Photo by Flickr User Mainstream (edited), Licensed under CC BY 2.0
It’s that time of the year again! No, we don’t mean football season (though that started last week, too), we’re talking about New York Fashion Week! Let’s take this opportunity to look behind the scenes of the fashion industry and see how project management fits into the picture.
The fashion industry is probably one of the fastest moving in the business world. What might be ‘in’ today may be totally ‘out’ tomorrow. On the runway, models present the latest fashion trends, some more ‘conventional’, others a little bit more ‘eccentric’. While the clothes take center stage, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes of a fashion show. A lot of things need to be planned before a clothing item reaches the runway or a store’s shelf. Fashion companies face many challenges and constraints that require good planning and efficient execution of those plans – this is where project management comes in.
1. Stakeholder Management
Before you can produce fashion items, you need to know your stakeholders. Without knowing your market and customers, the chances are high that you will fail. A company in the fashion industry has to deal with a myriad of stakeholders who all have an impact on the company: trade organizations, suppliers, sponsors, buyers and distributors, partners etc. Transparency, communication and collaboration with these stakeholders are important for a company to grow and succeed.
There are many types of projects in fashion, ranging from opening a store (physical and/or online), launching a product, organizing a fashion show, to entering a new market or market segment. You need a plan for each of these projects and have a clear vision of what you want to achieve with the respective project. The main goal of fashion companies is simply to sell their products, i.e. increase sales, but in order to do so, you will need attention. Increasing media coverage will also increase your company’s value and ultimately result in higher sales as well.
Your project plan needs to factor in all the necessary steps to successfully reach your goals. To launch a product, you will have to design the product first, then plan demand and start producing. After that you have to decide on the pricing and sales budget. Your plan should also include market research and marketing measures. These are only a few steps in the process of launching a new product.
The fashion industry might be fast moving, but that doesn’t mean that you can skirt the planning process. On the contrary, you need to plan carefully because of the pressure to produce new fashion items as successfully as possible. In the age of the internet, you have to do much more to set yourself apart from your global competition, not just regarding cost-efficiency, but also in terms of the quality of your designs. Fashion companies who want to be successful need to set trends, not just follow them.
3. Changes and Risks
Fashion companies face many challenges and risks and changes happen constantly, because everybody is striving to start a new fashion trend. Even established brands, who failed to recognize that the market and customer demands are changing, have fallen on hard times, or are even at the brink of bankruptcy. Thus, fashion companies need to identify possible risks (production failures, supply chain errors, etc.) and be prepared for sudden changes (demand change, regulatory changes etc.).
Fashion companies also need to be aware that customers are much more conscious of the social impact of fashion’s pursuit of producing clothes as fast as possible. Producing cost-efficient is important for the bottom line, but negative media coverage can quickly turn into a full-fledged shitstorm that can drag on and start ruining a brands image. You need to wage the risks and benefits carefully and balance them out.
This is one project management methodology that can extremely benefit the fashion industry, as illustrated by the success of this fashion retailer. Adopting agile methods such as scrum enables fashion companies and their project teams to work more efficiently together. Agile also allows for more flexibility and helps improving processes, such as sales, customer management or supply chain management, leading to higher and faster turnover of products – which can in turn give you a coveted leading position.
It’s important that fashion companies foster a collaborative and creative culture. Avoid misunderstandings between team members by communicating information early and often. Have regular review meetings to discuss decisions and lessons learned. You also have to make sure that every team member knows exactly what their responsibilities are. Communication and collaboration are extremely important in the fashion industry because your goal is to produce a clothing line as efficiently and quickly as possible, and that is only possible if everyone involved works together effectively.