Responding to Fashion Market Changes With On-Demand Technology

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The shift toward offering greater personalization doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. In fact, Edouard Macquin, president of Lectra Americas, said personalization and the on-demand economy is core to what’s driving fashion apparel and retail today.

Here, Macquin shares his insights into this trend, and how Lectra is responding with new platforms to help brands gain a competitive edge.

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WWD: The fashion apparel industry has gone through some remarkable changes in the past decade. What’s driving this change?

Edouard Macquin: The fashion industry is part of the greater seismic shift toward products tailored to individual tastes and preferences. We see this across media, for instance. What is unique to the fashion industry, though, as opposed to a streaming TV service, is that we are delivering a physical product to consumers. This is also where the challenge lies.

The driver of this change is, as with any change in the retail market, partially consumer-driven, but what comes first are brands with the capabilities to market and deliver quality, on-demand products in the first place. From my perspective then, the main driver of this change in fashion has to be the technology, both software and hardware: from programs that can empower more agile product development and transparent supply chains to the manufacturing machinery that reduces waste and can flexibly deliver on a range of possibilities within a single fashion offering.

Today, we are doing things that were simply not possible even a few years ago in terms of personalization and the fast delivery of high-quality, on-demand goods with a consistent fit. Staying at the technological cutting edge is going to be a major determiner of success for brands, as the demand for on-demand is only going to grow.

WWD: What role does technology and innovation play in this change?

E.M.: For a retail brand to allow customers an on-demand option requires fundamental technological changes across the supply chain. The old technology that supported the supply-driven fashion market is simply not flexible enough to deliver on-demand fashion and apparel quickly, consistently, efficiently or sustainably — especially given the fast-fashion model that was previously dominant.

Rather than flood the market with goods, the brands that can create the most flexible and efficient models to deliver products of consistent fit and high quality are going to be the most successful as the demand for personalization in fashion continues to grow. The technological solutions available to brands, and having the experts who can implement them most effectively, will ultimately drive better, more innovative products with faster turnaround times from when customers click the order button to when they receive their new items.

WWD: In that time, Lectra itself has evolved. How has the company responded to these market disruptions and demands for innovation and greater sustainability?

E.M.: Similar to how the fashion industry is responding to and driving consumer demand for personalization, at Lectra, we are both responding to market demands and proactively helping to drive the shift to more innovative and sustainable solutions. The on-demand revolution is not a trend, really; it is a long-term change in the way customers interact with brands. It is more of a conversation, and a major part of that conversation is understanding that consumers are smarter and more well-informed than perhaps ever before on a mass scale.

Fashion consumers want to know how their products are made and where the materials come from. They are informed about the carbon footprint of manufacturing and the social impact of the supply chain. So, in addition to delivering high-quality, personalized products quickly and consistently, technology also needs to offer brands transparency and control across the product life-cycle.

With all of that in mind, we are proud of the recent launch of our Fashion on Demand by Lectra offering. It is the industry’s first end-to-end personalization solution. It responds to market demands, yes, but it also offers fashion companies capabilities that were simply not previously available, which we believe will drive the demand for greater efficiency, more consistent quality and fit, less waste, more durable and sustainable machinery and ultimately more innovation and intuitive on-demand offerings from brands.

We want to build a more sustainable, transparent and consumer-focused fashion industry, and we are creating and marketing the technology to achieve that. We are empowering brands to innovate and be creative in a rapidly shifting retail environment, where not only the product matters to consumers, but the production as well. No one else is doing that to the extent we are.

WWD: From your perspective in the market, what’s next for fashion apparel, accessories and luxury goods? How do you see the industry evolving and how will Lectra meet these new demands?

E.M.: We are in the midst of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” or Industry 4.0. The emergence of smart, integrated technological systems has allowed the on-demand revolution to happen in fashion. I don’t see the industry trending away from personalization on a macro level any time soon because this shift is foundational. The next step for brands then will be to find a way to maintain or assert their identities in new and creative ways while also allowing consumers to express their individual tastes.

Brands may achieve this through creative curatorship or through flexible fashion frameworks — or maybe for some, the brand identity will be that anything goes. But I think that is going to be at least one of the major shifts.

Lectra’s goal is to deliver the software, strategy and machinery to empower those brands to succeed on their own terms. That is what I think is remarkable about the power and agility of our Fashion on Demand offering: We empower brands to be creative, innovate and be the best version of themselves.

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