Back to blog

In Conversation with Flora Davidson, SupplyCompass Co-Founder

Posted on December 02, 2020
by Emma Burgess
Flora Davidson SupplyCompass co-founder

About our partners at SupplyCompass.

We are delighted to announce our partnership with SupplyCompass, the leading platform that provides end-to-end fashion software to reimagine how brands and manufacturers can collaborate together.

SupplyCompass strives to digitalise supply chains and set a new gold sustainability standard by transforming how products are designed and produced.

“Huboo wanted to provide our fashion clients with some great solutions and technology to help them grow with us and Supply Compass were the perfect fit with a great ethical way of doing things.” Martin Bysh, Co-Founder at Huboo.

In Conversation with SupplyCompass:

SupplyCompass co-founders Flora Davidson and Gus Bartholomew

Tell us more about the origins of SupplyCompass and what you and Gus to found the company

Gus and I moved from London to Mumbai, India to live for the first 2 years of SupplyCompass. We spent the majority of our time inside factories all over the country. We were pretty clear on our approach for those few years—get out there, meet people, ask questions,  assume nothing, listen, learn and build long-term manufacturer and supplier relationships in person. We wanted to get to the bottom of why things were done the way they were and understand how to digitalise product development, sourcing and production process in a way that worked for manufacturers, as much as for brands.

We noticed pretty quickly that although brands and factories were quick to talk through the many challenges that existed during the design-to-delivery of goods, technology was rarely considered a viable solution to these problems. It didn’t make sense to us how innovative the retail and consumer-facing side of fashion was, but that behind the scenes, product development, production, and supply chain management was essentially being done via a convoluted and analogue blend of email, Excel / Google sheets and WhatsApp. Whilst all great tools, none had been designed specifically for the unique needs of fashion production. What’s more, with sustainability rising up the agenda of every brand, we couldn’t see how ambitious sustainability goals could be achieved without a digitalised operating system at the core of global supply chains.

SupplyCompass – Factory Worker in South India

SupplyCompass places emphasis on the design stage to enhance sustainability. Why do you think this is critical?

Sustainability should be considered at every step of the product’s lifecycle, not an afterthought or decided by a separate team. It’s a mindset that needs to be in the DNA of every business, every decision and every process.  It’s believed that up to 80% of the impact of a product is decided in this early design phase. We felt the industry was missing a solution that starts right at the start of the design process, and that continues right up until the goods leave the factory. We knew pretty quickly that we would create a solution that joined the dots —or sewed a critical ‘digital’ thread — between the beginning of a product’s journey, to the end.

We believe technology should empower design teams to make better choices at the start. Designers shouldn’t have their creativity shackled, so it’s less about tools that tell them what they can’t do, and more about ones that inspire them to make changes, find the best manufacturers and suppliers around the world and pick the right materials and trims. At the end of the day, it’s really about access and ease at this stage.  We strive to build exciting partnerships around the globe so we can present all the best options for a designer, so they can easily and seamlessly make better choices.

What do you think companies find most valuable about the SupplyCompass platform?

Supply-compass-dashboard-hero

What is most valuable can depend on the type and size of the business, and really their key challenges experienced prior to working with us. For example, some businesses have issues with product quality related to mistakes and miscommunication across the value chain, others may be struggling to streamline communication and cross-team collaboration around fit, feedback and approval processes, or some are simply struggling to launch new products categories fast without investing time or resources they don’t have.

What brands have communicated to us regardless of their starting point or size, is how working with us saves them from doing repetitive work and data entry season after season. They have cited their teams no longer waste precious time searching for and sharing files and information across the business and supply chains. This time, and potential for things to go wrong, really mounts up as the number of styles, orders and seasons grow.

Working in one central platform means someone doesn’t need to ask a colleague to send them something,  they can easily find tech packs or materials from live orders or previous seasons, in a matter of clicks. Anyone in the business can see what costs have been approved without trawling through endless emails and excel documents. This saves time and energy, meaning fewer team hours are required to design and launch collections. A Production Platform reduces the reliance on an often convoluted mix of google drive docs, Microsoft Office, email and slack, saving time and frustration for many! A crucial benefit of working in the cloud is the ease of access to information.  In reality, this easy transition can be a significant time [and frustration!] saver. Another benefit is that brands generally experience far fewer mistakes and less back and forth miscommunication across their supply chain. Implementing a Production Platform has also helped some of our brands reduce lead times by up to 70%, purely a result of implementing a clear and standardised process.

