cut out some of that legwork for a small brand like us,” Davis said.
And more than just narrowing the number of supplier partnerships, brands should be turning to their suppliers for inspiration and ideas on ways to improve supply chain responsibility.
“We need to put our demands on our suppliers to be innovative…to advance what it is that they have to offer,” Davis said.
Part of what many of those suppliers may want to offer are certifications, something the panel agreed would play a major role in how sourcing will move in the future.
For Mara Hoffman, the ability to place their trust in organizations like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which certifies that textiles have been made with truly organic fibers and process, has helped them create a more responsible supply chain in a feasible way.
“We aligned ourselves with suppliers who were already traceable, making sure that our suppliers could source from certified mills and educating them also so that they understood what our demands were and why we were requiring certain things,” Davis said.
Consumers are increasingly starting to ask for—and even expect—responsible sourcing from the brands they spend their disposable income on, and brands are taking notice.
At Responsibility in Sourcing, a new nonprofit working to inspire accountability across the apparel and textiles industry, brands’ and consumers’ greater interest in sustainability has become very apparent.
“This is the trend, this is the future, this is where everything is going and if you’re not going there, you’re going to get left behind,” Robert Bergmann, creative director and owner of the nonprofit, said.
In answer to that trend, Responsibility in Sourcing created a centralized database for small and medium size brands to get information on responsible sourcing.
The nonprofit’s efforts may be best timed to target a consumer and a brand who already wants to be sustainable, wants to source more goods like organic cotton.
Lori Wyman, North American representative for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), who also spoke on the panel, said more organic cotton is being grown in the U.S. every year and the amount of organic clothing available has never been higher.
But, as has commonly been pointed out, it’s going to take greater consumer demand for sustainability to become standard and for the costs for offering sustainable and responsibly sourced product come down.
“The biggest problem we have is the consumer doesn’t know what’s going on, they don’t know how to shop,” Bergmann said. “This innovation market in ethical and sustainable fabrics is going to become the status quo rather than just the 1 percent.”