Incorporating Fashion Technology into Workflow


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker



Emily Lane 00:09 

Welcome to Clothing Coulture, a fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily lane. 

Bret Schnitker 00:17 

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward 

Emily Lane 00:21 

and discuss solutions to real industry challenges. 

Bret Schnitker 00:24 

Clothing Coulture is brought to you by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience. 

Emily Lane 00:35 

Welcome back to another episode of Clothing Coulture. Once again, we are in the world headquarters of Stars Design Group, global apparel, design and manufacturing firm. And I'm lucky enough to be sitting with the CEO, Bret Schnitker, who is a mover and shaker and innovator of the industry. Welcome back, Bret. 

Bret Schnitker 00:57 

Well, that's a big intro. 

Emily Lane 01:00 

Well, I thought that this conversation would be really wonderful to have with you. Because Stars Design Group has always been this forward thinking company always embracing evolution, always embracing new technologies. And for companies out there that are thinking about ways to either streamline or just improve the quality of their products or services might be looking to technology to save those answers. So I thought it might be a valuable conversation to have with you to share some of those tips and tricks when thinking about innovating technology and how to ensure it's successful. 

Bret Schnitker 01:35 

Yeah, I think that's great. I think Never before has technology been more integrally linked to the fashion business than ever before. And every day, you know, with all the crazy things happening in the world, I think technology finds a way to, to, in many cases, help us through some of the new hurdles that we've got that didn't exist before. 

Emily Lane 01:55 

One of those technologies we've spoken quite a bit about throughout various episodes, the implementation of 3d technology, certainly in this era, that's, you know, kind of evolved out of COVID, more and more companies are looking to 3d. I know that Stars Design Group was really on the cutting edge of embracing this technology, what led you to look to 3d and specifically Browzwear the software that we initially selected. Yeah, briefly, 

Bret Schnitker 02:25 

you know, we when we're integrating technology into the organization, it's generally to help process and also help the client. And in this case, from a design perspective, we felt that, you know, we had started 15 years ago in virtually real 2d design. So it was we think the client got a very good visualization of whatever design project we're working on for them. But in some cases, it just wasn't enough. And, you know, I think we started with Browzwear 9-10 years ago, something like that. And even back then vetting a number of different programs, there were there were shortcomings to some of the other ones. And you know, for me, I wanted to make sure that we kept that visual reality. So it looked real, I think, I think clients want it as real as possible, then that kind of began our journey with Browzwear you know, coordinating a team that was a team created by the community of users that we would have internally, they're usually the best of that process, because they're, they're the ones applying it on a daily basis. And so, very quickly, when we did some trials between all of the different programs, we understood the one that stood out at the time, and that was Browzwear. 

Emily Lane 03:32 

So it's an understatement to say that Stars implements a lot of different technologies, Stars has been involved in implementing Silq, a supply chain transparency software, we you know, the VDP, digital weaving, we could go on and on about the various technologies that have been implemented at SDG. My question to you is, how do you know when the time is right to implement a specific technology? And how do you know where to look? 

Bret Schnitker 04:01 

Yeah, I would say I'm probably I'm a visionary by heart. I mean, I love technology, I love to implement it. I'm excited about new technology. And I would say that learning the right time to implement technology has been an evolution for us because you know, I get excited about the next tiny, shiny object and think, Okay, this is gonna save the world and save our process time and improve customer service. And I would say that, you know, we have a big team here at Stars, that has a community of people that helped that the right time to implement that technology. You know, sometimes it's after we go through that initial phase of, of looking at the technology at face value, it's it's then taking a smaller team, if you will, internally to be that beta team to experiment with it to see if if that technology truly saves time and improves, you know, customer satisfaction or speed and a bit of process, you know, on the on the outgoing side to production or or client interface. 

Emily Lane 05:07 

You know what you mentioned there about kind of having a small work group inside the inside the company tells me that, you know, it's important to have company buy in. Hey, yeah, we're, we're willing to set aside some time to embrace this and see if it works for us. 

