The Association of Suppliers to the British Clothing Industry’s (ASBCI) ‘Beyond 2020’ event series concluded in May with a digital event bringing together experts from across the supply chain to discuss the route to a smarter future for fashion.

On 12 May, the ‘Beyond 2020 – Survival of the Smartest’ conference posed the critical question: beyond Covid-19, beyond Brexit, what is the future for the UK fashion industry?

“The rise of customisation and on-demand, and the demise of wasteful mass production business models were among the predictions made by speakers,” explained ASBCI.

“The future will be smarter, more agile and more personal, with a higher percentage of product made closer to home, and innovative new distribution models emerging in response to the rapid acceleration of the multi-channel ecommerce strategies that have emerged from successive lockdowns.”

Event speaker Marcella Wartenbergh, CEO of AWWG, said to meet these new demands, and to transform the industry in the wake of Covid-19 and in response to the climate crisis, the industry must get smarter.

“Digital transformation across the entire supply chain is essential,” she added, “maximising efficiency, speed to market and the customer experience, while delivering sustainability benefits including reducing waste and shrinking carbon footprints”.

Keynote speaker Ed Gribbin, CEO of Gribbin Strategic, was the first to highlight the rise of customisation and the role of on-demand in the future of more responsive, more responsible production — this theme was picked up by several speakers, including Steffen Meiler from Lectra and Jenny Holloway from Fashion-Enter.

Changes in consumer behaviour during the pandemic were explained by digital psychology expert Andrew Nicholson from, who outlined ways that retailers could break consumers’ lockdown shopping habits (if they want to).

Andrew predicted that the future of retail will be an amalgamation of the online and offline experiences; Frazer Mead, head of global sourcing at The Very Group, agreed adding that the increased expectations of consumers will require online retailers to find ways to combine the social, experiential aspects of shopping with the convenience of online.

What these changes mean for brands and retailers at a supply chain level was discussed by Stuart Greenfield from Advanced Supply Chain Group and David Flavell, head of inbound supply chain at ASOS, while Adam Mansell, CEO of the UKFT, addressed the impact of Brexit on the UK fashion industry, and predicted that the combination of pandemic-induced changes and Brexit pressures could see a return of UK manufacturing at scale, if both the industry and government are prepared to invest in its success.

“The Survival of the Smartest conference saw some of the biggest names in the industry address the most pressing challenges of the next few years, and speak candidly about the challenges they have faced while sharing details of successful strategies,” commented Alistair Knox, chairman of the ASBCI.

“I am delighted with the success of the Beyond 2020 event series. As with every other business, the ASBCI has had to change with the times while continuing to deliver the content our members rely on to operate successfully in this exceptionally difficult period, and with our very first digital event series, we have done just that.

“I would like to thank everyone who helped make these events possible, from our speakers to our sponsors and our technical partners.”

The conference was chaired by the ASBCI’s event director Julie King, and was organised with event technical partner Lectra and sponsored by Advanced Supply Chain Group.