”In the future, clothing companies will only produce the number of items they will sell, by employing made-to-order”
On whether the future of fashion is customized apparel
June 28, 2021
Instead of a fashion background, Fleischer brings 10 years of experience in supply chain and LEAN manufacturing at eBay and consulting firm Booz & Co. As the co-founder of Copenhagen-based clothing-tech company Son of a Tailor, offering custom-fitted essentials for men, his background has driven the brand’s unique low-waste production model.
— I didn’t found the brand because I was in love with fashion, but because of the vast opportunities to improve fashion for everybody involved: customers, garment workers, and the planet. We are reengineering the clothing industry to deliver for these actors involved profitably, he says.
— Our Perfect Fit algorithm makes custom-fit effortless for our customers while the made-to-order approach removes inventory waste. In 2014, it all started with the Cotton T-Shirt. Since then, we have expanded to offer a wide range of essentials, all made-to-order using our Perfect Fit algorithm. The Oxford Shirt, for example, has been in high demand from customers. We adjusted our algorithm to size shirts, so it takes only four questions and no measuring tape required to create the perfectly fitting shirt. Our latest launch, the Invisible Undershirt, comes in five shades of ”nude” so that the undershirt becomes invisible under the shirt. It’s also invisible in feel — made of silky soft Tencel the product feels invisible on your skin — and the shades remove any risk of visible lines under your shirt. With the introduction of our zero waste knitwear collection, made from Merino wool in Italy, we took our low waste production one step further. We leverage 3D knitting to create it in one piece, eliminating any fabric cut-offs. The production causes less than 1% waste compared to about 20% industry average.
A big question, but is the future of fashion customized apparel?
— I think it will definitely become more prominent. Today, it only represents a tiny share of the clothing industry. But the big shift I anticipate is from mass production to made-to-order, Fleischer shares.
— Today, industry practice is to produce a large amount of garments and hope to sell as many of them as possible. Because you cannot predict demand, you end up with unsold inventory, which doesn’t make sense from an environmental perspective nor from a business perspective.
— In the future, clothing companies will only produce the number of items they will sell, by employing made-to-order. Technology and a reconfigured supply chain are improving made-to-order to be faster and cheaper, which, in turn, will lead to massive reductions in waste, cost, and environmental footprint. The question is if the industry is ready to embrace this change.
You’ve been running the brand since 2014, what have you learnt?
— Those years have shown that questioning industry norms isn’t easy, Fleischer tells.
— When we started, we were turned down many times by potential production partners. The first question each potential supplier would ask is ”What’s your MOQ?”, or minimum order quantity. When I would say ”one”, they would think I misunderstood the question. ”No, how many of each size do you need?” ”One.” Suffice to say, we were turned down many times. Eventually, one factory restructured their processes around single-garment production, and that changed everything for us.
— We believe that sustainability alone isn’t a strong enough selling point. Sustainable products also need to offer something better or cheaper to customers. By offering quality products with perfect fit and great customer service, we have created a loyal community of customers: 52% of our customers return within one year, and our NPS (Net Promoter Score, a customer loyalty and satisfaction measurement, Ed’s note) is 68, one of the highest in clothing. This helped us tremendously to make the business case for a new way of making and selling clothing. In autumn 2020, we received a +7M USD investment that we have used to grow the team and to further improve our supply chain. This past May, we hit a milestone of 100,000 customers, who have joined and supported us on our mission of reengineering the industry from the core. This is a big step because, and that’s another insight we’ve gained over the years, size matters when it comes to driving change.
Son of a Tailor and their made-to-order approach have just been included as an example case in the Danish Ministry of Finance’s review of Denmark’s progress in regards to the Sustainable Development Goals for the United Nations.
— We are super excited to see our way of clothing production recognised for its huge potential to make the industry and our economy more sustainable while delivering outstanding products for customers, Fleischer concludes.