As autumn approaches, usually the launchpad for a wardrobe refresh and a peak moment in the sales calendar, the impact of coronavirus – on incomes, social life and environmental awareness, has seen sustainability rising up the agenda. Now after securing a £1.5million venture capital investment led by enterprise backer Episode1, SupplyCompass is scaling its platform and cloud-based, software services solution making ethical manufacturing, greater efficiency and waste reduction simpler and easier.
Current sourcing methods aren’t fit for brands of the future. They’re offline, inefficient and fragmented
Part vetted manufacturer network and part management tool, the single-source platform streamlines the supply chain. This transforms how goods are designed, materials chosen and sampling and speed to market organised. Logistics and vegetable-based compostable packaging are also all part of the mix.
Digital tech packs and sustainability-led design embed the business’s principles, followed by a trusted manufacture selection matching brands with top class, responsible suppliers and a single dashboard featuring structured processes and collaborations.
The platform caters for companies with five staff up to 500, although the average size is 100. Businesses are matched for free within a day with a maker and then subscribe to the service.
SupplyCompass co-founders Flora Davidson and Gus Bartholomew
Ethical sourcing: Factory worker in South India
Despite being outwardly creative and a flagship for variety, behind the scenes the garment industry is entrenched in traditional ways and has been slow to grasp technology as a viable option.
“Current sourcing methods aren’t fit for brands of the future. They’re offline, inefficient and fragmented. To progress they need to be able to design and deliver better products effortlessly, otherwise they’ll be caught out and fall by the wayside,” explain SupplyCompass co-founders engineer Gus Bartholomew and fashion business strategist Flora Davidson.
Their perspective is reinforced by the latest YouGov findings that suggest the majority of adults agree that lockdown has presented a good opportunity to make better decisions about the environment.
The business is based in London and Mumbai
Extensive research was needed to lay the foundations for SupplyCompass. Davidson and Bartholomew spent two years in India from 2016 checking out 300 factories and working out how digitisation might be achieved so it works for both brands and manufacturers.
It then launched the business, based in London and Mumbai, followed by its latest full-service platform earlier this year.
“None of the online tools we saw were specifically designed for the fashion industry’s operations,” they say. “Easing pain points for brands isn’t enough.”
Engineering sustainability: Cotton field workers in Telangana
With an international client base and 50 factory partners, the company employs 20.
“There is an assumption that manufacturing closer to home means good factory conditions and workers’ rights,” points out Davidson. “However local doesn’t guarantee ethical standards are met. Some of the most exceptional manufacturers we have seen have been in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
“Covid-19 has once again highlighted the imbalance between brands and their suppliers, with large retailers cancelling orders. But brand-supplier relationships shouldn’t be transactional or throwaway. The future is about durability and quality, both in terms of products and relationships.
“The livelihoods of workers further down the value chain are so often missed out of the conversation.”
A new moodboard tool, developed just after lockdown began, enables fashion and design brands easily to share ideas and inspiration across teams, and inquiry numbers have jumped 400 percent during this time. More jobs are to be created and the company expects £500million of goods to be sourced through its platform this year.
“The pandemic has been a catalyst for change. Fashion has been forced to slow down, unsold inventory is going to be the next big issue, and we have heard brands talking about creating more trans-seasonal, timeless pieces,” says Bartholomew.
“Sustainability will become even more important. Every day more doors are opening to us.”