Amanda Curtis had all the advantages: She graduated from a top fashion school, worked for boldface brands, and even dressed celebrities. Given the opportunity to create her own fashion line, however, Curtis floundered. She needed hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest in inventory, connections with the fashion elite and a talented team to establish a functional supply chain.
“I wasn’t the only creative failing in the archaic system of fashion,” Curtis said. “All around me, my peers and fellow entrepreneurs struggled.”
Someone had to create a better, less fragmented business model that prioritized accessibility, sustainability and efficiency alongside profit; eliminate distribution barriers to entry; and set up its participants for success rather than failure, she told herself. That someone turned out to be her.
Together with tech entrepreneur Gemma Sole, Curtis founded N.A.bld, an on-demand production-management platform that helps fashion companies of all sizes tap into a pre-vetted network of tech-enabled, quick-turnaround and low-minimum U.S.-based manufacturers, allowing them in turn to design and sell in a transparent, financially responsible and ethical way that reduces their cash-flow burden, environmental footprint and inventory risk.
Unlike similar product-life-cycle-management (PLM) platforms, N.A.bld lets brands operate without inventory if they choose and manufacture only what they sell, “which we believe is the most sustainable way to operate a brand,” Curtis said. The platform’s design-to-delivery process connects a company’s supply chain with its front-end e-commerce so customers who pre-order products receive real-time alerts about the progress of their purchase as it’s being assembled.
“There are a lot of PLMs talking about on-demand but very few go as far as the factory floor and connect the consumer to that experience,” Curtis said. “We believe consumers, now more than ever, want transparency and they want experiences. N.A.bld makes it easy for brands to provide both.”
N.A.bld also gives manufacturers a tailored version of its platform to eliminate the hassle of management so they can “do what they do best—manufacture amazing products—in less time and for less cost,” she added. And because those manufacturers, like their end customers, are located in the United States, N.A.bld can help brands cut down on shipping costs and time while curtailing any carbon emissions that stem from long-distance transportation.
The platform, Curtis noted, is “inherently scalable.” N.A.bld has a waitlist of manufacturers that it plans to onboard as it gathers more demand from brands. The company is also in the process of launching a Shopify app that serves as a “plug-and-play supply chain” for Shopify brands trafficking in apparel products.
“There’s a sea change happening in retail and we want to align with companies helping to shape its future, not running from the past,” Curtis added.
What’s the most important issue the fashion industry has yet to address?
“Accountability. Due to the historically complex and opaque nature of supply chains, brands have skirted accountability for all of the inequity, environmental pollution and human-rights violations buried in traditional supply chains.
“COVID-19 and our current cultural climate is bringing about a new demand for accountability and transparency driven by consumers. Brands can no longer hide behind veils of ignorance. Technologies, like N.A.bld, can help brands gain and maintain supply-chain clarity.”
For more on Sustaining Voices, which celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action, visit sustainingvoices.com.