SUSTAINABILITY IN Fashion Supply Chain

Author: Naomi Garnice

Ready for some inspiration? At Shipz, we understand the power in promoting the female trailblazers who are making big moves and propelling our industry forward. Every month Lets Talk Supply Chain is proud to feature woman leaders who are boldly changing the face of supply chain—highlighting thought leaders, sharing their stories, achievements, and advice for others coming up the ranks, we at Shipz are really excited to be a part of that.

Featured in this article is Sydney Badger, Sydney is the co-founder for Public Habit, an organization committing to cutting the waste out of the fashion supply chain.

She has over a decade of experience in fashion, product marketing, and learning what fuels consumers—and supply chains. Sydney has a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Chinese from Brown University and a bachelor’s degree in Advanced Chinese from Capital Normal University.

Lets get to know Sydney....

What started your supply chain journey?

I grew up in England and was great at languages—leading me to study Mandarin in the United States. Junior year, I studied abroad in Beijing and landed my first internship working for a UK-based apparel company—working in quality control and production management from Qingdao, China.

That internship sparked a life-long curiosity and interest in China and the rapid business development I’ve witnessed first-hand since 2008. I moved to Shanghai after college, but I didn’t get back into retail and supply chain operations until I was stateside again—trying to stay connected to global trade and China specifically.

Ralph Lauren brought me onto the Asia-Pacific merchandising team–a function I didn’t know a thing about–that’s where I learned retail and fashion—from the ground up. From there, I was recruited to Amazon’s retail team, and my world was opened up even more to the scale of a global supply chain and to the possibilities of enabling global trade.

In 2018, I left corporate to start Public Habit with my co-founder, Zakhar. And we made it our mission to disrupt the global fashion supply chain to provide more value for consumers and suppliers while minimizing waste in the system.

 

What did you learn about yourself along the way?

I learned that I appreciate efficiency and that the beauty of an open-market organization—like Amazon—resonates with me. Marketplaces facilitate global commerce and can create value for organizations and consumers who wouldn’t typically have access and visibility to broad customer bases or selections, respectively.

I learned that everyone, no matter where they are from, their background, or who they work for, has something to teach me.

 

What challenges made you who you are today?

Building a company, period. It’s very challenging and once you’ve solved one challenge, it’s onto the next. For instance, developing long-term relationships with suppliers who still have a transactional mindset. We look at our suppliers as our production team.

We are sales and marketing, and that level of trust and collaboration takes equal investments of time and work. Out of around 200 suppliers that we vetted to join us on Public Habit, just three met our requirements today because of MOQs, flexibility, and the willingness to work in a new way. But we only need three to start.

 

What does good mentorship look like to you?

Having a co-founder has made the journey to building Public Habit much more enjoyable, rewarding, and, just easier. I never had a mentor or advisor before this partnership and it is making a world of difference for me.

Good mentors–like my co-founder and I–are willing to have tough conversations with you. That allows you to surface uncomfortable truths or feelings that you may not have otherwise articulated and helps work through them.

They effectively empower you to solve problems yourself because, however much we, as founders, may doubt ourselves at times, typically we know what to do. Everyone sometimes needs a nudge and boost to pull the trigger.

 

What do you want readers to know about sustainability and supply chain?

I am heartened by how much of a driving factor sustainability is becoming for consumers. They are demanding information and brands are responding. That will trickle down through the supply chain at some point, but there is still a long way to go.

There’s still a lot we can do differently in the fashion industry. The fundamental challenge in most supply chains is how complex and opaque they are—making sustainability and transparency a challenging pursuit.

In fashion, a single t-shirt typically touches at least 12 different hands before reaching the public's hands. Most retail brands don’t know much beyond their finished goods suppliers.

A marketplace like Etsy does a much better job than a typical brand like The Gap in connecting customers and manufacturers directly. You know what you’re getting, the origin, and the person behind the product.

That’s the first step towards accountability that just doesn’t exist in most fashion supply chains today, we need more of that

 

What aspect of the retail supply chain made sustainability a core part of your personal and professional mission?

No one is benefiting from the current system, it just stopped making sense to me. Suppliers, brands, customers, and the environment deserve more. I couldn’t rationalize why brands were planning their orders 12-18 months ahead of time, marking up their products immensely to manage the storage, logistics, markdowns, and liquidations.

I’m excited about flipping the supply chain dichotomy to a demand-driven model that listens to customers first and produces on-demand to minimize waste, eliminate unnecessary markups, and create more value for everyone.

 

What else inspires you?

Travel. I have been fortunate to travel extensively in my life and career. I always wanted a career that would scratch my itch for travel, provide exposure to new cultures and people, and opportunities to solve hard problems.

My opportunity—and responsibility—at Public Habit is to do just that. I meet people, go out in the world and learn from others, asking questions, and solving problems. It’s pretty cool, tiring, but cool.

 

What’s next?

Well, I’m almost five months pregnant with my first kid, plus, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and a pretty unstable global situation. So, excessive travel isn’t in my immediate future.

But I’m excited about taking this time to leapfrog our efforts to build Public Habit into an industry-changing company. Now is the time for a new kind of business model that is more sustainable and efficient that creates more value—across the chain. That’s exciting enough for me.

Thank you Sydney!

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