Future Fashion Factory - Digitally Enabled Design & Manufacture of Designer Products for Circular Economies

  • Goswami, Parikshit (PI)
  • Russell, Stephen John (PI)
  • Almond, Kevin, University of Leeds, (CoI)
  • Postlethwaite, Susan (CoI)

Project: Research

Description

The fashion design industry contributes £28bn or £50bn including indirect contributions, to the UK economy with a growing workforce of nearly 900,000 making it one of the largest creative industries in the country.

This is an industry-led challenge in which designers will lead a highly creative process of applying, co-developing and implementing new textile and industrial digital technologies (IDTs) in collaboration with supply chain manufacturers and other technology experts, in the high value luxury textile and fashion sector. The R&D cluster will deliver exciting new creative innovation opportunities, new products, shorter product development and design lead times, reduced costs, and substantially increase global industrial competitiveness and productivity.

The research focuses on developing new creative design processes, products, service and business models, linked to two key themes: 1. Digitally Connected and Sustainable Processes. 2. Digital Communication and Data Analytics.

The R&D in both themes will also feed in to the creation of new fashion design degree and industrial apprenticeship programmes to address a skills gap in the industry for multidisciplinary STEAM-based designers, that possess a unique combination of art, design, science and technology competencies.

Key findings

Planned Impact

Lead time, between design and the finished product, currently limits growth in the luxury fashion sector. This is particularly acute beyond the small number of vertically integrated companies in the sector. The Future Fashion Factory R&D Partnership will develop interventions to refine every stage of the new product development (NPD) process and shorten the time required to finalise design decisions thus reducing risk. This addresses the need to increase the flexibility and agility of fashion designers (independents and employed) within the interconnected supply chain of fibre suppliers, textile and clothing manufacturers, wholesaling, retailing, brand marketing and advertising and the converging industries engaged in digital and textile technologies. Consumers will have their demand for high quality personalised luxury clothing met. Additional beneficiaries are students and apprentices engaged in training and education.
In the near term, the initial partners and their supply chains will benefit significantly (see below). However, given the wider relevance of the research challenge to the industry, we will disseminate and engage beyond the immediate geographic cluster through established relationships with the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) and the British Fashion Council (BFC).
Within 0-3 years of engagement: 1. Transition to a continuous creative output cycle rather than the current seasonal approach; 2. More rapid NPD process; with the potential to reduce lead times from the current 4-8 month average in the luxury segment to around 3 months (much closer to the fast fashion lead time of 6-8 weeks but without the transport timescales of bringing finished garments from their offshore production sites).3. Reduction in lead time will generate similar improvements in productivity, reduction in stock-holding, reduced risk of stock running out, smoother cash flows and reduced cost in the NPD process. It is estimated that the reductions in lead time that are envisaged will translate into a potential doubling of profit.
Within 3-5 years of engagement:
1. Reduced waste and cost arising from iterative sampling and the manufacture of textiles and garments prior to retail, achieved by recycling/upcycling the waste back into high value garments and by using digital iterations (minutes and zero material cost) rather than physical iterations (many hours, raw material and asset/operator waste). We estimate that this will reduce development costs by 15-20%, which will translate into increased manufacturing and retail margins; 2. Greater flexibility and responsiveness in the NPD process, with designers able to digitally link to manufacturing assets to produce customised product design ranges. This will increase the potential for new label start-ups as up-front costs will be less;
3. New products and business models from greater connectivity of digital communication systems and manufacturing processes. Digital communication systems will enhance the customer experience in online channels providing a significant boost for small labels who sell exclusively via this channel. Labels, with online and physical channels, will be able introduce products to the online channel that currently would not sell well in this environment as customers will be able to 'feel' and interact with a virtual product which accurately mimics its physical manifestation; 4. New UG, PG and apprenticeship programmes for multidisciplinary 21st Century designers.
Within 5-10 years: 1. Opportunities to increase re-shoring of textile and fashion operations to the UK leading to an increase in high skilled jobs; 2. Shorter local UK supply chains, with the potential to cut lead times even further than the short term target above to weeks. This will further protect and grow the UK's luxury fashion sector; 3. Stronger, more resilient and innovative UK luxury fashion sector resulting from the full implantation of new textile and digital technologies.
Short titleFuture Fashion Factory
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/10/181/03/23