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Leveraging Modern Technology to Make Sustainable Apparel Accessible in APAC

Industry Insights

By 'Sudarshan Sreenivasan Shailaja , Deloitte Director | Carla Casamayor Deloitte Senior Specialist Lead'

8 May 2023

digital transformation blog image

Technology is a force multiplier for sustainability and Kiwi ingenuity

icebreaker is an outdoor apparel company, founded in New Zealand with the purpose to move people away from unnecessary plastic apparel to more natural fibre alternatives for their active pursuits. In an industry dominated by plastic and synthetic clothing, icebreaker takes a challenger mindset to push boundaries and challenge the status quo to champion natural, transparent, responsible and sustainable ways of doing business. This is everything from the way they source merino fibre, the way they work with vendors to create garments, to the way they work with partners to push for a naturally better way of doing things. icebreaker sells via their own stores, wholesalers and online in over 50 countries across the world. 

The challenge 

icebreaker's authentic approach has earned them a loyal customer base. To make its sustainable apparel accessible to a broader customer demographic and improve operational efficiencies, icebreaker embarked on an ambitious digital transformation journey in early 2021. 

This journey was based on three main objectives:

  1. Make icebreaker apparel available on a variety of digital platforms through partnerships with leading marketplaces using modern technology.
  2. Decommission the legacy integration stack to reduce operational risk and improve operational efficiencies.
  3. Build an enduring API and Integration capability that enables icebreaker to expand its customer channels over time. 
The response

When icebreaker embarked on this journey in early 2021, it needed to build an API/Integration capability and decommission its existing integration stack. icebreaker joined hands with Deloitte to fast-track its transformation, and we agreed on a few principles that helped us stay the course:

  • We will deliver early and often, releasing value to the business in short intervals.
  • We will create a blended, multi-vendor team, adopting a leave your badges at the door attitude.
  • We will take a cloud-first approach, leveraging the cloud services to assemble a platform that accelerates our delivery over time.

The icebreaker technology platform leveraged various cloud services, including MuleSoft, Azure Kubernetes Service, Azure Application Gateway and Elastic Cloud. This platform provided immediate business benefits and decreased the time it takes to onboard marketplaces by 20-60%.

"Leveraging Cloud and APIs, we are automating our processes to cut down the time it takes to onboard regional wholesale partners and marketplaces and reduce manual business processes; this will enable greater access to natural solutions," said Nicola Spurdle, Director, Digital Technology at icebreaker. 

The early indications are positive, with icebreaker introducing its sustainable products to new marketplaces in weeks instead of the months it took on the legacy stack.

Fast forward to November 2022, icebreaker has expanded its presence onto 6 online marketplaces and moved 12 critical business processes across wholesale partners, point of sale (POS), 3PL and eCommerce off its legacy integration stack, while adding value to the business. 

Conclusion

icebreaker's leadership excels in building truly autonomous and cross-functional teams; these teams have the context and support to balance short and long-term outcomes. These are rare but necessary preconditions for a successful transformation. 

In the following stages of its transformation journey, icebreaker will continue to expand its marketplace presence while driving even greater operational efficiencies by connecting all three core business systems: e-commerce, point of sale, and distribution centre. 

Deloitte looks forward to supporting icebreaker as it continues to leverage technology to promote sustainability and preserve the planet for future generations.

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