Someone sent us this link to the Forbes article, “What is Chad Hurley Doing in the Fashion World”.
We definitely got a smile reading the article. After all, we’re not suggesting that we have the expertise to lead Microsoft just because we use computers, but it does seem that there is an evident lack of respect for the actual knowledge a good fashion designer has and brings to the process of designing and developing apparel. Just because you wear a shirt doesn’t mean you are qualified to design shirts.
If there is one thing we’ve learned from dealing with the tech industry for the past few years, it is that folks from the tech industry really don’t understand the apparel industry. We at Fashion Research Institute have been successfully engaged with the tech organizations like IBM and Intel Corporation to create design and development applications for the apparel industry using emerging technologies, and while we have overcome the communications barriers, we can safely say these two industries do not easily communicate.
Hurley’s response to the question of the biggest difference between the ‘clothing world’ and the Internet is a fine example, in that he assumes that the big difference is the time length of the product development cycle. We would say that the biggest difference between apparel and the Net is not time, but physicality. We are an industry that produces physical ‘stuff’, and that physical product is governed by physical considerations which must be addressed.
Domestic production is not in fact ‘harder’ than overseas production; if anything it is just the opposite since your factories are local, supply chains are shorter, and your workers speak the same language as the designers. Domestic production is more expensive, but that is not the same as more difficult.
American Apparel is designing and developing domestically. Hurley apparently is completely ignoring Dov Charney who has been producing domestically successfully with American Apparel. There’s just so much techie hubris in suggesting that he and his partner are going to be the ones to ‘bring back American production’ and ‘filling a void that hasn’t been filled since Levi Strauss’ when it’s not only already been done, but domestic production never actually stopped. There are many small design houses producing locally in very short runs. The product they manufacture is more expensive than overseas mass market product, and not so widely distributed or known as the product designed and manufactured for the big mass market retailers.
We certainly wish Hurley and his partner the best of luck with his new venture, but we also recommend they partner with the appropriate apparel industry experts. Otherwise they may find that the fastest way to lose their financial shirt is to try to make real shirts.