The fashion industry all across the world has accepted and chosen the on-demand manufacturing statistics. Today many brands are accepting this model as the most viable way of selling. However, the consumer on the other hand has got divided into two segments owing to this. On the one hand, there are those that shop for instant gratification, while, on the other hand, there are those that are ready to wait it out. According to MarketWatch, the overall on-demand market is expected to reach about US $ 112 billion by 2024, growing at 20 per cent rate annually. This in itself is a good evidence hinting at the growth this sector is experiencing globally.

Taking it slow

Fast fashion for some time now has been heavily criticised owing to how much their processes harm the environment. According to reports, 87 per cent of the clothing materials used in fast fashion end up in landfills or are incinerated. This is the gap slow fashion or on-demand manufacturing looks to fill in as on-demand processes allow brands to make clothing as per customer demands, cutting down the reason for wastage completely.

“Initially I started by brand with stocks. But, eventually I realised that the demand for certain sizes was more as compared to the other sizes. Understanding what will sell more was unpredictable. Then I was operating from a very small set-up, so not only efforts, stocking more meant making room for inventory, which was impossible at this stage. That’s why I shifted to the made-to-order ways. This has allowed me to service a bigger size chart and then manufacture clothing as per the demand,” Gaurie Kumar, Founder of The Cowrie Collective mentions.

Gaurie does not deny that as she scales up and slowly moves to the online format of selling, this made-to-order will not work as the essence of on-demand is more personalised approach, which otherwise gets ruled out with scalability. But she agrees that she will not want to let go of the customised approach and will continue it probably through her niche offline stores. But as far as the consumer is concerned, Gaurie is positive that today the segment that is buying made-to-order or customised clothing, is very kind and this quality makes them value the environment and that brings them back in a full circle to brands like The Cowrie Collective.

Gaurie Kumar wearing her own collection

With scalability being an issue for on-demand manufacturing, international brands like Superdry are adapting to the on-demand concept by bringing in ‘Superdry Preview’ collections, which are limited edition collections that will take 6 weeks from design to delivery post orders. In fact, Uniqlo’s parent company Fast Retailing is also bringing to the market on-demand knitwear in association with Shima Seiki. With the bigger brands being a torchbearer for change, the small businesses across the world will gain customer tolerance and the concept of on-demand will work a purpose too.

Making art count

With on-demand manufacturing being the differentiating factor, many brands like FOमो? Clothing Official are further adding onto the on-demand factor by only selling hand-painted garments. The process of hand painting in itself is delicate and takes time and thus, with her brand, Khushboo Mehta, Founder of FOमो? drives the point of on-demand home.

“Captivated by art and colours, it came pretty naturally to me. I love pop art! I started with a couple of shirts and realised that my audience/ followers loved it. That’s how I kept coming up with fun designs and texts. Initially, the market for us was sort of lull considering the pandemic. People were still in their pyjamas. But I kept getting texts ‘shall order once were able to get out of the house’. Slowly people started to order and customise their designs according to their vibe. My processes are elaborate and it starts with the shirt of a desired size. It takes about a couple of days. Painting takes about a day or two, depending on the kind of design a client selects. I keep it for a day to dry and then we proceed with packing and labelling. All in all from order to delivery, it takes about 5-7 business days for us to complete an order,” Khushboo highlights.

Art on clothes – printed or hand-painted has always been received well. Khushboo thinks that, “If you’re true to your work, deliver quality product, in terms of fabric and design, it definitely is a fun career to be in. It’s not my business but passion. And when you’re passionate, everything works seamlessly. Since I customise the design as well as size, I ask my clients to be doubly sure because I follow ‘no-return’ policy. It’s been a smooth ride so far except a couple of times which is ok. I take it as a learning process. Working with tailors, fabric suppliers have made me learn the virtue of patience. We’re not super humans. Therefore, a day or two delay is absolutely fine. I make sure to update my client of any delay which is rare but definitely possible, especially during pandemic.”

Cutting losses

On-demand manufacturing is a good way to navigate through losses as businesses can work with smaller capital. This leaves room for risk mitigation and allows small businesses to record growth. Then there are few businesses also, which adapt to the avenues of bulk ordering using the traditional manufacturing method and subsequently adapt on-demand manufacturing for limited edition collections or short-term collaborations.

“My initial thought while setting up the business was to make custom-made pieces only as in India, we have a lot of different brands and each one of them follows their own size chart. It is very difficult for the customers to pick any size of any brand because it’s different for all of them. My idea was to give them a size that fits them perfectly. The challenge here was to ask the customer to give their size. Many do not know their exact proportions and had to visit a local tailor to get their sizes and then the second challenge was the time we took to get an order ready. Since everything is handmade and requires intensive tailoring so the process involved is at least 10 days. But the customer response has been fabulous and people who shop on-demand clothing are the ones who prefer slow fashion. So, this sort of shopping is not ruled by impulse but is more thoughtful,” mentions Niharika Lohia, Founder, Dramaincloset.