Friday, April 22, 2011

Top Models for Sustainable Fashion Supply Chain Management

Today is Earth Day, so I would be remiss if I were not to post about supply chains and the environment.

When I say "top models" I am speaking not of the three-dimensional kind that are featured in the media and ads and on the covers of glossy magazines (and you may be able to name your favorites either male or female), but, rather, I am referring to mathematical models, based on which we can make important decisions. Yes, some of my colleagues in operations research and the management sciences still hold on to their t-shirts with the logo "We Do It With Models."

Also, despite what today's The New York Times is reporting about declining sales of green consumer products (except in the case of "good" deals), sustainability matters.

Fast fashion and the apparel industry is global in nature -- of course, everyone wears clothes, and for those of us who live in New England, we wear different clothes, based on the season, and sometimes lots of layers of them.

Fashion and apparel supply chains are fascinating, and involve decision-making regarding global outsourcing versus in-house production and quick-response.

Also, today, we are living in a world where the competition is not among firms but among supply chains and, given the same price, what would a socially-responsible consumer do -- she would purchase the product that made less of a negative impact on the environment!

As for the models that we have been developing, they include supply chain network models for competition among different fashion brands with sustainability, also available from the publisher, the International Journal of Production Economics, as well as multicriteria decision-making supply chain network models that capture time versus cost tradeoffs, which will appear as the lead chapter in the forthcoming book: Fashion Supply Chain Management: Business and Industry Analysis.

Above is a photo of what I consider to be a very special gift, given to me by the participants in a workshop that I organized at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center on Lake Como in Italy, a fashion design mecca. The beautiful scarf with butterflies was made there locally and the silk was spun by silkworms! In fact, I find it too beautiful to wear and consider it art and a remembrance of a very special time.

And then there is Nancy Judd, an environmental educator and designer, who creates fashions out of recycled materials, including trash, some of which can then be put back in the compost pile!