Can Made-to-Order Fashion Solve Our Overconsumption Problem?
- by Rachael Noll
- Nov 8, 2021
- No Comments
This post is sponsored by the conscious online retailer Fox Holt. We only work with brands that we truly believe in. Support our editorial work by supporting them!
Fast fashion has reshaped our perspective, depicting clothes, shoes, and accessories as a renewable and disposable resource that we can buy and trash whenever it suits us.
In 2018, Americans discarded over 9 million tons of clothing and shoes to municipal solid waste landfills across the country. That’s a seven-fold increase since 1960. In 2019, global fiber production was reported to be around 111 million metric tons, a drastic increase of 60 million since 2000.
This increase corresponds with the rise in popularity of fast fashion retailers. From 2000 to 2019, H&M group’s annual net sales jumped from just $2.9 billion to $26.7 billion, while Zara’s net sales also increased nearly 11 times since 2000, jumping from $3 billion to $33 billion. Meanwhile, even faster brands have come up, including Boohoo, Shein, Missguided, plus legions of nameless brands crowding your Instagram stories.
Not all of this clothing can ever get sold. In Q1 2018, H&M reported $4.3 billion in unsold inventory, and at the end of that year, Burberry reported destroying $38.6 million worth of finished goods.
Inspiring consumers to overhaul this toxic consumption pattern is why Dale Volpe and Katy Rowley launched Fox Holt in June 2020, offering different sustainable products to be found in one place. And they wholeheartedly believe that the made-to-order model could be the answer to the overconsumption crisis.
Can Made-To-Order Clothing Combat Overconsumption?
The made-to-order model requires consumers to purchase the fashion before it’s been produced, cutting out overstock and waste. Only once an order is placed does any manufacturing begin, with the item being delivered a few weeks later.
Four made-to-order brands have found an outlet through the Fox and Holt online boutique, and shoppers love them. This past September, Fox Holt’s made-to-order pieces represented 41% of company-wide sales.
“Made-to-order is a shift in the consumer mindset…we think it is one of the best ways to be sustainable because it is zero-waste—everything is produced when it is needed,” says Rowley.
Bastet Noir’s pieces are manufactured in small production studios in North Macedonia by single mothers and female micro-entrepreneurs. Entirely zero-waste, it only sources discarded materials from other factories across the region.
“A lot of the made-to-order brands we stock use deadstock and end-of-life fabrics, making them more sustainable,” Volpe says. “Besides the fact you’re getting something made-to-order, they’re making sure these fabrics don’t end up in the landfill.”
Indian designer Sruti Dalmia now has 35 made-to-order pieces available on Fox Holt. A core focus of the designer is waste reduction, which led the brand to collaborate with two upcycling centers in India. Together they convert all remaining cut waste into fresh yarn, thereafter integrating the upcycled yarn into collections.
Made-to-order inculcates a sense of excitement and patience in consumers since overnight or next-day shipping is not possible. It also teaches appreciation for the craft of making quality clothing. But don’t fret, the maximum waiting period for Fox Holt brands is only 16 days.
Made-To-Order Fashion Supports Size Inclusivity
Women that don’t fit within the industry’s standardized sizing are prevented from participating in the broader fashion industry, much less the niche of sustainable fashion. Most American women wear a size 14 to an 18. Yet despite this, only 32 brands in New York Fashion Week in 2018 offered up to size 16. Many plus-size women resort to Walmart and Kohl’s to purchase clothing in their size, spending only 82.8 cents to every dollar spent by a woman who is a so-called “straight” size.
Art of Simplicity’s core linen collection is available for order on Fox Holt. Ethically produced in Bali, it offers sizes US 0 to 18, plus encourages customers to send in their measurements to achieve the perfect fit. Hargan Denim, while not offering extended sizing, also accepts custom measurements, offering one-of-a-kind jeans artfully assembled from vintage jeans bound to landfill. Custom sizing allows different body shapes to be prioritized; having no accumulated stock gives these brands freedom to prioritize women and celebrate their uniqueness.
Once a customer selects a size from the available options for a made-to-order brand, the Fox Holt team reaches out to the customer to ask if they need any specific adjustments made, such as hem length. “It’s crazy we force ourselves to fit in these size niches when in reality it’s really about how your clothes fit you,” Volpe says. “Every woman is a different shape, we don’t always fit into the standard shape of the American sizing chart,” Rowley adds.
Sustainability doesn’t mean the same to everyone. Fox Holt allows consumers to explore their values while they shop, aided by the filtering of products through sustainability stamps: Made in USA, Vegan, Artisan, Socially Conscious, Organic Materials, Recycled Materials, Environmentally Conscious, Sustainable Materials, and Giving Back. Our understanding of sustainability and conscious consumerism is always evolving, so these stamps are continually reviewed to ensure the marketplace keeps up with the latest.
Can you really call yourself a conscious fashion consumer if you haven’t given the made-to-order model a try? We think not.