The most significant S’s in sourcing

Today we share with you some of the main ideas about the present dynamics of the sourcing activity taken from a recent visit to the Footwear Sourcing event in Las Vegas

The links in today’s supply chain – although still connected, are becoming more see-through, sustainable and supple. The recent February Footwear Sourcing show in Las Vegas displayed more than manufacturers, with executives and activists purporting what some perceive as an impending industry insurgence. While this might seem a bit dramatic for the realm of production, there is a sense that change is moving swiftly toward the footwear horizon.


“One of the critical factors to keep in mind with regard to sourcing is that consumers are becoming more conscious than ever before about how goods are made”, shares Clay Hickson, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP). The not-for-profit organization, dedicated to promoting safe, lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing around the world, was one of many in attendance to generate awareness for proactive production practices.  And, as leaders in social compliance with experts headquartered around the world (particularly in Asia), WRAP helps move initiatives forward with education, goals and adaptability as independent stakeholders. Hickson underscores that “while the shift in consumers’ attitudes toward sustainability and ethical sourcing practices is not an entirely new phenomenon, it has been growing in importance thanks to the rise of social media and its ability to spread information far and wide at a rapid pace.”  While he acknowledges that the footwear industry is getting better at this and continues to do some excellent work in the realm of responsible sourcing, he warns the ongoing evolution of consumer attitudes means that companies cannot rest on their laurels.


New requirements are being set and implemented by some of the most recognizable labels in fashion who recognize and value the transparency and traceability of today’s supply chain. Proactively they are reinforcing their principles and combining benevolence with business. This past week LVMH announced the launching of the “very first standard for responsible crocodilian leather sourcing”, rolling out new requirements and certifications that have been developed and validated by a committee of technical, independent experts. The Paris-based company includes luxury leaders like Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Christian Dior, Fendi, Berlutti, Celine and Marc Jacobs in its Fashion and Leather Goods unit. As quoted by Jean Baptiste Voisin, Strategy Director for the Group and member of the LVMH Executive Committee, “LVMH has decided to set a new frame of reference by launching a new standard for the industry, whose regulations seemed insufficient to us”. The clear vision of the luxury role-models enables more control over their supply chain while supporting preservation, local communities, animal welfare, labor conditions and the environment. As an industry that benefits greatly from animal sourcing, footwear has some big shoes to fill.



While the concept is not new – and the word hardly technical, there is power in the simplicity of sharing. According to Elias Gröndal, co-founder at FindSourcing – a free, non-partisan online platform that matches sourcing companies with manufacturers, the footwear industry could stand to be more collaborative.  His experience working with a multinational retailer not only reinforced the importance of this relationship, it motivated him to leverage these connections for footwear production. Gröndal highlights how other industries take advantage of more open sourcing, using cross-border collaboration to accelerate growth and maximize synergies.  While acknowledging that contacts are an asset and contribute to a competitive edge, he believes collaboration would benefit everyone in the long run – leading to “a rising tide lifts all boats” effect.  “There is enormous potential for manufacturers to become more visible”, affirms Gröndal – and there are major efficiencies that can be achieved by reaching outside of the normal network. With barriers-to-entry toppling from increasing tariffs and technology, it might be time to overstep tradition.



The consolidation trend has given way to even more complex supply chains as parent companies have their multiple brand hands in many continents. Looking to get the best from each country – each with its own perceived strength (e.g. Italy/Portugal for elegance and sexy lines, Brazil for gladiators, Spain for espadrilles, Mexico for casual with artisan finishes and Asia for fast fashion and turnaround) can be a challenge to keep up. How can footwear companies reevaluate to remain centralized and consistent yet capitalize on opportunities represented in countries where production has become costly?



Referred to as the ‘new currency’, this is a powerful benchmark. Technology has given way to instant gratification, and digitized innovation finds traditional sourcing now competing with the rapidity and efficiency of DTC. Taking this article full circle, as well as taking note of the numerous technology exhibitors at Footwear Sourcing who are able to materialize innovation, the proliferation of 3-D printing is promising given all of the above – particularly with growing demand for customization. Any questions?  Just ask adidas – they’ve wasted no time jumping in.


Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash