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Digitize: Bring your wholesale business into the future of fashion

Sep 9, 2020 –  Luna Laysiepen, Growth team at HATCH

Eight months ago, we ventured into the world as a fashion-tech startup with a mission to transform Fashion wholesale. Since then, we have learned and experienced a lot at HATCH. Not long after our kick-off, the world experienced a surreal paradigm shift, which upended our usual way of thinking and doing things. In this white space of uncertainty and reflection on the status quo, it is our view here at HATCH that the impact this has had on the Fashion Industry is actually positive. Positive in the sense that it has forced brands to be more aware of their value chain processes. And how we need to optimize these processes to become future-proof. Positive in the way that air travel and production capacities have drastically been reduced. Positive in a way that we are all forced to slow down, review and rethink, in order to speed up.  

Let’s break it down

In our previous article we have shown what the impact of garment production is on the environment. From water usage (or rather: water waste) during garment production, where Fashion is responsible for wasting 2 million Olympic sized swimming pools of water each year. To carbon emissions measured across its entire value chain, which accounts for more than that of aviation and maritime shipping combined. How do we justify these numbers in a world where consumers are demanding fashion to become more responsible in how it produces future collections? And how can digitizing wholesale in the Fashion Industry contribute to a more sustainable future, especially in the current climate? 

The Fashion Industry is tactile, with its business and value chain built around the concept of touch & feel. It starts with the 2D design of garments using pen and paper. Once the design is ready, a factory produces a salesman sample and ships it to wholesale showrooms where retailers will buy it. From here onwards, garments land in physical or digital stores to eventually reach the end consumers’ closets. This, in short, is the fashion value chain. The one that’s becoming the center of attention for fashion brands globally.

Digitization can be a brand’s power in becoming more resilient. What isn’t always mentioned is the opportunity this brings to make the entire value chain more sustainable. We have seen that leading brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein have taken significant steps in optimizing their value chain, digitally transforming a number of key business units. And even more so, they leverage these digital innovations to help them achieve their sustainability goals. Starting with their journey of digitizing their wholesale business with the HATCH Digital Showroom. 

‘The rise of digital showrooms will persuade more players that there are viable alternatives to the millions of physical samples that are produced for showrooms, and high intensity travel to traditional trade shows and fashion weeks.The State of Fashion 2020 COVID-19 update, BoF & McKinsey

Let’s zoom it in

At HATCH we have seen that digitizing a brand’s wholesale journey not only contributes to an immersive, innovative and future-proof experience for its customers. It enables a brand to get a firmer grip on managing and achieving its sustainability goals. This approach empowers brands to minimize (and ultimately eliminate) the need for fashion samples and it significantly brings down the necessity for travel and air freight. In the case of a global brand like Tommy Hilfiger, this means hundreds of thousands of garments that are no longer produced per season, four seasons a year. And thousands of freight flights that are no longer flown each year. Let’s break some of this down to actual numbers.

Interested in how to reduce samples? Download our Sample Reduction Guide for best practices, strategies, and more.

Running the numbers

Let’s say a brand that produces 2.000 pairs of jeans samples per season, globally: if each pair of jeans requires up to 10.000 liters of water to manufacture-this brand would need 20 million liters of water to grow sufficient cotton, spin the cotton into threads, dye the threads and conduct the jeans washings. Now let’s imagine what happens if this brand chooses to digitize its wholesale business. Let’s go as far as to say it also chooses to stop the production of their jeans samples. In one decision, this brand has consequently saved up to 80 million liters of water annually. That can fill up 32 Olympic sized swimming pools! 

Now Tommy Hilfiger is taking it a step further up the value chain, by digitizing their design process with the team at STITCH. This allows them to improve their approach of a major part of the value chain – from design to wholesale selling. An approach that is digital and efficient. As designers are re-educating themselves in 3D fashion design skills, this leads to a drastic decrease in cumbersome work processes where pen & paper, physical fabric, pattern and trim swatches are required. Which, in turn, saves time, energy, costs, and certainly our finite pool of natural resources.

Let’s wrap it up

We started this article with a bold statement and a crucial question. How does the current climate contribute to a better future for Fashion? In our pursuit of a suitable answer, we have encountered a number of findings.

The world (of Fashion) is currently undergoing an accelerated and may we even say enforced digital transformation. We are questioning, reviewing and perhaps reinventing the status quo. In this space, Fashion brands are searching and probing for the right direction. And we at HATCH truly believe that the only direction to go into is towards adopting a digital mindset. Where mindset is the first crucial step towards a successful digital transformation. Not only to ensure an agile and future-proof way of conducting business. But to ensure that we create joint awareness towards a future-proof planet, together and for all. 

‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ and continue to make the right choices for your brand AND for the world.