A Paradigm Shift from Textile Supply Chain to Sustainable Ecosystem: Open Innovation Platform for Sustainable Textile

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In this post, Philip Chu explores the knowledge gap between consumers and sustainable textile. Leading up to the Degree Show, he shares his perspective of the Nouveau Flâneur as an Innovation Manager.

Under the context of innovation management, the Nouveau Flâneur is a modern day explorer of undiscovered markets. From my personal perspective, a Nouveau Flâneur bridges the identified knowledge gap between the market and the firms. This is critical for firms wish to tackle untapped markets and understand true market demands. This type of innovator has firsthand knowledge of the market apart from statistics and business reports and other secondary findings. This knowledge often originates from the Flâneur’s close observations and journey experience, discovering serendipity. As market competition becomes globally intensified, his strength lies in his ability to translate this knowledge into innovation opportunities.

Due to the significant impact of globalisation, there is an identified knowledge gap between the globally expanding and growing complication in textile supply chains and the stakeholders. The research motivation originates from the awareness of the study of sustainable innovation management, which is in great demand. Traditionally, fashion and sportswear brands and retailers have shown little interest in improving the environmental impact that their suppliers have created in their respective countries, which mostly are based in China, India, and other developing countries for cheaper wages and manufacturing costs. According to Greenpeace and UK published research, clothing and textile produced by hazardous chemicals cause not only environmental impact, but also irreversible harm to human bodies. Potential health risks include higher chances of cancer, hormone disruption, and infertility.

From my desk study and placement research findings, I strongly believe that the opportunity involves designing an eco labeling system that emphasises on creating greater transparency and traceability of the textile supply chain. The new system is called the eco footprint labeling system. The consumer must be able to trace the provenance in respective production stages, with straightforward and clear information, including what chemicals are used and the measurable impact to the environment. With the emerging concept of the Internet of Things (IoT), each textile product could be assigned with a consumer friendly QR code label, when scanned with smart phone applications, leading the consumers to an URL that demonstrates visual information of the eco-footprints of their products. This objective could be achieved by existing technology, such as the industry accepted two-dimensional barcode, also known as the Quick Response code (QR code).

In order to effectively and efficiently collect and manage the information flow of authentic and specific footprint information from individual production stages, an open innovation platform should be established. This open innovation platform for sustainable textile should be led by a firm with great economies of scale to strategically integrate ecosystem partners, including textile suppliers and fashion designers. This business model concept leads to a paradigm shift from a conventional textile supply chain to a textile ecosystem for sustainability. This has been a consistent challenge for the fashion and government sectors, and the knowledge gap could be bridged by the Nouveau Flâneur under an open innovation platform environment.

To learn more about the Nouveau Flâneur and Philip’s research, stay tuned for the upcoming MAIM 2015 Degree Show, taking place at Central Saint Martins in the week starting on the 23rd of June.