How does the process of visiting and vetting your supply chain manufacturers work?  

There are several steps to becoming a SupplyCompass partner.  We first do a lot of desk research and speak to a variety of businesses and organisations. We, of course, look for certain certs, standards and audit reports as a starting point such as Fairtrade, GOTS, GRS, Fairwear, SA8000, Sedex, ETI, Oeko-tex etc.  They are important, but we look beyond this too.  As we go through the process we are looking for an alignment in values, an open and collaborative mindset, an ability to source and work with sustainable materials, an appetite for building new relationships and working with technology, and of course; great, reliable communication and consistently high product quality.

How valuable are third-party certifications to you in this procedure?

We start by speaking to the potential partner over a video call, learning about their business and telling them about SupplyCompass. If there is initial alignment, we then send them the first part of our self-assessment – based upon industry-wide frameworks. If we like what we learn about them, we plan a visit. During this visit, we don’t just verify what was outlined in the self-assessment,  but also start to build a relationship and understand if this can be a long-term partnership. We get them to sign our code of conduct and T&Cs and then get some samples made to assess product quality.  At the point they become official partners—this is usually 3-6 months after the initial call. We then have regular video calls, conduct ongoing visits, and ensure certifications and standards are in date. We have also partnered with Inspectorio — the leading QC agency in the world that helps us monitor the Covid uprise in the factories and regions around India.

Why do you think it is important to have boots on the ground for this process?

Boots on the ground is critical, not just because people aren’t always what they present online, but also because if you build and maintain relationships in person, it makes for a far stronger, more fruitful long-term relationship. Our team is based in London, Delhi and Hyderabad and being able to visit face to face has been core to our foundations since first launching SupplyCompass.

What are the main benefits for a manufacturer in using SupplyCompass?

We set out from Day 1 to build a solution that worked for brands and manufacturers in equal measure. Following years of meeting hundreds of manufacturers, we got a good sense of their main challenges and frustrations.  Like brands, they are also looking for the right new partners, they want long-term relationships and businesses who will work with rather than against them. They spend a lot of time on speculative costings and on multiple rounds of samples. They struggle with unclear or unstructured communication, tech packs with key information missing, and ultimately spend a lot of time learning how to adapt to each brand’s unique way of working, varied terminology and customised process. Many spend more time managing orders rather than producing collections.

There are several benefits for manufacturers who join our network. They can find the right new brands to work with, easily and without going to costly trade shows. They can reduce the amount of speculative sampling and costings and they can receive clear and standardised tech packs that are structured the same across all the brands they work with. They can manage RFQs, sample requests, approvals and purchase orders easily from one place. Essentially they can drive efficiency and reduce avoidable mistakes caused by miscommunication.

Supply-compass-dashboard-collection

Do you have a case study that encapsulates the important work that SupplyCompass are doing?

1. Motus (CaseStudy)Motus-clothing

The Motus Projects is a British clothing brand that strongly believes in the unity of the parkour community. Their mission is to support its growth through funding community projects, events, and sponsoring upcoming athletes through the sales of high-quality streetwear for the sport. Every Motus collection has a certain theme—whether it is inspired by classic parkour motifs like the Origins collection, or going for good-old street fashion like the ATO collection.

We started working with The Motus Projects in 2018 when they approached us due to difficulties in managing their previous supply chain and working with former factories. We worked with them to identify new factories that were in line with their vision and sustainability goals and streamlined their processes, including tech pack creation, flat drawings and factory management. SupplyCompass now manages a large component of The Motus Projects’ production for all bespoke products.

Working with us allowed The Motus Projects to not only find a cost-effective way to get production support but also allowed them to access sustainable options that were more affordable than previous conventional products too.

We worked with The Motus Projects to develop a top-selling, 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton collection of 11 items made in a Fairtrade factory.

