Apparel sourcing: What next?

With Sri Lanka earning its position as the fashion and apparel hub of the South Asian region and standing strong in its commitment to sustainability, value and invention, the South Asian Apparel Leadership Forum (SAALF) played a pivotal role in deciding the future of the industry.


Attempting to further establish the mission of Sri Lanka Design Festival (SLDF) to make Sri Lanka the creative regional hub for South Asia, SAALF witnessed the presence of several extremely influential and powerful personalities in apparel, retailers and opinion leaders from across the world at Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel in Colombo on Saturday 12 October.



SAALF synthesised the global discourse with the intent of proposing solutions to the most demanding issues faced by the industry. This made the forum a unique gathering where obstacles and doubts were discussed alongside strategies, plans and answers by supply chain partners, retailers, brand owners and the services sector engaging on equal terms to find solutions for a common purpose.


2013-10-23a 1The forum was co-chaired by Favourite Group Managing Director Kumar Mirchandani and GT Nexus Founder, Vice Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer Kurt Cavano, creating massive interest among the apparel industry professionals in South Asia and abroad, which led to the groundbreaking discussion on the future of apparel sourcing from Sri Lanka.


Sustainability towards a global consensus – Take II


Sustainable Fashion Symposium and Development Chairperson, Danish Fashion Institute Director Jonas Eder-Hansen at last year’s festival led the ‘Sustainable Fashion Symposium’ under the theme of ‘Sustainability – Towards a Global Consensus’. Jonas addressed the trends and the feedback received from last year’s forum, taking a second look at the results and the impact it had created across different regions.


Sharing insights on sustainability in the fashion and apparel industry and global trends, Jonas’ primary focus was on how the essence of sustainability could differ from region to region. “We see more and more supply chains opening up in the Asian region. The cost to produce a T-shirt in America is $ 15 while the same product made in Bangladesh would cost $ 3,” Jonas stated.


He also quoted two articles published on the Guardian one in September by journalist Adam Aston questioning, ‘Can new supply chain approaches prevent another Rana Plaza?’ which was then followed by Lucy Siegle’s ‘How ethical are high-street clothes?’ published in October; these opinions and research have now led to establishing international standards in safety and labour and Jonas reiterated that the industry should work towards establishing one global code for sustainability. “In order to take your brands to the global level, you need to utilise local components in the manufacturing process. We see that Sri Lanka is taking steps towards linking with global standards.”


2013-10-23a 2Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Higgs index 1.0


By establishing the apparel and footwear index, Higgs aims to accomplish the following goals in ‘Sustainable Apparel Coalition’:


nUnderstand and quantify sustainability impacts of apparel and footwear products

nDramatically reduce redundancy in measuring sustainability in the apparel and footwear industries

nDrive business value through reducing risk and uncovering efficiency

nCreate a common means to communicate sustainability to stakeholders


The Higg Index 1.0 is primarily an indicator based tool for apparel that enables companies to evaluate material types, products, facilities and processes based on a range of environmental and product design choices. The Index asks practice-based, qualitative questions to gauge environmental sustainability performance and drive behaviour for improvement.


Wrapping up his presentation, Jonas reiterated: “We also notice that along with the Higgs Index more and more prominence is given to the common goal of sustainability People, Planet, Profit. With experiments, experience and merging with the communities we see the return of the crafter, maker, ideator and creator getting together to bring out the god particle and core expression of ideas in the industry. Sri Lankan designers that showcased their work have well incorporated the sustainability factor to their designs at ‘Sustainable Fashion Runway’. We now need to build a model to take Sri Lankan designers to the Scandinavian markets to provide them a global sustainability in future.”


2013-10-23a 3Rebalancing the business model


Branching out on the forum’s theme ‘Apparel Sourcing – What Next?’ Munasinghe Institute for Development (MIND) Founder Chairman Prof. Mohan Munasinghe joined Sustainable Fashion Symposium and Development Chairperson, Danish Fashion Institute Director Jonas Eder-Hansen to address the challenges of the apparel and fashion industry as to how responsible and profitable ‘re-balancing the business model’ can be.


In his overview on the oncoming challenges, Prof. Munasinghe focused on key issues such as the ongoing financial crisis in the world, the quest for free energy and water and varied social dimensions zooming in on poverty, inequity and poor work environments.


