In 2016 we created a jacket that almost destroyed Garuda. We invested heavily into this jacket, and if it didn’t sell we were almost certainly done for. Guess what? It didn’t sell a single unit. This put our backs against the wall, we had almost no capital to make a new product, but we had designs in mind. So we decided to try made to order, we presented a new design to potential clients and got their buy-in, they paid for their garments upfront and we used that money to make the designs come to life.
Made to order (MTO) has a plethora of pitfalls, but also some extremely unique upsides. Lets explore some of them.
Pro - For the company - Low investment
Is it cheaper to produce 20 units, and then try to sell them? Or to make 1 and then produce as many as get ordered? If you are a new company with little to no brand recognition you may struggle to sell 20 pieces. You may have to begin discounting them to move them which impacts your returns. Furthermore, you’ve already spent the money to make 20 units, which you now have to recover by selling them.
But if you make 1, present it to the world, and take orders, you only had to spend the money to produce 1. You may gain orders for 5, 20, or even 1000 and your initial investment was simply 1 piece.
Pro - For the customer - Customisation
Producing the item at the time of order opens a door allowing your customer to make special requests, maybe a zip could be changed, maybe they need custom measurements because they do not fit into traditional sizing... Whatever the case be, the fact that the item is being produced after ordering allows for a more dynamic and variable approach to its production.
Con - For the company - Alienation
In the fast-paced world of same-day Amazon delivery, many customers can be put off by a wait time for their item to be sent to them, let alone produced. You may lose many customers in this process, whether it be them having zero interest, to begin with, or feeling it took too long after their purchase.
Con - For the customer - Demand vs supply
If your operation is doing well, you may need to turn down sales or ask customers to wait even longer for you to begin their order. Since you are producing based on demand chances are you are going to be running a very lean operation with the minimum amount of staff and machinery. Meaning sometimes you may have customers who want to place orders but you simply cannot take their order, further alienating the customer.
Pro - For the environment - Waste minimisation
Let's say you produce 20 of an item. 10 sell at full price, 5 sell at discounted rates and 5 are flat out unable to sell.
The 5 that sold at a discount rate are whim purchases that a customer may have made simply because the item was discounted, which happens all the time. Potentially meaning the customer cares less for the item and will dispose of it quickly rather than looking after it and repairing it if possible. Which naturally contributes to waste.
The 5 that you were unable to sell, what are you going to do about those? Give them away? Same thing... people will care less for the item potentially. Throw them away? Congratulations... you created waste. Or like Louis Vuitton burn them? Do we even need to explain this one?
Con - For the company & the customer - Raw material falling behind
Another result of running a lean operation. For any number of reasons, the supplies you need to make the product may be late. Maybe the supplier makes a mistake and has to reproduce your material, maybe a pandemic hits, maybe they ship it to the wrong address. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong as the saying goes.
This would impact both the company and the customer.
Pro - For the company & the customer - Stronger relationships
There's something special that happens when you have multiple emails/phone calls with a customer discussing their order and measurements. For the customer is shows your dedication to their request, for the company it shows the customers interest in your work. We have built amazing friendships with people through MTO, this is one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of working in this way.
Our world is in the early stages of an environmental meltdown, this alone is enough reason to adopt the MTO model. It is far more responsible to produce something when it is demanded than to produce something and tell people they need it.
We envision a world where you place your order, a representative calls you and discusses your measurements with you, once finalised your order is produced 24/7 by a team of workers at night and a separate team on day shifts reducing lead times dramatically. This vision will take time to realise, but we believe this to be the future of a more responsible fashion ecosystem.