In the last few decades, we’ve fallen into a vortex of quick consumption and rapid throwaway when it comes to fashion items. As vintage shopping and rental services gain widespread popularity, could slowing down the production of fashion altogether be next?
Inside global warehouses, an unthinkable number of clothing items sit on shelves waiting to be purchased.
With fast fashion brands dominating the market and producing thousands of identical styles, the day some products are packed up to be shipped out to a buyer is one that will never come. These leftover, unsold products are called deadstock.
Deadstock is a major problem for the industry, which is already responsible for generating 92 million tons of waste annually. Clothing production itself contributes to the pollution of major waterways and emits 10 percent of global carbon emissions per year.
The environmental destructiveness of fashion is a relatively new problem faced by humanity. In the past, almost all clothing was made to wear. Items were handsewn with care, crafted for longevity, and often exchanged multiple hands over time.
But in the last fifty years, clothing production has more than doubled. We are no longer making or buying tailored clothing, but instead purchasing new items more frequently and on average keep individual pieces for 40 percent less time.
As society looks towards a more sustainable future, returning back to basics in all areas of life – including fashion – looks to be the easiest and most practical way to reduce and ultimately repair the damage of our environmental footprint.
For many brands entering the fashion scene, this means making all clothing items sold to order rather than mindlessly producing them and banking on a future customer who may never appear.
Why are made-to-order clothing pieces better?
The benefits of made-to-order fashion extend well beyond reducing the amount of textile waste, greenhouse gases, and pollutants currently generated by the industry.
It enables customers to buy clothing that has been specifically tailored to their measurements and tastes. This opens further doors for plus-sized garments, as well as custom pieces for those with disabilities.
Those doing the shopping can request unique fabric combinations, unconventional cuts, lengths, or fits. Once the final product arrives, it is essentially a one-of-a-kind piece stitched with the best quality.
Most of all, because the item will be made to measure, it will likely fit perfectly. Contrary to fast fashion pieces – which can be boxy, fall incorrectly at the shoulder or waist, or end up too long or short – items made to wear are more likely to be cherished and held onto for longer periods.
All of these elements of fashion were once the norm. Returning to this practice means embracing a slower approach to fashion, appreciating well-made garments, and understanding the work that goes into producing them.
We’re in luck too, as made-to-order clothing brands are on the rise. You won’t have to go to a posh area of your city to have something tailor-made.
Which brands are embracing made-to-order?
Despite what you might think, you won’t have to break the bank to get your hands on a made-to-order outfit.
Sourcing high-quality deadstock fabrics from couture ateliers, French retailer MaisonCléo offers items at prices lower than you’d find most items going for in your local department store.
Though MainsonCléo’s selection of dresses, co-ords, and trousers certainly can’t match SHEIN’s price points, you’ll understand why when you feel the quality. Each item sold has been handcrafted at a slower pace and offers customers peace of mind thanks to the full transparency of their supply chain.
Another price-friendly, sustainably made-to-order brand worth checking out is Oli The Label. Its founder, Olivia Hulme, is a former costume designer and uses end-of-the-roll fabrics to create one-off, handsewn wrap dresses that generate zero waste.
And for those looking for special occasion dresses – or perhaps a little splurge – look no further than the London-based boutiques, Sanne and Worme.
Dress by Sanne
The made-to-order brand Sanne was founded in 2017 by Lena McCroary, an experienced tailor who gained her knowledge in a shop on Savile Row – one of London’s most famous central streets.
McCroary collaborates with rising illustrators to feature their unique and elegant patterns in her line. These designs are printed on bold and bright textiles sourced primarily from the UK, with all pieces sewn by hand in South London’s Battersea area.
While Sanne exudes luxury (and a price tag to come with it), Worme is wallet-friendly without compromising on elegance. From flowy dresses to satin co-ord suits, its collections are made to order with in-person appointments available on request to ensure the fit is exactly right.
As piles of Western clothing waste continue to pile higher and higher, grossly polluting the landscapes of poorer nations, it’s about time we squash the culture of constantly demanding more and more fashion at rapid speed.
With vintage markets and rental services seeing a tremendous boom in popularity across all generations, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see made-to-order clothing make a huge comeback.