The case for small-scale fashion manufacturing.

Leather craftsman doing edge beveling on a vegetable tanned wallet

Independent Fashion Brands is the fastest growing sector in the fashion industry for the past few years. This is not surprising really with how easy it is to now just launch an online site to start selling products. Now with a bit of effort, almost anyone can start a site using WordPress, Shopify, Wix, in a week or two. On top of these, an Independent Brand can also choose the route of going with the marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy. With the growth of Independent Fashion Brands, the demand for small scale manufacturing is increasing as well.

What is small scale fashion manufacturing?

So, what is small scale fashion manufacturing? While there is no official definition or guideline based on the number of pieces, the current solutions out there on average requires a Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) of 500 pieces per design per colour on the lower end of the MOQ requirement. So then based on this, and looking at the requirement of a typical brand selling bags for example, small scale fashion manufacturing would be one that enables a manufacturing MOQ of sub 100 per design per piece. And this number varies between the various categories within fashion. It is expected that the MOQ for apparels will be higher than that of say a backpack. This comes down to the nature of the the design process and the focus of the different products. For example, we can have backpacks from 3 different bag brands using the same exact material and it will still be ok. This means, that different bag designers can, for example, design using the Xpac material, thus enabling Xpac to be more readily available as ready stock. However, you most probably won’t want your skirt to be having the same prints as another brand. As a result, the MOQ for the skirt naturally becomes higher as it is directly tied to the MOQ for producing the fabric with the unique print. 

SMALL vs. large scale manufacturing?

The first thing you need to know is the difference between small and large scale fashion manufacturing besides the obvious scale in terms of production quantity. 

Quality. One of the main reasons why Independent Brands choose small scale fashion manufacturing is for the quality. Small scale production is almost always more expensive than mass production, and this has to be justified by the higher quality. Higher quality is not confined to just the make and build of the product, but also the processes involved. For example there are processes like hand stitching of leather goods, hand welting of shoes, wet forming for leather goods, that just cannot be produced on a large scale.

Costs. As mentioned above, cost is always higher for small scale fashion manufacturing. The economies of scale is just not present in the model to allow for lower cost. For example where huge production runs are able to order materials by the container and directly from the material suppliers at wholesale prices, small scale manufacturers have to buy materials from resellers with the cost of materials already marked up. 

Customization. Another advantage small scale fashion manufacturing has is the ability for customization. The demand for customization is ever increasing with the exponential increase in social media usage. People are looking for more ways to differentiate themselves, and are tired of seeing the same mass fashion brands and products wherever they go. However, this demand for customization is no longer just confined to small Independent Brands but are getting more and more mainstream. You can see such examples in the collaboration pieces that brands such as Nike and Adidas are doing with smaller experimental brands such as Off-White, Clot, Madness etc. and also with artists and artistes like Kaws and Pharell Williams. 

who is small scale fashion manufacturing for?

Small scale fashion manufacturing is for you if:

  1. You value quality over price.
  2. You value individuality and exclusivity over mass purchase.
  3. You are not afraid to charge a higher selling price for your quality.
  4. You are aware you are not getting high 5X, 8X, 10X multiples from cost to retail price. 
  5. You value sustainability.
  6. You rather pay more than have excess overstock.
Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top