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Friday, 09 October 2009

'And you know what, D&G - no not Dolce & Gabbana as you might think - need to work together. Only through collaboration they can really transform the industry'. This was the hypothesis I had a month ago, before I had spoken to Goliaths like C&A or H&M and to Davids such as Bibico and Veja. After reading academic literature (e.g. Wüstenhagen & Hockerts, 2009) on the interplay between small entrepreneurs and big companies, I wanted to explore in how far this happens in the ethical fashion movement. These are some of my findings that show a different picture from what has been published so far:

• Goliaths like C&A are likely to use their resources and know-how to clean up processes while not making big changes in the products they offer to consumers. This way, they can produce big quantities of sustainably produced clothing and reach the main stream market;
• In doing so, Goliaths don't look for Davids to partner with, but instead collaborate with banks and e.g. the Shell Foundation to build new sustainable business models;
• Davids like Veja don't work either on product or process innovation as has been suggested before, but instead create a sustainable business from scratch in all aspects of the venture. With their product and brand, they reach the innovators in the market;
• Succesful Davids like Veja don't rely on any bank or foundation, but instead manage to sustain themselves through their sales;
• Goliaths don't seem to be very interested in working with Davids to innovate their products;
• Davids don't seem to feel that they should work with Goliaths to increase their scale, instead they all stress the step-by-step approach of organic growth of their business;
• I haven't found anything that comes near to what is labeled third-phase organizations: companies that take processes from Goliaths and products from Davids and combine them into something scaleable that is a threat to both D&G.

My conclusion is that at the moment, D&G's live on totally different planets while contributing to the same transformation. I wonder if they could be more efficient in driving this movement, when they assess where they could partner with complementary counterparts. And although I still feel like Thumbling in this big eco fashion world, fingers crossed that my new Veja sneakers can help me to take some strides in theorizing about it.

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