Made-to-Order Fashion Tackles the Industry’s Biggest Sustainability Issue

Overproduction is coined “retail’s dirty little secret.” It not only costs the U.S. an estimated $50 billion per year, it is destroying the planet and can lead to a lot of bad press for your brand. While it’s no secret that fast fashion giants like H&M and Zara are guilty of overproduction, in 2018, Burberry was under fire after it was revealed that $38 million worth of unsold stock for the luxury label was sent to be incinerated.

While many brands have attempted to address overproduction through recycling initiatives that seek to ‘make fashion circular,’ the only true solution to fashion’s waste problem is to shift the underlying business model, and make the switch to made-to-order production.

Erase dead inventory

There’s a reason why dead inventory is considered the ‘silent killer’ of many retailers. Every dollar spent on inventory that doesn’t get sold is money that could’ve gone toward improved back-end systems, better talent, or a more productive inventory. By switching to made-to-order production, brands can alleviate this problem. Michael Ball, founder of made-to-wear active brand Ultracor, said that his brand doesn’t keep items on their shelf, because that’s dollars sitting there that you might have to throw away.

A re-emphasis on quality

One of the more obvious drawbacks of shifting over to a made-to-order production cycle is dealing with longer turnaround times. With longer turnaround times, brands need to be more mindful about what’s going into their production cycle, and put an emphasis back on creating thoughtful, quality items.

Capsule collections have been around since 1985, when popularized by American designer Donna Karan, and have since been used as a way for brand’s to transcend popular trends and seasons, and bring functionality back to the forefront. Many brands, such as Diesel, are dabbling in this production cycle with experimental capsule collections. The brand’s new project, DIESEL UPCYCLING FOR, will release upcoming capsule collections every six months each by a different designer. In addition, these specific collections can only use recycled items for material.

Making made-to-order more accessible

While many brands would like to turn toward a made-to-order production model, it can be difficult to do so without in-house manufacturing since so many companies won’t even produce your brand’s items at a small scale. But if your brand isn’t able to afford the heavy up-front cost of the equipment and technology needed to manufacture its own goods, third-party platforms can help you find factories willing to bid on small batch productions, and save your brand money by making a made-to-order production cycle more realistic.

If your brand is committed to quality and sustainability, make the switch to a made-to-order production cycle today, and put an end to unnecessary overproduction.

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