The fashion industry is moving faster than ever. Consumers’ expectations for high quality goods, made ethically and sustainably, within rapid production cycles mean that fashion companies need to find more efficient and effective ways of working in order to keep pace. This is where the industry’s embrace of technology is at its most beneficial, with solutions designed to consolidate data, bring together people, and unlock better decision-making.
In this story, multinational fitness specialist and activewear company Zumba reveals how technology – specifically Lectra’s Kubix Link – has allowed a global community to keep dancing to its own unique beat, and we consider what implications the company’s journey has for other brands looking to get fit for the future.
Zumba’s heartbeat: clothes, choreography, and community
When you hear the name Zumba®, you might immediately think of the upbeat dance classes that are synonymous with movement, happiness and fun. Founded in 2001, Zumba® is the largest branded fitness company in the world – reporting more than 15 million weekly participants, in 200,000 locations, across 185 countries.
But alongside this, the company has two thriving activewear brands – Zumba® Wear and Strong ID® – and it sells a complex product mix across apparel, accessories, swimwear, and footwear collections. And that business is much more than an offshoot of the Zumba dance fitness program: since their launch in 2008, the brands have sold 25 million pieces of apparel globally, along with over 1 million shoes.
The popularity of Zumba’s apparel business can be attributed to its core philosophy of inclusivity, both in terms of sizing and in its approach to its community. The soul of the brand lies in bringing joy to all, and there are no exceptions made in either its fitness events or its products. To name a few, Zumba provides classes that are accessible to children and the elderly, as well as wheelchair users.
Across its different divisions, Zumba acquires and keeps its legions of fans by maintaining a fast-paced and exciting schedule. In a year, there will be 8-10 new Zumba Wear collections, 2 Strong ID collections, and 4-6 new footwear releases – all across mens, womens, unisex and junior categories. This translates to a new collection every 30-60 days.
Complexity at the core
“Our business is very complex,” Lina Saldarriaga, Senior Director of Product Development and Quality at Zumba, told The Interline. This complexity exists on many different levels: communication across internal and external channels, ensuring alignment on upcoming collections for both its brands; and planning around its inclusive sizing and technical and performance materials.
On top of all this, Zumba has a small window in which to deliver, as the brand only sells directly through its e-commerce store in the US, and the collections are refreshed through this single channel every 30-60 days. Internationally, Zumba sells via distributors and resellers in every market there are Zumba classes being attended. These international partners sell mostly via e-commerce and live at Zumba classes and events. This means the pressure is on for all teams at Zumba, because any delay in time to market means an even narrower selling window through the brand’s only channel.
Working at this level of speed and variety – as well as hitting the right level of quality and performance – means that communication, collaboration, and data centralisation are all extremely important. And each of these was an area that Zumba felt its homegrown systems were not keeping up with the beat. “Communication was becoming a problem,” explains Saldarriaga. “Everyone from Design to Procurement was working off their own documents, with their own sets of data, and the information was fragmented. And when it comes to clothing production, with extremely fast turnarounds and so many different styles and components, our exposure to risk was increasing because we just couldn’t access the right information at the right time.”
The issues Zumba encountered around communication also meant that a lot of time was lost across various points in the production process; for example, product managers spent hours downloading tech packs and sending them along with artwork files to multiple vendors, since the brand did not have the capability to share live data with its suppliers. “Things were not moving as fast as they could have been, despite speed being a requirement for our business model to run smoothly,” explains Saldarriaga.
Another problem arose with regards to the volume and variety of artwork and assets that Zumba’s approach generates. Zumba is not your average clothes company, and it’s known for being “very bold” as Saldarriaga puts it – using bright, bold, complex prints as well as neon colours across the board. Combine this with Zumba’s rapid refresh cycle, and the brand is creating new artwork across an entire thematic collection almost constantly, complicating data structuring and making it difficult for the brand’s departments to manage their own responsibilities as well as their impact on other workflows.
Dancing to the denouement: Kubix Link
In order to mitigate the difficulty in obtaining the right data, and to systematise their processes to build in the agility and speed they needed, Zumba adopted the PLM capabilities of Lectra’s Kubix Link – for both in-house use and to establish a channel for communication and accountability between the brand and its suppliers.
