Darren Glenister is the founder and CEO of Material Exchange, Darren has worked within the technology and fashion industries for over 20 years, for such names as PTC and Plugin 76. He is a digital transformation expert and pioneer in digitalization and supply chain innovation, the driving force behind the success of Material Exchange. In this section we will find out his thoughts on the expansion into China and what to expect from Material Exchange in the coming year.
Q. As we start off the new calendar year, how was 2019 for Material Exchange?
A. 2019 was Material Exchange’s best year, it was filled with great achievements and great moments. It was the most successful year for sales, developments and growth, not to mention our new office in China. We gained a fantastic partner called Inventure following a $2million investment. We have welcomed new team members and it was the first year we really saw substantial traction of the platform within the footwear and apparel industry. I couldn’t be happier to see what 2020 will bring.
Q. In terms of industry trends and market developments, what’s your view of the retail, footwear and apparel industry at present?
A. The market is changing, and changing for the better. From a consumer perspective more buyers are interested in the development of a product, they want to see if their products are ethically sourced and sustainable. This is a huge pressure on the industry that is forcing change. The market needs to change, sourcing via physical swatch books is an antiquated and costly strategy, not only to businesses but our environment; the world is digital, the market needs to utilize digitalisation. The development of products can be much easier, quicker and from the customers perspective; more sustainable.
Q. How did the recent expansion into China happen? And was this always a long term goal for Material Exchange?
A. The reality is that most of the clothes we wear today are made in Asia, so it makes sense to have a sales and support hub there, it enables us to interact with suppliers and manufacturers easier.
We managed to secure a fantastic new investment from our partners at Inventure, this opened the opportunity to scale the platform globally, giving us the opportunity to expand into Asia. A large proportion of material suppliers and manufacturers are based in Asia, therefore it was always something that we strategically saw as a benefit, to have boots on the ground. It also works well from a linguistic perspective, it makes more sense to have native speaking sales people who understand the dialects, the team has been up and running since the start of October and we are very happy with how things are going, it works very well.
Q. What’s next in store for Material Exchange?
A. It’s currently a busy time for us, we are hoping to follow on from the success of our last ‘Open Book’ event with a calendar of ‘Open Book’ events throughout the year. We are looking to educate brands, suppliers and manufacturers on how we can help them digitally transform their current material selection strategy. We’ll be involved in many industry shows around the globe, and ultimately scaling the brand. 2019 was a good year, this year will be even better!
Q. Are there any new products in the pipeline?
A. Well, we are extremely excited to release our new ‘Digital Profile’, this allows brands to instantly view the necessary credentials of suppliers and manufacturers. The release of this product takes the Material Exchange to the next level, the profile allows brands to view key information such as location, sustainable accreditations, production capabilities and material types.
In addition, we will be working to develop a ‘plug-in’ from Adobe Alchemist that allows materials to be published on the Material Exchange Digital Library. This will create better imagery within the Library and allow users to upload images quickly and of a higher resolution, thus generating more collaboration. We also have further software updates, we are continually improving and altering the platform to make it more user friendly.
Q. The emphasis on industry 4.0 and digital transformation has never been greater, how does the Material Exchange fit into this?
A. Our product encapsulates the principle of industry 4.0. The essence of our product is connectivity and this is what industry 4.0 is all about, never before has there been a greater need for a centralized platform that allows collaboration between, potentially thousands of suppliers and brands. Our platform offers all of that and more.