The rise of fast fashion stores like Forever 21 and H&M is thrusting the retail industry into a new era. Consumers are demanding products faster and cheaper than ever before, and retailers are revamping their backends to keep up. Traditional brick and mortar brands such as JCPenney, Lord & Taylor, Aldo and Belk are turning to more unorthodox methods to compete with these popular millennial-focused brands, including partnerships with the fashion reality competition Project Runway.
Now in its 16th season, designers on the show must create a complete garment in just one or two days’ time, giving new meaning to the term “fast fashion.” The pressure for fast fashion has turned the heat up on big box retailers, and as they turn to the TV show for guidance, it’s clear they can learn a lot from the pool of talented designers. Here are our top three lessons retailers can take away from the popular show.
1. Depend on new technology: Technology is king throughout the Project Runway design process. For a few seasons starting in 2010, designers sketched their ideas on tablets in lieu of traditional colored pencils and sketchpad. Though designers were accustomed to their traditional sketching methods, they adapted to and recognized the benefits of the digitized process quickly – just as retailers need to adapt to digital sourcing platforms to stay organized in the New Retail Economy. Our recent report, Digital Sourcing in the New Retail Economy, uncovered that 26 percent of retail and supply chain professionals are still relying on handwritten notes for sourcing purposes. If they want their brand to succeed, they’ll take a hint from Project Runway and make the jump to digital.
2. Delivering products at consumer speed is mandatory: Often left with only one day to design and create an entire garment, Project Runway designers are tasked to deliver quality clothing under major time constraints. In an industry where trends come and go quicker than the seasons change, retailers must consistently innovate to get their products to market faster than their competitors. Delivering products at consumer speed may be difficult, but it’s not impossible, and retailers can learn a thing or two from the contestants’ quick turnaround time.
3. Collaboration and constructive critiques will help your product sell in the long run: “Can I be blunt?” is one of Tim Gunn’s favorite phrases throughout the show – and one the audience listens for with pleasure. Gunn, who co-hosts and mentors the designers, often assesses their work halfway through challenges. His critique helps designers turn their drab dress into an on-trend fashion piece. Brands should aim to have this same level of collaboration, and tap their supplier base for critiques just as the designers tap Gunn for advice to ensure that their products are optimized for their audience. For example, if a retailer wants to produce a garment to sell in China, the supplier may have insight as to what colors and trends are popular in that country for the upcoming season.
Regardless of what industry you work in, retail professionals can take notes from the talented designers who grace our TV screens on Project Runway. The designers are a one-stop shop, acting as their own sourcing, supply chain, design and sales departments throughout their experience. Retailers face many of the same challenges that the Project Runway designers do, and as Tim Gunn famously says, they must “make it work.”
Consumers want what they want, and they want it now. Learn how Live on Day One PLM can help in the new world of fast fashion.