The PI Apparel Supply Chain Forum returns in person after almost a three-year hiatus

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Like so many other fashion events, PI Apparel has made a comeback after a pandemic-induced hiatus that saw its in-person networking events re-adapt to a new digital format. Now, nearly three years after its last event in 2019 in Italy, the organization has hosted its Supply Chain Forum Europe in Amsterdam, where it was originally scheduled to appear in 2020.

“Nobody knew what was in store for us when we were scheduled for 2019,” PI Apparel communications manager David Wilcox said in a chat with FashionUnited. “It was amazing to be back at the in-person events. All week we felt the energy of the fashion community coming together and we had more attendees than we’ve ever had in Europe before.

The event itself took place over two days, April 28-29, and closely followed PI Apparel‘s previous forum focused on product development, which took place earlier in the week from April 25-29. April 26. Visitors could skip speeches and discussion groups. one-on-one meetings with supply chain solution providers, all of which could be held through a dedicated app distributed in advance, where users could also access more information about each attendee.

“We want to facilitate conversations. People come here to connect with the rest of the industry, and it can often be difficult to find someone to talk to,” Wilcox noted. “You may know someone’s job, but you also need to know their challenges and why they’re coming to an event, which is why we let everyone fill out their profile, see who’s attending and set up meetings. If you formalize it and put it into a 15 minute introductory meeting, it creates an easy way for people to realize the reason they came to the event – to meet new people and build new relationships. .

Return to face-to-face meetings

The event was faced with the unfortunate fact that it took place immediately after King’s Day, April 27, a national holiday in the Netherlands that consists of day-long street parties, which may have be resulted in a decrease in foot traffic on the forum. However, the calm atmosphere did not deter the exhibitors in attendance, many of whom had also attended the event earlier in the week.

“After King’s Day, there was definitely an impact, but we actually used that to our advantage,” said Raine Georgiou, marketing manager at New York-based software company Infor. “It allowed us to have deeper conversations. Normally we’re stuck in the IT lane, so it’s good for us to talk to a wider variety of people – it’s been really positive in that sense.

That sentiment was also echoed by Katrina Duck, senior customer engagement manager at Serai, a Hong Kong-based HSBC-owned company specializing in supply chain traceability solutions.

“Without traveling for two years, I think face-to-face encounters are amazing. A zoom meeting will never fill that void,” Duck said. “We are here to network and this is the first forum we have attended. Our goal was to create more brand awareness and meet people who didn’t know us, and I think we did that. It has been interesting to connect with so many international people.

Similarly, event attendees were also positive about being able to connect during the forum. Katherine Absher, director, fashion and digital design at Cotton Incorporated, was among those who appreciated the opportunity for in-person interactions. Only two years old, the nonprofit’s digital department is constantly growing, with this event fitting into Absher’s agenda to further drive that growth.

“The highest value of an event like this was meeting people you probably wouldn’t have come into contact with working separately,” she said. “I think it’s about bringing together people who are working on the same or similar projects and giving them a chance to meet and connect. With this event being in Europe and Cotton Inc. being based in the US, I found that not many people knew about our organization, so it’s something to bring back to my team to maybe nudge us in that direction.

Speaking on forum content, Absher added: “With the work and research I’ve done, you’re always worried that you’re not doing enough to stay up to date, so it’s good to know that, d ‘from what I’ve gathered from questions asked by other people and from the sessions themselves, I actually know what we’re talking about and have a good understanding of it. It was good to know that we are aware of the same things and that we are working on them together.

New European regulations and interprofessional collaboration

It is this idea of ​​interprofessional collaboration that was a particular theme in the array of speeches, panel discussions and panel discussions over the two days. “I think we have to think about putting creators on the same level as the brand,” said Borre Akkersdijk, founder of Byborre, a materials development platform, during his presentation on Friday. Akkersdijk has spoken of dismantling the control of responsible textile design, which he set out to do with Byborre. “We are democratizing accessibility to innovation,” he noted.

As in other interviews, Akkersdijk was also asked about the EU’s new textile strategy, which will impose strict regulations on brands to adopt sustainable and ethical practices. “I think it’s interesting how legislation is pushing industries to be more responsible,” he said, adding that fashion should take note of other industries like food, which are already regulated.

A similar topic related to new legislations was tackled by Sandra Kuijpers, lecturer at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI), and Miriam Geelhoed, consultant at Modint, who spoke about the implementation of defined numerical criteria for measuring fabric, something factories have so far been reluctant to do. adopt. However, as Kuijpers noted, with new regulations in place, this technology may not be as widespread as previously thought. Such a framework, Kuijpers added, could help clothes become predictable in terms of life cycle, longevity and waste, in line with what the EU will soon require of textile companies.

Expectations for forthcoming legislation were particularly addressed in a presentation by Dirk Vantyghem of Euratex, who set out to simplify the rules and help participants get an idea of ​​what they might mean once implemented. square.

“While the textile industry was once often ignored or forgotten when it comes to sustainability frameworks,” Vantyghem said, “it is now on the verge of a complete restructuring.” He added that Euratex was in favor of this transition, saying: “We want to maintain an open market but we believe that everyone must respect the same standards”.

The recent publication of the EU textile strategy had to be quickly taken into account in the final event. David Wilcox noted: “When you talk about regulatory compliance and regulations, that’s an ongoing issue, especially on the supply chain side, so those kinds of discussions are always planned for those events. . You have to be nimble as a production team to create these diaries, especially right now, you always have to have a few ideas in your back pocket.

Overall, the event was successful in driving home the need for greater cross-industry collaboration to help solve supply chain issues, with a focus on democratizing access to resources for make them more widely available. Additionally, the return to an in-person convention was favored by exhibitors and attendees, who warmly welcomed the structure of previously scheduled meeting slots and an open forum that encouraged much dialogue.

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