Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Deriving Guilty Pleasure from Doing Research on Fashion Supply Chain Management

Research is hard but research can also be a lot of fun!

When opportunities come your way, you should take advantage of them because they may not only open doors but also provide new directions for intellectual explorations and collaborations.

Last Friday, I wrote about the wonderful time we had with our inaugural "Meet the Executive" event, which featured our alum, Mr. Marc Schneider of PVH. We were honored and, frankly, thrilled, that Mr. Schneider, who is an executive in the fashion industry, and is based in NYC, was speaking to us during Fashion Week. His talk and visit were truly inspirational and with the extraordinary positive feedback that we have received, we will do another such event this semester. Interestingly, and this I did not expect, some of the most engaging conversations at the lunch that followed took place among the men (and women) discussing fashion at our University Club, which is in a building that dates to 1728!

I noted at the lunch that one of my doctoral students, Min Yu, who was also present, and I have been conducting research on fashion supply chain management for the past year and I am deriving guilty pleasure from working in this area. Also, I could not resist wearing a pink Longchamps silk scarf last Friday that was given to me as a gift for speaking at the Management Science Forum at Fudan University in Shanghai, back in 2006!

Not much research has been done in fashion supply chain management. Firstly, fashion is a creative industry and there are presently unique challenges with fast fashion making a big impact, plus issues regarding the increasing costs of raw materials, including cotton, leather, and polyester, and the big role of outsourcing in this industry. In addition, this industry is seeking to minimize waste and its pollution imprint (or at least some players are). At the same time, fashion is an industry in which brands matter and there is competition among brands.

Min and I became intrigued both by the time-sensitivity of various fashion products as well as by the sustainability issues. Our latest collaboration resulted in the paper, "Fashion Supply Chain Management Under Oligopolistic Competition and Brand Differentiation," which has now been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Production Economics, Special Issue on Green Manufacturing and Distribution in the Fashion and Apparel Industries.

Our paper that focuses on fast fashion, entitled: "Fashion Supply Chain Management Through Cost and Time Minimization from a Network Perspective," will be the lead chapter in the book, Fashion Supply Chain Management: Industry and Business Analysis, which is edited by Dr. T.-M. Choi, and is scheduled to be out in April 2011.

The seeds for this research must have been planted early, since even one of my former undergrads, Christina Calvaneso, who worked as a Center Associate of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks that I direct, and went on to work for GE and Deloitte, is now working for Rent the Runway in NYC in a senior finance capacity! Moreover, one of the undergrads at our lunch last Friday, who had interned at Goldman Sachs last summer, and is from Hong Kong, has accepted an offer from Deloitte and hopes to work in consulting for the fashion industry.