The New Dress Code:

Smart and Sustainable Fashion

India’s fastest-growing apparel retailer is harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve sales and reduce fashion waste.

Beyond the glitz and glamor of the catwalk, fashion is a tough business.

Keeping up with the latest fashion trends and anticipating what will sell well next season makes or breaks brands. Mistakes are costly. They are also wasteful, and highly pollutive.

In a world dominated by fast fashion, continually evolving demand for affordable and ever-trendier apparel results in retailers offering up to 24 collections each year, or one every two weeks. Product decisions are typically driven by gut instinct, rather than with the help of data-driven projections. Success is short-lived. Failure exacts a hefty cost, both economic and environmental.

According to the United Nations, poor sell-through rates result in 85% of textiles produced each year being dumped in landfills. That’s enough to fill the Sydney Harbour and will take 200 years to degrade, releasing microfibers that enter our food chain via oceans.
of textiles
produced each
The US$2.5 trillion apparel industry produces 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, is the second largest consumer of the world’s water supply and is responsible for 20% of industrial water pollution worldwide.
of world's
carbon emissions
Making a single cotton shirt takes 2,700 liters of water—or what one person drinks in 2.5 years—while each pair of jeans uses 7,500 liters.
each pair of jeans uses
of water

Growing consumer awareness is prompting more retailers and fashion houses to commit to improving sustainability. Apparel makers and retailers are turning to AI to transform the industry into a sustainable and profitable endeavor—a challenging task that becomes even more complex in a large and diverse market like India.

“India is not just a country, it’s like a continent,” says Vineet Gautam, CEO of Bestseller India, the country’s fastest-growing fashion retailer. “You have hundreds of cities, many states, hundreds of religions, and 500 dialects.”

Consumer tastes change every few kilometers, and that’s the biggest challenge for anyone entering the country and trying to understand consumer behavior and what consumers want.
— Vineet Gautam, CEO, Bestseller India

Building a Fully AI-Driven Fashion Business

When Denmark-based clothing retailer Bestseller entered the India market in 2009, it met with almost immediate success. Revenues soared 50% annually as customers cleared the racks of popular Bestseller brands such as Jack & Jones, Only, Selected, and Vero Moda. However, when sales of Only began to mysteriously decline in 2019, the company wanted to know why.

Bestseller India recognized the need to use data and AI to help design and deliver products that match consumer preferences. Moreover, the retailer had launched a “Fashion FWD” initiative to champion sustainable fashion and in support of this global effort, Bestseller India identified an opportunity to develop and digitize smarter design and planning tools that could minimize waste at the start of the creative process.

After talking with several prospective IT providers, it chose IBM to develop powerful digital tools to support fashion design and pre-season planning.

We needed a partner with a length and breadth of technology capabilities. But we also needed someone with domain knowledge. We found that the people at IBM had the best understanding of the fashion space.
— Ranjan Sharma, Bestseller India’s CIO and Head of Supply Chain
Bestseller India launched, the fashion industry’s first AI project aimed at increasing sell-through rates and reducing unsold inventory. Using the bold and comprehensive IBM Garage Framework, including IBM Watson APIs, provides explainable sales forecasting models for new products at different stages of design and development, and enables designers and buyers with AI-based interventions to eventually achieve high sell-through rates and reduce environmental impact. The project is hosted on the IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service platform, which creates intelligent workflows for key business processes.

Forecasting the Seasons

Explainable sales forecasting models enable pre-season interventions by analyzing, for example, how changing the design, length, color or price of a garment may impact sales, as well as in-season interventions such as when to markdown products and by how much. They also provide transparency for all stakeholders involved in developing and launching new products, thereby improving accountability and fostering collaboration. also gives designers the ability to use a visual similarity tool to compare new products with those from previous seasons.

Try your hand at predicting the STR (Sell Through Rate) of a product
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similar products
When IBM said that we needed to bring technology into the design process, it was a big ‘aha’ moment. Now, designers will spend more time on higher value work instead of managing files and data.
— Mukta Srivastava, Brand Product Manager for Only

By deriving multidimensional insights from data, managers will be able to forecast customer demand more accurately to sell more apparel at higher margins while reducing unsold inventory. And by designing and producing apparel that more accurately reflects market demand, Bestseller India could go a long way toward reducing the high economic and environmental costs of unsold inventory.

Put simply, helps boost sell-through rates by eliminating gut-based decisions at all levels, thereby improving profitability by reducing wastage and costs, and improve the efficiency of the supply chain. The platform will soon expand into two more Bestseller India brands: Vero Moda and Jack & Jones. It will stand the retailer in good stead to create new business models and potentially solve current and future business problems.

“The platform is well thought-through and robust in terms of understanding fashion, which helps bring in data in a more predictable and easier format for all users to engage in,” says Sameer Ambalkar, Head of Business Solutions at Bestseller India.

“IBM Garage is a fantastic model to work with. It cuts across different technologies and domains to get a better solution and leverage what is ready,” adds Ranjan Sharma, CIO and Head of Supply Chain, Bestseller India.

Through its collaboration with Bestseller India, IBM has co-created the most comprehensive AI solution in the fashion world today. IBM plans to build on its success and take to other fashion retailers in the near future.

Bestseller is embarking on a sustainable journey, powered by AI which is aimed to reduce the unsold fashion inventory and improve “sellability” at the same time. We are extremely excited about this breakthrough partnership with Bestseller India.
— Kamal Singhani, Country Managing Partner – IBM Services, India/South Asia

Listen to hear how retailer Bestseller India uses data and AI to push sustaionable fashion forward.

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