Why is made-to-order a better approach towards our environment vs. mass production?
Made-to-order means that customers can chose products customised to their specifications. Opposite to a make-to-stock or “off the rack” model, this drastically reduces the potential for wastage or surplus stock. Manufacturing will typically begin once the company receives an order, guaranteeing the demand in advance, in contrast to presuming that a certain style will be popular and making large quantities in advance of any solid evidence that it will sell.
In fashion design, made-to-order applies not only to the “model” or type of garment, but to its size and fit, colour, detailing and functional spec (such as pockets, zips, collars, etc.), which leaves stock open to fluctuating tastes and trends in the market.
The drawbacks to make-to-order are that customers need to wait longer for their products, because they cannot simply go into a shop and buy “off the shelf”. Making large quantities in advance will create economies of scale, so manufacturing costs are cheaper.
However, the increasing consumer taste for sustainable or “slow fashion” is changing perceptions of how quickly items should be available. And overall these drawbacks seem tiny in comparison to the huge negative effects caused by over-production. With vast quantities of stock in the fashion industry going unsold and ending up in landfill, releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere or even burnt, made-to-order offers a desirable alternative to the made-to-stock model for sustainable brands.
Made-to-order might first appear as a highly expensive model which can only possibly work for brands with the clientele prepared to pay big bucks for tailored clothing. However, there are several fashion companies demonstrating this is simply not the case