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The Logistics of Fashion: Connecting the world one stitch at a time

The value and prestige of the UK’s fashion industry is not to be underestimated. It is one of very few resilient sectors to have fared well during the recession, emerging stronger than ever in 2014 to contribute £26billion to the British economy.[1] Coupled with fashion and apparel’s combined support for supply chain industries this figure has increased by over 20 per cent in the past five years[2].

Significant growth in retail e-commerce has served to boost business on home soil as well as strengthen the UK’s relationship with overseas consumers, culminating in £800million worth of exports each month[3]. This “fast fashion” requires flexibility in the supply chain to deliver quality at an affordable price, yet the complexities involved in the “logistics of fashion” are often downplayed. The sourcing or import of raw material has to be considered first, followed by decisions concerning lead times and development calendars, then the manufacturing process itself, with delivery and distribution – complete with customs navigation – finalising the chain.

To help, FedEx has put together its top five tips on fashion and textile exporting, offering best practice advice and guidance to make the most of international opportunities.

1. Take global expansion one step at a time
As Fashion Week season approaches, the world’s eyes will be firmly fixed on Great Britain, and with 65% of international consumers actively seeking out British goods online when internet shopping[4], therein lies great opportunities to reach new customers. However, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” strategy when looking to enter multiple overseas markets. Each one has its own customs, regulations and code of etiquette – all of which has to be navigated appropriately. In preparing for Fashion Week season, your export strategies for New York, Milan and Paris should all vary, taking into account the different rates and restrictions for each country.

2. Do your research

Charges can apply when transporting apparel at both the point of export and the point of import into the destination country. It is important that you are aware of the transaction costs involved at both sides and can plan accordingly. Remember, other EU countries are widely regarded as being easier to trade with compared to countries outside the EU, as the goods are in free circulation[5]. By being part of a Customs Union, the UK benefits from restriction-free trade with other EU countries. If you are exporting clothing to the EU that has been processed from imported EU raw materials or goods, you may also be able to obtain additional relief from customs duties. Consider where your goods are made and how much is EU origin, as you may get duty relief from other “preference-giving” countries outside of the EU that favour imports from this area.

3. Be aware of customs challenges
The transportation of clothing, requires specific restrictions that need following. Firstly, a business needs to detail the gender for which the garment is designed as this will impact on the duty rate when transporting across borders. You will also need to have correct accompanying documentation detailing whether the goods are knitted or woven, in addition to their fabric content in percentage by weight. The country of manufacture also needs to be divulged with some countries, namely the US, requiring the manufacturer to be identified via a code or the manufacturer’s full name and address.

4. Keep clear on cost for good customer service
Larger companies have been known to absorb customs charges; keeping delivery prices to a minimum and customers happy. Working closely with your logistics provider to make sure parcels come complete with the correct shipping documentation will help you navigate what can be a tricky process. Make sure any clothing or raw materials are labelled in line with the Harmonised Coding System which classifies traded products with names and numbers to ensure quick and easy customs clearance.

5. Be realistic about what you can offer
The size of the UK means you can pretty much guarantee next day delivery nationwide, but getting your product into far-reaching countries safely and securely will arguably take more time. As the industry continues to grow, we are seeing increased demand on the fashion supply chain as brands compete with each other to get their products from catwalk to customer as quickly and efficiently as possible. Speak to your logistics provider who can advise on likely delivery times based on individual country tariffs and border requirements. The UKTI is also an invaluable source of information for commodity codes and other measures applying to exports using its free online UK Trade Tariff.

For the thousands of people attending this month’s Fashion Week shows, the majority will not fully appreciate the lengths taken and miles travelled to get the clothes ready for public display. In an industry where as much as 80% of a business’ total expenditure goes into the supply chain[6], agile distribution is critical. Whether transporting apparel for an event of this nature or to retailers around the world, partnering with a trusted logistics provider should be a top priority for those in the industry looking to capitalise on global opportunities. At London Fashion Week alone, shows are streamed live to 160 countries worldwide and over £100 million worth of orders placed[7]. With such big business readily available for those that have the right logistics support behind them, considering some of our advice points will ensure budding designers and brands make a truly global fashion statement all year round.

