Designers Patrick McDowell (L) and Richard Malone (R) favour made to order fashion.
It’s timely that brands are turning towards a made to order model, and indicative of wider changes in the fashion industry. Many will remember one luxury label making headlines in 2018 when it hit the headlines that £28.6 million worth of waste stock had been burnt by the brand in 2017. While the spotlight was initially shone on this case in particular, it quickly became public knowledge that this isn’t an uncommon practice across the industry - and if it’s not incineration, then unwanted garments typically end up in landfill instead.
A made to order model, by contrast, eradicates the production of surplus stock with potential environmental benefits - and it appears to make more economic sense for smaller businesses too. “Made to order helps to keep the finances stable,” says designer Hanna Fiedler: “The investment that you have to put into stock is really immense and that can break a young business such as mine [...] Producing based on predictions isn’t a very clever thing to do, whatever way you look at it. ”
Last year, London-based ethical clothing brand Birdsong piloted pre-order dresses on a crowdfunding campaign, and found they sold better than any they’d created before. “When you take away the financial risk of pumping £20,000, £30,000 into a beautifully made, sustainable, Living Wage collection before it's even sold yet, you can relax a little and spend more time on design, promotion and talking to your customers,” says the brand’s co-founder Sophie Slater. Birdsong is now also able to offer a wider size range instead of “taking ‘the risk’ of forecasting how many units to make in advance in ten different size options.”