Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Sarah Krasley, CEO of garment manufacturing training technology developer Shimmy Technologies, discusses the need for more data collection within factories and the importance of investing in advancing workers’ skills.
Name: Sarah Krasley
Company: Shimmy Technologies
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
Shimmy builds digital game-based machine trainings for workers in the sewn products industry. To date, we’ve worked on upskilling and cross-training workers in factory classrooms, but thanks to some 2022 funding from Unity and then VF Foundation, we’ve started reaching unemployed workers in neighborhood training centers so they re-enter the market as more competitive candidates with multi-machine and digital skills. This is important because we’re dealing with major labor market fluctuations due to shifts in orders, and everyone will need multi-machine and advanced skills soon.
We plan to expand our reach to employed and unemployed workers in a new, exciting collective impact initiative called Oporajita, funded by the H&M Foundation and guided by The Asia Foundation.
Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can apparel learn?
Shimmy’s Brooklyn office is at New Lab, home to a lot of supply chain tech startups. We geek out on questions like this a lot with our beloved neighbors Partsimony, because they work across manufacturing segments like automotive, aerospace, robotics and others.
I’ve come to understand that the automotive and aerospace industries have a better handle on supply chain dynamics due to the implicit complexities of the products they make. This has made those segments get started in their digital transformation much earlier than us. We are just beginning.
We have to take our own digital transformation much more seriously and be more creative about how to harvest data from production environments to support much greater efficiency, accuracy and flexibility. You simply cannot build models and algorithms if digital data is not being fed in. You do not need to digitize everything! There are great, low-cost experiments that can be done even on one line or in one department.
How would you describe yourself as a consumer?
I live in a NYC apartment, so space is at a premium. I live by the motto that everything I buy should be beautiful and/or beautifully functional, and either way, it should last a long time with good maintenance and repair.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
Beautiful design, great customer service, models across a broad range of sizes and a banger of a sustainability commitment.
What’s your typical work (or weekend) uniform?
I’m halfway through [celebrity stylist] Karla Welch’s MasterClass [Building and Owning Your Personal Style] right now, so I am in a moment of transformation. Lately, I’ve been playing with bold patterns, Cuban link chains and tough sneakers.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
Right now, I am so happy the ‘90s are back. In fact, I [currently have] nail art inspired by Delia’s. Can we please make #deliasnails a thing?
Who’s your style icon?
I simply cannot pick just one. The Roche Sisters, Christene Barberich and Liam Gallagher, to name three.
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
We restructured the organization in August, and the new formation is working great. We’re more organized, having more fun and ideas are flowing more freely.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
I don’t believe that performance culture and play are mutually exclusive. At Shimmy, we believe humans spend far too much time at work for it to not be enjoyable and impactful. Our team of 15 loves designing, playing games, flummoxing ChatGPT and being creative together. We hate wasted time and resources, and I’m proud to say we almost never work weekends because we have such a strong focus on productivity, pushing for clarity and direct communication.
I’ve deliberately hired a diverse team, and we value the flexibility and mutual respect we show each other. For example, it’s Ramadan and several of our teammates celebrate, so we get up a little earlier or shift meetings to accommodate their prayer and fasting schedules with openness.
What can companies learn from the pandemic?
I just heard a machine company executive announce a 10-year initiative at a conference a few weeks ago, and it felt so out of touch to me that I had to wonder if he had also lived through the last three years. Covid-19 is just one event in this prolonged moment of constant change. We all learned a kind of resilience through the pandemic—to place your strategic bets, but even as you make them, thinking about what those bets could pivot to over time. Agility, dexterity, elasticity and heart will define the great contributors to this next era.
What should be the apparel industry’s top priority now?
Our common enemy is a shared margin that isn’t big enough to get us where we need to go. It’s squeezing suppliers and workers, and in turn their machine, raw materials and technology suppliers. There isn’t enough financial security to experiment, innovate and find the solutions that will help us truly invest in our industry’s future. The investment community largely views our industry this way and is not picking up the slack to invest in our segment as seriously as other manufacturing industries. The only way forward is to trust each other and co-create a new way to operate with mutual benefit. This is the ticket out of this pennies-on-the-margin mode.
What keeps you up at night?
I lead a global company, so Zoom meetings with people on the other side of the world.
What makes you most optimistic?
Shimmy just finished a new pulse in our Apparel Automation Pulse project where we track the tempo of automation in our sector looking at machine purchasing, worker displacement, trade trends and supplier stakeholder sentiment. Two years ago, training decisions were largely being driven on cost alone. Now there is a much more strategic view that investing in workforce skills can drive efficiency, worker well-being and lower attrition rates—all impacting the bottom line. This is really exciting!