Entrepreneurship in the fashion industry is growing. Fashion school graduates are entering the industry by starting their own fashion lines built on their aesthetic visions, their values, and their philosophies. Social entrepreneurs are starting fashion brands to make an impact and pursue sustainable-focused business. These small brands, referred to as micro-size brands, make up a significant portion of the fashion design industry but tend to have financial issues, low margins, and limited industry knowledge due to lack of scale, capital, connections, and experience. To mitigate the aforementioned barriers that micro-size brands face, an intermediary model can offer sustainability education and matchmaking services for brands and manufacturers and suppliers.
To assess and concept test a new intermediary business model, this study is designed to identify and understand fashion industry professionals’ perceptions, attitudes, and experiences regarding implementing sustainable-focused practices in the supply chain. Eleven semi-structured in-depth individual interviews (IDIs) were conducted with micro-size fashion brand owners and sustainability-focused fashion manufacturers and suppliers to gather their perceptions, attitudes, experiences, reported behaviors and information about implementing sustainable practices in the fashion supply chain. The results of the research revealed that the new accessibility of the fashion industry has led to an influx of new brands founded by untrained designers with unrealistic expectations of sustainable-focused manufacturers and suppliers. It was further revealed that the structure of micro-size fashion brands, where the designer is often the only employee, results in a lack of time for designers, which makes it difficult to accomplish prolonged searches for manufacturers and suppliers that fulfill the designer’s needs. Findings indicate that the barriers faced by micro-size fashion brands when pursuing a sustainable-focused Facilitating the Process of Micro-Size Fashion Brands’ integration of Sustainable Practices 5 supply chain are the same as when pursuing a traditional supply chain. Findings also indicate that there is a need and opportunity for sustainability education for brands and a matchmaking service between brands and sustainability-focused manufacturers and suppliers to address the barriers revealed in the interviews.