Integrated digital platform for a new clothing business model
Today, most garments are manufactured on large-scale production in Asia. The reason is that clothing production still takes a lot of manual work, which is expensive in Europe. Now, researchers are developing a digitally integrated knowledge-based platform that has the ability to facilitate design and manufacturing of ‘high function’ or exclusive ‘high fashion’ garments entirely in EU. This means that the consumer might be willing to pay more for a special function or a particular design.
”The platform includes a range of services for example virtual fitting, AI-based recommendations and customized functional comfort. To support this, the manufacturing side of the platform will also include advanced data-based multi-services related to testing and certification, environmental footprint analysis, supplier selection and cloud-based production planning”, says Rudrajeet Pal, docent in textile management at the Swedish School of Textiles and researcher in the project.
The platform will be tested by running small series manufacturing of customized products, such as made-to-measure shirts, functional sportswear, technical underwear, and performance urban wear.
“The garments will go the through the entire supply chain via our digital platform that connects business-to-business and business-to-consumer functions. After that, we can develop a new, entirely European business model for textile and clothing companies”, says Rudrajeet Pal
The work is carried out within the framework of a new EU project called Fashion Big Data Business Model (FBD_BModel).
Contributes to sustainable clothing production
The purpose is not to compete with the existing clothing manufacturing in Asia. The platform and the business model should rather be seen as a complement, as local clothing production creates local jobs, reduces negative impact on the environment, and little to no overproduction of clothes. Also, the entire process becomes more transparent to the customer.
“This is not clothes produced in high volumes, but customised clothes where the consumer is willing to pay a higher price compared to what is normally spent on everyday garments”, Rudrajeet says.
Makes production more flexible
There are 11 partners from Europe involved in the project, of which four are higher education institutions. The Swedish School of Textiles is the only Swedish partner and responsible for the part of the project related to development of supply chain and product management system.
“We want to find out how to configure manufacturing more flexibly so that a factory could produce, say, two copies of a garment and then two of another, in an efficient and profitable way. Also, delivery times need to be short”, he says.
Other partners will investigate areas such as textile materials, the functionality of the garments, and digital product design. The project also involves fashion companies as well as companies that make tailor-made clothes for the customers. It is the companies at the end of the project that will make the business model commercial.
There is an existing knowledge basis from previous EU projects, such as Roll To Bag and Digimode, where the Swedish School of Textiles and researchers have looked at how to make custom-made clothes locally, but those projects did not build an integrated platform with large range of innovative services, as proposed here.
“What is new and unique in this project is that the platform is fully integrated with all actors involved in the supply chain. My hope is to create an entirely Swedish platform in the future”, says Rudrajeet Pal.
This project is funded by the EU framework programme Horizon2020 and lasts until autumn 2020.
Text: Anna Kjellsson
Graphics: Belongs to project
Photo: Suss Wilén