Ongoing global financial crisis: The world economy is suffering from leadership. At present, leaders have taken a backseat and while resolutions are passed, they do not act on them. The world economy needs integrated solutions, political empowerment and social values that eliminate greed and selfishness. Many countries face economic mal-development as they get into more debts. Thrift is being replaced by borrowings and at present we are borrowing the earnings of the next generation. As we run out of resources, we fight to sustain the little we are left with.


Climate change: The dire consequences of climate change are already emerging; however for it to take full effect, it will at least take another 30 years. By this time the poorest people in the world will become the most affected and it will be economically difficult for this section of the demography to adapt to the change. Climate change is a fact and the anthropogenic influence is playing a major role in it. We need to treat the cause by reducing CO2 emissions. The ongoing climate change is unstoppable and within the next century it would go up by another Celsius degree. The planet will face a shortage in water and agriculture issues and a rise in natural disasters due to the changing weather patterns will lead to disruptions in the supply chain. We will also face difficulties in accessing raw materials due to perilous conditions.


Copenhagen Accord


2013-10-23a 4Jonas then focused on the United Nations Climate Change Conference – also known as the 15th Conference of the Parties or COP15 – where attendees anticipated the summit to finalise a post-Kyoto international agreement on climate change to take effect this year. In March, 2009, Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) suggested four essential issues to be addressed:


1.How much are the industrialised countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?


2.How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?


3.How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?


4.How is that money going to be managed?


This led to the emergence of a vague agreement the Copenhagen Accord which was brokered by the US in a backroom agreement between Brazil, China, India and South Africa came about in the final hours of the two-week conference.


The key points of the said accord included:


nTo keep the maximum temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius

nTo list developed country emission reduction targets and mitigation action by developing countries for 2020

n$30 billion short-term funding for immediate action till 2012

n$100 billion annually by 2020 in long-term financing

nReiterating past intentions such as providing mechanisms to support technology transfer and forestry.


In effect, it took hours of diplomacy just to produce a letter of intent; an accord which did not really address the four essential issues de Boer hoped would be tackled.




Jonas also referred to Prof. Munasinghe’s formal paper presented at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro on ‘Sustainomics,’ which is defined as ‘a trans-disciplinary, integrative, comprehensive, balanced, heuristic and practical framework for making development more sustainable’. Unlike other traditional disciplines, it focuses exclusively on sustainable development. Thus, the main principle of the framework seeks to make ongoing and future development efforts more sustainable in a practical way, as a first step towards the ultimate goal of sustainable development.


Other key principles stress: (a) Balanced and consistent consideration of the three dimensions of the sustainable development triangle (social, economic and environmental); (b) Better integration by transcending conventional boundaries imposed by discipline, space, time, stakeholder viewpoints, and operational needs; (c) Practical application of innovative methods and tools throughout the full cycle from data gathering to policy implementation and feedback.


Sustainomics is an innovative trans-disciplinary framework (or trans-discipline), based on a holistic set of key principles, theories and methods. It facilitates sound research and decision making, drawing on many other scientific approaches and techniques involving the natural and social sciences, engineering and humanities – because no single traditional discipline can cover the vast scope and complexity of SD issues.


Sustainable development is broadly described as ‘a process for improving the range of opportunities that will enable individual human beings and communities to achieve their aspirations and full potential over a sustained period of time, while maintaining the resilience of economic, social and environmental systems’. Adapting this general concept, a more focused and practical approach towards making development more sustainable seeks ‘continuing improvements in the present quality of life at a lower intensity of resource use, thereby leaving behind for future generations an undiminished stock of productive assets (i.e., manufactured, natural and social capital) that will enhance opportunities for improving their quality of life’.


Focusing on the outcome of COP15, through the Copenhagen Accord and considering ‘sustainomics’ presented by Prof. Munasinghe, Jonas opinionated that the mindsets of the consumer and the retailer to achieve these goals.


Sustainable consumption, sustainable production


Elaborating on sustainable consumption, Prof. Munasinghe stated: “Sustainable consumption is important at present we are consuming 150% of the planet’s worth and 85% of it is consumed by affluent consumers. A method by which these affluent consumers could manage their consumption would be to reduce food wastage. We can look at reduction of CO2 emissions in the lines of sourcing, processing, marketing, retailing and employers can look at the social aspects such as salaries and working conditions of their employees.”