 

[1] London Fashion Week, February 2014
[2] London Fashion Week, February 2014
[3] guardian, June 2014
[4] Drapers, July 2014
[5] Gov.uk, June 2013
[6] Deloitte, Autumn/Winter 2014
[7] London Fashion Week, February 2014

 

Wool and the Gang: How a small network of knitters has taken the fashion world by storm

 

In February 2014, knitwear company Wool and the Gang made a distinctive name for itself by collaborating  on an exclusive range of clothing and accessories for one of Britain’s biggest fashion labels at London’s esteemed Fashion Week.

Brand founders and creative directors Jade Harwood and Aurelie Popper
Brand founders and creative directors Jade Harwood and Aurelie Popper

Chosen for its quirky designs and unique business background, this catwalk appearance was another accomplishment in an already impressive success story, one which has helped bring the traditional pastime of knitting very much into today’s contemporary culture.

Unravelling the yarn of an idea

Wool and the Gang began life as a very simple concept – to teach a new generation about knitting. Brand founders and creative directors Jade Harwood and Aurelie Popper launched the business to create modern and on-trend designs using traditional knitting techniques.

Initially tapping into a growing trend of DIY fashion by selling ready to make ‘knit kits’, acclaim spread quickly through word-of-mouth as customers proudly shared their finished pieces with friends, family and fellow fans of the brand.

As Lisa Rodwell, Wool and the Gang CEO recalls, “The knit kits were a huge success and really helped build a core following – a network of knitters, if you will. The craft became ‘cool’ almost overnight, with orders quickly rolling in.”

Before long, Wool and the Gang introduced a ‘Ready to Wear’ collection. New designs produced for each fashion season soon transformed the business into a fully-fledged fashion brand.

Bringing knitting into the 21st Century

As with many new businesses in the digital age, Wool and the Gang makes effective use of the internet to aid the company’s growth and ongoing success. From early ‘how to’ knitting videos on YouTube to a 40,000 strong Instagram following, the combination of knitting and the internet has become a very powerful one.

“We’ve had major fashion houses and prominent industry magazines come to us for commissions rather than the other way round, which I am sure has been as a result of the online chatter surrounding our unique offering,” says Lisa.

“Customers who love the brand have also approached us to become members of the gang themselves – I like to think we’ve played a small part in creating a whole new generation of knitters,” she adds.

Taking the gang global

As demand for the clothing continues to grow internationally, knitters from across the world are being enlisted to produce the ‘Ready to Wear’ collections. “This is precisely why we decided to reach out to FedEx and see what they could do to help us,” explains Lisa. “Put simply, we needed a provider that would get our collections from A to B with speed and ease.”

 

Wool and the Gang packaging
Wool and the Gang packaging

Challenges such as customs, duty and taxes is where FedEx is able to take on an advisory role, sharing knowledge and offering guidance based upon worldwide expertise in streamlining operations for businesses of all sizes. For Wool and the Gang, keeping delivery charges to a minimum is paramount for good and consistent customer experience. By working closely with FedEx to make sure parcels come complete with the correct shipping documentation, Wool and the Gang knows ahead of time exactly what customs clearance fees are likely to be, leaving no unwanted surprises for both the business and its customers.

FedEx also helps Wool and the Gang ensure shipments are labelled correctly in line with the Harmonised Coding System which classifies traded products with names and numbers. The support of FedEx is invaluable in overcoming what might otherwise be a tricky and time-consuming process.

“Speed to market is essential in our industry, so we need a provider that we can trust to do the job quickly and efficiently,” says Lisa.

“We recently had a last minute opportunity to send some of our designs to a well-known craft fair in Canada, getting the initial call on Monday for exhibition on the Friday. Before FedEx, there was absolutely no way we could have had the products made and delivered by the deadline.’’

“Now, with its excellent international next day delivery service, we are able to capitalise on every opportunity, which makes us very excited for the future of our international trade and network.”

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