Sustainability: Mass Customization for a Sustainable Fashion Industry

The garment industry has experienced a digital wave in the recent years in the field of technology and fashion. The need for sustainable fashion is one of the major reasons for technology to become so synonymous with fashion in today’s era.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter after oil. 3.8 billion clothing is dumped annually due to the problem of excess inventory. And what leads to excess inventory? The practice of mass production.

But, thanks to factors like more efficient manufacturing, digital inventory options and virtual customisation, it has led to the invention of mass customisation—the production of products that meet individual demands combined with Just-In-Time production.

Mass customisation is not only specific to an individual’s personal preferences but is also helping in making the fashion industry more ethical. Mass customisation is slowly but steadily creating an impact on our clothing industry.

But what exactly is mass customisation?

Customisation has been a part of fashion industry since the beginning of times.

Mass customisation combines the personalization and flexibility of custom-made products with J.I.T (Just-in-Time) production.

63% of women struggle to find the right fit in clothing. Whereas Mass production of garments leads to a huge amount of waste. The sizes made are mostly XS-XXL which sometimes cause poor fitting, and 40% of the time, the garments are either returned or rejected without ever being worn once.

Mass customisation reduces the chances of returns, eliminates excess stock inventory and thereby leads to zero or no inventory. Zero inventories saves us huge amount of annual waste being dumped into the environment.

Sustainable Supply Chain

Another advantage of just-in-time production is that it is demand-led and not inventory-led. Each item is made on demand specified with the customer’s measurements and preferences. Resulting in minimum waste during the cutting process further supported by semi-automated manufacturing, packing and finishing. The individual order is made specifically for one consumer and is worn by that particular consumer minimizing the issue of returns (due to fit) and the problem of keeping inventory (for retailers) 

According to an YouGov survey, 26% of US consumers prefer to personalized a product. Apparel and footwear (29%) as well as food and beverages (29%) were the most common categories for buying personalized items.

Custom-made process is often stereotyped as a slow and cumbersome process wherein the deliverables are received within a time frame of 15-21 days which is why most consumers opt for retail sizing even if it doesn’t fit them most time.

Time lag is the major challenge for mass customisation, but thanks to recent developments, traditional custom-made techniques are slowly becoming extinct and are replaced by digital customisation processes. In digital customisation process, customisation options are visible in the form of 3D mapping wherein the consumer can physically see and do the changes they want. It’s easy and efficient.

Another interesting innovation for measurements (in custom-made orders) is 3D body scanning. 3D body scanners measures your 110 body measurements in just 5 seconds enabling to capture your exact measurements with an accuracy of 99.9%

Also, with the advent of technology like artificial intelligence and digital customisation, the consumers have become more accepting. They understand the pain point and the excess inventory which goes in the mass production.

In the coming year’s mass production will be replaced with mass customisation, leading to no excess inventory and zero waste. When the garments are customised specially for the client, the chances of the garment to fit the consumer are very higher compared to the mass production and it leads to zero waste.

Many brands like H&M conscious, Levis are going sustainable. Even fast fashion retailer Zara has announces that by 2025 they will be producing clothing from 100% sustainable fabrics. Whereas tech based fashion start-up like Samshék has undergone a whole sustainable manufacturing process from fabrics till production.

Mass customisation creates a sustainable approach as compared to mass production, because in mass customisation the garment is made for the very first time and for the last time, so there is zero waste of fabric and no excess inventory. This is an issue globally because all the big retail brands produce a large number of garments and half of it goes the waste, they either throw it or burn it.

Switching to mass customisation and digital customisation with usage of natural fibres which are eco-friendly is a sustainable step to the future of fashion we can take as consumers, because if we don’t demand it, how will the industry produce it. A better way to be fashionable yet responsible and be a part in bringing back natural and organic fibres to the textile industry.

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