Fabric sourcing has traditionally been an offline, tactile activity. But textile collaboration platform Frontier is looking to change this, especially now that the industry is finally embracing technology. “Covid changed the industry’s general mindset toward digitization, cloud and work processes from nice to have to must have,” said Wayne Fan, Frontier’s chief strategy officer.
During Covid-19, the trade shows that brands usually rely on to discover, touch and feel fabrics were postponed or held digitally. Meanwhile, as traditional in-office product development came to a halt, fashion companies were forced to adopt digital design tools to continue working remotely. Amid a heavier reliance on virtual design and sampling, brand and supplier teams had to revamp material sourcing for new digital workflows.
Frontier saw its adoption rates soar during the pandemic, as companies looked for ways to manage textile procurement via virtual channels. “Digital design tends to be widely used and understood at the brand level and with tier-one vendors, but it’s almost non-existent in the rest of the supply chain,” said Fan. “Post-pandemic, five times more companies are making actionable plans because there is more relevant information on the market as well as success stories.”
Frontier’s artificially intelligent cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) platform connects mills and designers. Textile producers can digitize their libraries, and brands can search through tens of thousands of swatches from more than 500 mills all in one place. Designers can use keywords or upload images to search for visually similar options, simplifying the process of finding the most relevant textiles.
In comparison, companies that source materials manually with tools like spreadsheets are limited by the volume of vendor data they can manage. This leads them to work with the same small group of suppliers, shrinking the available selection.
Within Frontier, each fabric listing has comprehensive details such as material weight, cuttable width and remaining yardage, letting companies more effectively compare different options. Having such fabric information at their fingertips lets brands cut material sourcing timelines from months to mere days.
More than just a digital library or product aggregator, Frontier digitizes workflows, breaking down what can be a massive procurement process into smaller steps. Frontier also enables different teams and parties to communicate about collection planning and orders on the same platform—requesting packages, uploading pertinent files to a secure cloud and making decisions. In a Pinterest-style touch, users can create boards of fabrics to share with collaborators.
To remove the need to manually enter data, Frontier’s database can also be plugged into platforms such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.
“Frontier focuses on digitization, search and B2B collaboration, which directly address the industry’s three major concerns on remote work, 3D adoption and supply chain implementation,” said Fan. “We are positioned as a collaboration platform where suppliers and brands come together for a streamlined digital sourcing experience, and those digital assets can be directly input to 3D.”
Mills can save on shipping samples back and forth and traveling for meetings, while both mills and brands spend less time and money on fabric sales or buying. Meanwhile, designers get products to market an average of five weeks faster.
As the industry embraces 3D design, Frontier has added to its technology integrations by partnering with product lifecycle management solution C-Design. Patrick Abbou, founder and chief technology officer of C-Design, says Frontier was an ideal fit for C-Design’s highly configurable platform. “We wanted to partner with a textile solution that has the same vision of how customers use software and how software should answer fashion creators’ needs,” he said.
With Frontier’s integration into C-Design, customers using the PLM’s design tools can import digitized fabrics from Frontier into their own library on the portal, thus creating more accurate renderings.
“C-Design and Frontier are a new evolution of fashion digitalization,” said Abbou. “We are both providing new user experience and new user interfaces that are allowing fashion companies to move ahead into digital adoption. Everything they need is now accessible, affordable and very efficient.”
Since Frontier launched in April 2019, it has grown 10 times over, attracting customers such as Original Penguin and Nien Hsing Textile, a supplier to brands like Levi Strauss & Co. and Gap. And it has future plans for remaking the fashion business. “On-demand manufacturing or a demand-driven economy in apparel is the goal,” said Fan. “We’re seeking more partners in the garment business, digital design and e-commerce to integrate a global digital supply chain.”
Click here to learn more about Frontier.