Today, 100% of Zumba’s suppliers now work in Kubix Link, sharing live, accurate data with the Zumba team. And of those, 92% have expressed how easy and intuitive using the software is.
Critically, Zumba has now been able to centralise its core and extended product data, giving access to both internal teams and suppliers. This, in turn, has ensured all relevant parties can track samples easily and share information in real time – which becomes critical when there is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly.
With Zumba’s fast-moving business model, retaining agility is key to minimising risk exposure in the supply chain. “We can now allocate different products in real-time to different places,” says Saldarriaga. “This is critical when something changes along the supply chain, such as a factory closing, because we can quickly identify a new supplier and switch gears without missing our very small windows of opportunity for a new collection. We simply weren’t able to do this when all of our information was fragmented, because our supplier relationships were fragmented, too.”
This type of agility also means that new ideas can be shared with regards to the demands of the market, guaranteeing that Zumba stays on the pulse – not just of its own themed fitness calendar, but of the ever-evolving consumer market. According to Saldarriaga, decision-making has improved through having pertinent data readily available and leveraging product visualisation in planning and sales meetings. Zumba is also able to fast-track products to market by using the “where used” material records to identify suitability, and significant time savings were recorded by Zumba’s tech designers when implementing Kubix Link’s multi-size fitting capabilities.
While using Kubix Link has led to better efficiency, costing, and coordination, it has also had the upshot of improving the quality of the end product. As well as the obvious benefits to end consumers, Zumba’s various teams have also begun to work more closely together during the process of product creation. “Our product lifecycles are now much more collaborative, internally and with our suppliers. We’ve all started working more as a team and because we now have a better understanding of how all the departments are connected,” Saldarriaga explains. “We have developed a system where there are frequent quality checks throughout the design processes, instead of just at the end. This has been really helpful and means that there are fewer disagreements.”
Looking forward: connectivity at the centre and technology as a constant
At its core Zumba has always been about embracing technology. “Despite being a fitness company, everything that we do is based on technology,” Saldarriaga says. “We have always sold our products directly through e-commerce, and during the pandemic we relied on various pieces of tech to stay connected and working.” Zumba’s instructors and its customers are obviously essential to its business, and the shift to both physical and digital engagement has also rubbed off on the way the brand itself works to create apparel, footwear, and accessories. Today, Zumba’s product design and development teams follow a hybrid model of working, meaning that the same attitude to flexibility, inclusivity, and community are evident in every facet of the business.
And Zumba doesn’t intend to stop with better communication and data consolidation; the brand aims to work with Kubix Link to build extra flexibility around adjusting calendars in order to maximise the success of a collection when a particular theme might resonate better later in the year than originally predicted. Having all the information in one place, and making use of the platform’s workflow capabilities, will allow them to build on their current practices and have the flexibility to adjust calendars even further than the usual 45 day turnaround. As Saldarriaga puts it, “every part of our company needs to be nimble.”
Given Zumba’s light-footed and forward-thinking nature, and their rapid embrace of Kubix Link’s adaptable and powerful software, it’s clear that whatever comes next, the company will continue to use technology to put its people first, and to keep moving to its own fast-paced beat.
About our partner: Lectra is a leader in the fashion technology space. With over 40 years of industry experience, Lectra’s powerful software, hardware and services build agility and efficiency into every step of your process, from design to production. Drawing on a rich history of innovation, our fashion-specific solutions have helped over 21,000 retailers, manufacturers and brands worldwide provide the quality, fit and speed their customers demand. For more information visit www.lectra.com
About Zumba: Founded in 2001, Zumba® is the largest branded fitness company in the world – reporting more than 15 million weekly participants, in 200,000 locations, across 185 countries. Zumba blends world rhythms with easy-to-follow choreography for an effective workout that empowers participants to become their best selves – mind, body and soul. In addition to its original Zumba program, the company offers 10 Zumba specialty classes – from aquatic-based to those specifically designed for active older adults and children. In 2016, Zumba launched its first non-dance, HIIT workout STRONG Nation®, where music acts as the main motivator. The Zumba lifestyle is rounded out by the company’s many consumer product offerings, including video games, original music, activewear and footwear, and interactive Fitness-Concert™ events. For more information about Zumba’s programs and products, or to find a live class, visit zumba.com. Follow us on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.[Images throughout this article provided by Zumba.]