Sustainability credentials

For factories developing The Motus Project range managed by SupplyCompass :

  1. Moved to using organic cotton twill with low impact dyes, without the use of harmful chemicals or fertilisers and where waste-water is properly treated.
  2. Now works with top-certified factories, including those that are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Fairtrade International (FLO Cert), SA 8000:2014, and ISO 9001:2015 certified and carbon neutral under the United Nations Climate Neutral Now programme, One Carbon World, and Carbon Neutral Gold Standard.
  3. Partner factories also contribute to other environmental projects, including reforestation projects at The Periphery of Sitamata Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan and Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal, both in India.
  4. Launched an rPET blend product. Instead of using virgin polyester, they instead opted to use a fabric made from recycled plastic bottles.
  5. For their packaging, their labels and swing tags are made in a Global Recycled Standard certified factory, their brand labels and care labels are made from 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, and their swing tags are made from organic recycled garment waste.

The Results in numbers:

  1. 170% increase in orders
  2. 70% less time managing production
  3. 0 team members hired to manage the collection

2. Patch (Case Study)

Patch-plant-stand

Patch is a British online plant store helping grey cities become greener by delivering a range

of plants straight to your door. Patch wants to work to remove barriers for people living with more plants, and their mission is to create greener, not greyer cities. From their start in 2015, they now have their headquarters in London and their logistics centre in The Netherlands, and they sell their plants UK-wide. They have ambitious expansion plans across mainland Europe in the next years.

The Outcome:

We worked with Patch to design and develop an FSC-certified wooden plant stand, which has become a top-selling plant accessory line.

We have worked with Patch since 2017, where we guided them through the process of launching their own plant accessory product—a Patch-branded, wooden plant stand made of FSC-certified, responsibly sourced acacia wood.

We set out to create this collection with Patch by matching them with our manufacturing partner in Delhi, India as we recognised strong alignment between both businesses. We now continue to work with them on managing production for this line, looking after order management, forecasting, quality control and logistics. Since launching the product, it has grown into an accessory range that now comes in four sizes and is a consistent top-seller.

Our manufacturer in India produces a variety of products from tables, shelves, and chairs to upholstered pieces such as sofas, armchairs, and poufs, in metal, wood, rattan, glass and jute. We picked them because they offer a large variety of products and services that are consistent, reliable and fully meet their customers’ needs and expectations. They are also excellent at communication, have a strong merchandising team and are certified by Sedex, FSC and India’s Vriksh certification for wood, making them a perfect match for Patch.

The Results in numbers:

  1. £470,000 is revenue generated through products produced with SupplyCompass
  2. 80% less time managing production
  3. 0 team members hired to manage the collection

As fashion supply chains continue to shift their manufacturing regions to countries such as Vietnam, will you look to expand your network accordingly?

The vision is to be able to offer our technology and on-demand supply chains in any country in the world, but for now, it’s about focus. India and Portugal can together produce a majority of products SupplyCompass requires. As with any expansion, it’s about expanding in the right way, building connections and taking time to understand the local culture first. What might work in one country, may need to be adapted for another.

SupplyCompass Cotton Field Workers in Telangana

In addition to technology and digitisation, how else do you believe the industry can make their supply chains more sustainable?

Technology is key and must sit at the core of the industry’s transformation towards sustainability and circularity but there is so much else that is also required. The most important starting point in my opinion is about ensuring there is company-wide alignment and understanding of the approach and effort that is required to change. It’s not just something that will happen overnight, it needs passion, knowledge, and dedication from everyone in the team. It’s also important to take your manufacturers and suppliers on the journey too. See them as strategic and collaborative partners as they are, of course, the key to helping you achieve that change. Be experimental, be flexible and be collaborative.

SupplyCompass Factory in South India

What impact has COVID-19 had on the mission of SupplyCompass?

We empower brands and manufacturers to produce better, together. We want to reimagine design, sourcing and production, making sustainable and circular the easiest, fastest, and most cost-effective way to work. 2020 has been a very tough year for all, but especially for those working further up the value chain. Our mission is the same, but I suppose now I feel even more driven for SupplyCompass to be a catalyst for positive change.

How do you envision SupplyCompass to grow over the next few years?

Our focus is on driving tech adoption across the industry,  getting more brands and manufacturers enjoying working from our cloud-based platform. Looking ahead to 2021, we are looking forward to being able to enable brands to better gather both supply chain and product data to make it easier, faster and more cost-effective to gather, measure, and improve their impact.

Fore more info and to get in touch, go to supplycompass.com

Supplycompass-logo-blue