Speaking on over-consumption, Prof. Munasinghe drew the audience’s attention towards how a product can be over-consumed subconsciously: “As your efficiency and cost reductions reach a level, the retail price of the product can go down. This in return provides the consumer an opportunity to a higher purchasing power and the end result turns out to be over-consumption of the said product. This is quite visible when it comes to fast moving consumer goods. In advertently this turns in to the ‘German Paradox’. Sustainable producers and sustainable consumers can empower a sustainable society. The fashion industry is chic and sustainable in that way. So consider these factors and save your future!”


Trends and technologies in supply chains, product development, manufacturing and retailing
[TC]2 (TC square) International Chief Executive Officer Dr. Michael Fralix joined the line of speakers to share his experience and observations on ‘Trends and Technologies in Supply Chain, Product Development, Manufacturing and Retailing’.


In his presentation Dr. Fralix explained the role of [TC]2 and their new ventures assisting established firms with their product development efforts. [TC]2’s product development team provides assistance with key phases of the new product development process including:


nRefinement of product concept

nMaterial selection and identification

nTechnical product design including patternmaking, grading, and sloper/block development

nAnalysis of sizing strategies using Size USA data

n3D body shape visualisation

nPrototype construction and evaluation

nProduct engineering including specification of sewing operations and construction methods

nProduct costing

nDigital textile printing

The organisation focuses on four aspects that help them to develop innovative products as well as reinvent their existing products to match the consumer’s need.



2.Training and education


4.Do tank – This section is known for innovating things and reinvent every now and then

Past, present, future: Where does technology fit in?

Drawing the forum’s attention to how technology has evolved and how machinery and equipment have been reinvented to match the necessities of the modern human, Dr. Fralix brought out some of the least thought about technical advancements at the present time.

nAircraft detection equipment before radar

nTelephone exchange centre

nThe first computer and the hard disk drive which occupied a considerable space

nThe printers from the past to the now popular digital printing machines

Digital Textile Printing


[TC]2 operates the InkDrop Printing service as a resource for on demand production of short lengths of digitally printed yardage. The service also provides a turnkey solution for artists, designers, and business owners wishing to produce digitally printed sewn products. In support of this scenario, customers are offered a selection of standardised products that can customise with their own imagery. Customers also have the opportunity to benefit from the many advantages that digital textile printing offers, including:


nSmall quantity production

nLow minimums/low cost of entry

nRapid product replenishment

nPhotographic imaging capabilities

nAccurate reproduction of hand-painted imagery

nEngineered printing/freedom from design repeats


In addition to the print service, [TC]2 conducts applied research in the digital coloration area with a focus on investigation of emerging technology solutions that support:


nDigital sampling and product development

nOn-demand printing

nMass customisation

nPrint engineering

nIntegration of digital printing with single-ply cutting

nSustainable methods for printing and coloration


Performance without waste in the digital supply chain


In 1970 the length of time required to deliver goods was four to six weeks, today the waiting time has reduced to three to four days and in future the wait time will further reduce to less than 24 hours. “We need to live in the present and at the same time get ready for the future. Industries have shifted the way they operate, manufacture and reach their clients. For instance take web-based newspapers, online ticketing sites that sell concert tickets, air tickets, etc. These are some of the ways we have adapted to deliver services in real-time. As suppliers we have to shift the production process to match the customer’s requirement. Manufactures are changing their perspectives.


Take the number of ‘Virtual Dressing Sites’ that come up on your search engine. 3D body-scanning devices are now being installed in retail stores, allowing the consumer to virtually try out the clothing of their choice and pick and chose to match their shape, size and skin tone.


A 3D body scanning device of [TC]2 and its associated brand, ImageTwin, are the world leaders in 3D body scanning hardware and software. [TC]2 provides 3D body scanning solutions in apparel, virtual fashion, health/fitness, medical, gaming, and online virtual world applications.


The whole body is scanned in seconds and rapidly produces a true-to-scale 3D body model. It includes automatic body measurement software that extracts over 400 unique measurements many of which can be user customised.


High-fidelity, accurate, realistic avatars can be created from body scan data, or through the use of [TC]2’s avatar engine with the input of a few basic measurements. The measurement extraction software package features capabilities for virtual fashion visualisation with links to 3D garment content from major industry CAD packages.


With advancements in technology in future we could install a knitting device at the laundry distributing and converting local manufacturing space which is known as additive manufacturing, whereas in subtractive manufacturing one needs to carve and cut. We will also see nano-particle fibrous substances and 3D garment printers at home, enabling the consumer to conveniently print their desired clothing in the comfort of their own homes.