Leadtimes


The word “leadtime” is not exactly click bait.   However, it has an impact on the apparel industry’s sourcing decisions, and therefore has an impact on our world.

Vertical fast fashion brands rely on short leadtimes, with products delivering to stores within weeks after orders are placed.   Wholesale apparel brands look to reduce their leadtimes to avoid over-projecting their needs, which results in owning more product than they can sell.

The push to shorten leadtimes is a challenge for advocates of sustainable, traceable fabric sourcing in the apparel industry.  Typically, when apparel brands place their orders, fabric mills use raw materials or yarns that are readily available to them to produce the fabric.  If mills included the time it would take to acquire raw materials that meet specific sustainability requirements, their fabric leadtimes would be unacceptably long for the brands, and mills would risk losing orders.

Fabric sourcing needs to evolve, and start from the ground up, literally and figuratively.  Brands need to make commitments at the fiber level so that the right raw materials are in place when apparel and fabric orders are placed, and the production leadtimes would not be affected.   Brands wouldn’t need to know their exact styles so far in advance, but should be able to estimate their raw material needs.  Unlike excess fabric and garments, if raw material projections are over-estimated, it can be used up in future seasons.

This is a shift from the way fabrics are currently sourced.  Apparel brands normally don’t get involved in processes that take place prior to the knitting/weaving stages at the mill.  But committing to sources at the raw material level would strengthen brands by showing they are leaders, not followers.  And actions speak louder than click bait.