Bret Schnitker 05:23 

Yeah, I think that's why I say I'm, I'm the kind of guy that loves technology. And we've learned by by making those mistakes, I'll jump on that on that new technology and think it's absolutely the right thing for the organization. And frankly, we had not gotten full buy in, in the past on some projects. And, and I think that it didn't go well, because of that. I think that's a definite learning curve, that when you're when you're adopting new technology, that taking the time first getting the buy in and making sure that everyone understands a person's vision on that particular technology, and make sure that they think it's as as important of a evolution is, as I would or that individual that would be bringing that technology to the table. 

Emily Lane 06:06 

Yeah. Are there particular instances that you can share that maybe that buy in didn't happen? And then the result of maybe not bringing the team to the table? 

Bret Schnitker 06:17 

Yeah, I mean, I would say it's happened a number of times, because, again, I think that there's a solution there. And, and by nature, human beings don't want change. So you know, having having a major change in there requires an investment in the education, the understanding of a new technology, and then kind of focusing in and doing it. And I think we had a couple kind of system communication systems internally, I won't name the names, but great companies, just the internal team wasn't quite ready with all the other technologies that were employing at the time. But we really, you know, communication in any company is critical. And so having technology and communication to me is critical. If it speeds the process improves the turnaround time and document some of that conversation. And so some of those things, you know, I still believe will be important in the organization. But there's kind of a timing to that, 

Emily Lane 07:17 

right. It's so interesting to me, because Stars Design Group is known as this innovator, it says to me that the com pany is at its ethos, like at its foundation is supported by, you know, robust staff that's also innovators at heart. So I can see how 

Bret Schnitker 07:34 

most of the time Yeah, human beings involved, right there. It's about bandwidth. It's about timing. It's about, you know, them really seeing the the the benefit and goal. Yeah, and 

Emily Lane 07:45 

probably making sure to engage their feedback, too. I think it's important that people get a chance to weigh in and say, you know, this, this feels good, or this doesn't feel good, especially if they're going to be using it. Of course, I always remember one of the first business books I read, Who Moved My Cheese. Yeah. And that is all about how difficult it is for humans to make change. And so, you know, that may or may not be of value to people who are looking for advice. But, you know, as you've been through this process, so many times with different technologies, does that transition get easier? Or are you just kind of knowing that you've got to bear down for a certain amount of transitional pain, 

Bret Schnitker 08:25 

it really is about focus, it's changing people's habits they get used to one way of doing things and through technology it might, usually is a different way to do things that I think that you you, you cannot experiment, you have to jump in with both feet, there has to be a focus and intended effort. And only through time does that new process take hold and become natural. Right? You know, it's not that change is not natural for human beings. So 

Emily Lane 08:52 

a lot of times, you know, in addition to the people resource for implementing any technology, the time, the energy, all of that there's quite a bit of a financial investment infrastructure to get in place. How do you fold that into the equation? And do you have any tips from advice on just making sure that that's really solid before you dive in? 

Bret Schnitker 09:14 

Well, there's simple math, you know, the ROI. If the process saves additional dollars for people or time that those people are investing and we're able to do things more quickly, you can calculate, you know, in a very black and white business sense whether that technology is going to save you time, effort or money. I think there are intangibles certainly around that, like customer satisfaction, you know, you you might see an uptick in customer orders or success or happiness or whatever. But those are intangibles I think but certainly at the base, you know, if if the technology the more expensive a technology is to implement, the more important it is to understand that ROI. And so you know, I I'm the victim of being the early adopter, I want to be on a technology right away technology is that weird thing that when it comes out to begin with generally is real expensive. And then over time, it becomes less expensive as more adopters come on, as you know, technology grows, things become less expensive. So the timing of implementation versus the ROI is important also. 

Emily Lane 10:22 

Yeah, you mentioned early adoption. Yeah. Gotta really think about as a company, are you one of those? Are you an early adopter? Do you want to be the person that's helping to weigh in on the development of the technology? Yes, yes, because it's one of the benefits. 

