What’s the secret process that moves retail fashion products from design to manufacture to store? The secret is that there is no set process.
That’s what the founders of SupplyCompass discovered when they began researching how brands create new merchandise and get it out into the marketplace. “In fashion, you have designers and manufacturers and all these people every season, but no process,” says SupplyCompass co-founder Flora Davidson. “There’s a start-to-finish — you design, source, make, deliver — but there’s no set way of doing things, nothing to say what happens first.”
Davidson and co-founder Gus Bartholomew learned about supply chain problems on the ground firsthand. “We both moved to India, and we were living and breathing it for two years in Mumbai,” Davidson says. Their journey began with the perception that retail fashion was built on cool technology and cutting-edge innovation, but that wasn’t the whole story.
“The reality is that most brands are using things like Excel, PowerPoint, email and WhatsApp,” Davidson says. “Obviously, there are sophisticated ERP systems and other things, but they’re not using tools built for creatives.”
The SupplyCompass team also visited over 300 factories and mills, asking questions they were repeatedly told hadn’t been asked before.
“We asked them what they find challenging about the process,” Davidson says. “We inquired what happens when a brand changes their mind, and if we were to design a tech pack, what does that look like?” From the beginning, Davidson’s team knew a workable solution would have to address needs and use cases for brands and supply chain partners. “Everything we build has to be tested on both sides,” she says.
The SupplyCompass platform includes product development and production management software, bringing together multiple components in today’s largely fragmented supply chain — including design collaboration, manufacturing capabilities and sampling activities — into a more holistic process.
“We focus on the design-to-delivery process, start-to-finish, but with particular emphasis on designing collaboratively and building a product library to reduce repetitive work in future collections,” Davidson says. “We are the single source of truth through the whole process.”
The software includes tools dedicated to the needs of creative roles. SupplyCompass vets manufacturers that participate in the platform to ensure a focus on sustainability and efficiency, and the streamlined process flow eliminates waste and improves collaboration across the entire supply chain ecosystem.
As companies rethink their business strategies in light of recent disruptions, the advantages of leveraging technology to add resilience and flexibility into the supply chain will be increasingly important. “For example, something like collaborating on 3D sampling makes so much sense,” Davidson says. “During this time when no one can physically sample, removing the need for so many physical samples will potentially drive the industry forward.”
Because so many people are unable to come together as a result of COVID-19, SupplyCompass has launched a moodboard tool to help teams collaborate more efficiently while working from home. The tool is free for fashion brands through mid-October; it will then be available as part of the platform subscription.