Report IAF Panel Discussion Atlanta

On May 3rd the IAF organized and moderated a panel discussion at the Texprocess Atlanta. IAF regularly organizes these sessions with partner Messe Frankfurt and in the case of the Atlanta fair, with partner SPESA. The discussions usually take a deeper look at technology, trying to find out how the apparel industry actually implements all the new technology and what that means for the industry. Panelists are always from different continents, emphasizing the international character of the IAF. This edition, on our panel we had: Dave Gardner, managing director of SPESA; John Stern, President of Methods Workshop; Han Bekke, President MODINT; Van Tucker, CEO of the Nashville Fashion Alliance; Ed Gribbin, President of Alvanon; Geoff Willis, CEO of Trigon Select; Mike Fralix, CEO of [TC]² en Stefano Festa Marzotto, CEO FBS Group en Member of the Board of Sistema Moda Italia.

Much more automated factories and a totally digital supply chain are seen as major developments for the industry in the coming years. Combined with personal avatars that are fast becoming more realistic and user friendly, it is easy to see that this technology is enabling mass customization. Where mass customization requires close proximity of production to high income markets and automation is making small scale production possible within these markets, reshoring and nearshoring are likely to happen. Across the world, in Amsterdam, in New York, in Nashville and all over Italy from small emerging brands to large luxury and sportswear brands are finding proximity to manufacturing crucial to the success of their creative and technical development process. Often they are making production in high cost markets possible by innovating in production processes and business models.

The panelists agreed that for the industry to really change in a big way, just the technology is not enough. For large brands and retailers, really benefitting from the implementation of new technology requires a holistic view, all across the supply chain. It is about using technology to get the right product at the right place at the right time. For reshoring to take off, investments in access to finance and in improving drastically the knowledge of apparel production and fabric characteristics are crucial. It is relatively new terrain and it would be great if the initiatives from New York, Nashville, Amsterdam, London and Milan would share best practices to create a global reshoring knowledge hub.

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