Consumers are increasingly looking to their favorite brands for action against systemic racism. Some companies have donated millions to organizations fighting racial injustice, like Glossier and Nike; others haven’t disclosed just how much money they’re giving. More are simply posting messages of solidarity on Instagram, often with lukewarm results. The swift backlash to those perfunctory statements and lazy re-grams has brought to light a harsh truth about fashion’s own lack of diversity.
Fashion won’t correct its imbalances overnight, but there are change-makers emerging. One such change-maker is Resonance, a vertically-integrated platform for sustainable, on-demand fashion production, which just announced a new initiative to “empower 10 creators of color to build and launch their own fashion brands by August 2020.” Applications for Be Resonant opened last night, and later this month, selected brands will be given $50,000 in cash and services. They’ll spend the month of July developing their collections and will officially launch their brands in the fall.
If that sounds fast, it is. But Resonance doesn’t operate on the traditional fashion model, in which a designer spends almost a full year designing, sampling, producing, and selling a collection. Resonance owns its factory in the Dominican Republic and stocks it with pre-selected fabric deemed to be functional, sustainable, and accommodating to a variety of colors and prints, from organic cotton to silk to linen. Its high-tech, nearly-automated supply chain enables designers who have partnered with Resonance to design an item and produce it “on demand” in as little as a few weeks (or a few days). Most of them sell their pieces on their own direct-to-consumer websites and don’t have to worry about selling out or not selling enough; they only produce what they really need. In contrast, a department store might ask a designer to produce a large quantity of items many months in advance, then return them if they don’t sell and inflict charge-backs. It’s a guessing game that has led to extreme waste and inefficiency: The items that do sell out can’t be reproduced quickly enough, and the ones that aren’t a hit end up going on sale or being destroyed. In short, inventory is the greatest risk to a brand.
The inner workings of Resonance are complex, but the takeaways are simple: less waste, faster turnarounds, lots of freed-up time. “When you explain it to designers, and you tell them we have our own factory and are printing fabric on-demand, it relieves quite a bit of the pressure [they’re used to experiencing] with deadlines,” Nicole King, Resonance’s design director, explains. “This technology allows them to spend more time being creative. The pressure of predicting what fashion will be like 12 months from now is completely eliminated.”