Every week, The Interline analyses one or more vital talking points from across the landscape of fashion technology news. This analysis is also delivered to Interline Insiders by email.

Next Monday: The Interline chairs a discussion about the future of fashion. Registration is free!

With many of our readers enjoying the extended Thanksgiving weekend, thoughts might be far from the future of fashion, but next Monday The Interline’s Editor, Ben Hanson, will be chairing a standout panel discussion on precisely that subject at the extended reality conference, Exthereal.

At 3PM GMT on Monday 29th, Ben will be joined on the virtual stage by senior figures from Accenture, Microsoft, DRESSX, Hugo Boss, and Epic Games. And as you might expect from a panel that diverse, the topics covered will range from sustainability and digital fashion, to the future of agile, digital manufacturing.

The panel – as well as the entire three-day Exthereal event – is free to attend, so if you’d like to begin your post-Thanksgiving week with a one-hour encapsulation of where the industry is headed, this discussion will be well worth your time.

Register for free here: https://www.exthereal.com

Supply chains must be sustainable… but they also need to survive.

With today being Black Friday, there’s a significant weight being placed on conspicuous consumption, with all the usual stories of peak buying making headlines. Even in The Interline‘s home country of the UK, where Black Friday has a very flimsy justification for existing beyond the purely commercial, spending is predicted to reach record levels – especially online.

Predictably, these stories are likely to act as a counterbalance to the many pieces published around COP26, where the blame (such as it is) was primarily apportioned to governments and corporations, rather than end consumers. The industry is only making to demand, the argument will go, and if people stopped buying so much then fashion (along with other consumer goods sectors) would stop making so much.

This is, unquestionably, part of the sustainability picture. Despite younger demographics being firmly committed to ethical and environmental values, overproduction remains a two-way street. But behind the scenes of every arguably unnecessary Black Friday purchase is a supply chain that stands on extremely shaky foundations – with potentially profound consequences for how we think about the future of production.

As a piece from BoF published this week revealed, supply chains have quickly assumed paramount importance in brands’ and retailers’ business strategies, with executives capable of orchestrating them in a sustainable way becoming one of the fashion industry’s most sought-after hires.

Further data published this month, though, suggests that optimising and reinforcing the sustainability credentials of supply chains might just be scratching the surface of what’s required to avert a commercial and humanitarian crisis. A report published earlier this month by Cornell University and the Open Apparel Registry (who have written for The Interline before) suggests that the impacts of climate change on countries that produce large portions of the world’s apparel and textile could be both imminent and catastrophic: some manufacturing strongholds in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and other countries could be underwater within a decade.

At a very profound level, this is a looming crisis that government and industry action has contributed to, making it a difficult disaster for fashion to actively avert. Frankly, much of this change appears to be baked-in – which is to say that the odds of the fashion industry changing the world’s course are slim. And while corporate and consumer action will make a difference to several different parts of the overall sustainability picture, nations that produce are largely being left holding the bag while nations that consume will avoid many of the worst consequences of a warming world.

Equipped with this knowledge, the C-Suite sustainability executive has a bigger task ahead of them: spending the next few years shoring up supply chains not just to be more sustainable, but to have the resilience needed to survive. And how the industry answers this challenge (by increasing its use of automated, near-shore production or by working with key partners in at-risk locations to assist with reinforcement or relocation) will set a strong precedent for whether large-scale consumption events like Black Friday are even possible in the future, let alone desirable.

And the best from The Interline this week:

In a fitting continuation of the themes of this week’s analysis, we recently published an exclusive interview with two of the authors of “Moving The Needle,” a milestone report on the fashion industry’s progress towards building more transparent, sustainable supply chains.

The interview looks at where the root causes of the industry’s current lack of supply chain visibility lie – primarily in manual methods – and the role that technology can play in helping to turn sustainability from a cost into an opportunity.