Bret Schnitker 10:36 

Well, at least for us, I think there's benefits and pitfalls, being in the early adoption process, or being on beta teams, which we've been on a few, you're having to work through the kinks of that system, along with, you know, your tech partner. And so, the it requires more time and effort, generally, you might save on expense of that implementation, because you are that beta team, you know, but I would say that, you know, most people that are in that tech space, most people that are employing technology within an organization, they probably spend a lot of time to make sure that the bugs are worked out of a system, that they're not the very first adopters that they're a nice, healthy second or third level so that that system and the technology, you know, has become, you know, more mainlined, there's less issues within systems, when they when they roll out to begin with, there's always things that don't make sense over time. And therefore you have upgrades and updates to technology, 

Emily Lane 11:34 

you know, adoption doesn't happen overnight. No matter if you're an early adopter, or somebody that wants something that's more established, what would you say are good ways to address those early growing pains, as you're bringing in this new resource, 

Bret Schnitker 11:50 

again, it comes down to communication, it comes down to dedication to the end goal, it comes into the buy in for all particular groups, and consistency. You know, sometimes, if you're weighing into a new technology, it begins slow, and then goes becomes fast as you become more proficient. And if you get caught up in a day, you're like, I'm just gonna go back to the old technology, and then I'll get back to the new one. And I think that that extends the, you know, the timeframe in which that new technology becomes well implemented in the company. So you know, being dedicated and focused and consistent is important 

Emily Lane 12:28 

being a technology seeker. What are some things that are you have your sights on for the future? 

Bret Schnitker 12:35 

I think there are a number of things that are going on, certainly in the industry at a number of different levels. You know, we've talked at length about the need for our industry to become more sustainable and eco friendly. So I'm really focused on the innovation in bio-poly's etc bio, you know, recycle nylons, bio-nylons, things like that, that, that don't add harm to the planet, I think that those things are super important. And every day, I do my best to kind of weigh in and take a look at where that evolution is going and really hope that we can get a mainstream solution that's affordable. That's that's one of those key things. You know, I think transparency is really important too. And we're on that beta team with Silq. And I think that's going to take some time to get through. But having a transparency within your supply chain is critical. I think those are the things that I'm mainly looking, looking toward and, and new things come up all the time that are exciting, but I think main main focuses are how to evolve those things within our organization. 

Emily Lane 13:40 

Well, that is all really insightful. Thank you so much for sharing your insights. Do you have any other parting thoughts to share when it comes to either encouraging those who might be considering implementation? Or who are maybe going through the throes of it and kind of not sure whether or not to scratch it or persevere? Do you have any other thoughts to share? 

Bret Schnitker 14:03 

Yeah, I think, you know, tying it up at above, for the very first thing I said is that our industry has never been more interrelated with technology, you know, and that comes from manufacturing forward. So, and with all of the challenges that we see in the world, technology can really help, you know, bridge the gap in the gaps that are forming. And so I urge people to do their due diligence, but continue to look toward technology to help solve things. We we all do it in other ways. We all you know, have our phones. We all have things that are extensions of information at our fingertips. And so those things took a while to integrate into society. But most of us can't imagine being without those today. And I think technology works that way in an organization also making the right decisions on technology implementing them making sure that the entire teams are bought on will help speed things make things more organized help with efficiency in a world that is way less efficient than it's ever been before. 

Emily Lane 15:08 

Yeah, you raise it in our industry. Excellent point, you know, you think about the evolution of the cell phone, and it really wasn't all that long ago. But yeah, it feels like we've always had that technology at our resource. Sure. And we're gonna see the same evolution with many of these technologies that the industry is really exploring now. So I agree. Thank you for this conversation. And for everyone out there. Do not forget to subscribe to stay apprised of upcoming episodes of Clothing Coulture 

Watch the episode:

Click below to watch the entire episode.

Incorporating Fashion Technology into Workflow