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Consumers Take the Reins with On-Demand Manufacturing

As style demands rise and sustainability remains a priority, many apparel brands are turning to on-demand manufacturing to foster consumer engagement.

At a Gerber Technology Roadshow panel in New York Wednesday, industry members discussed how on-demand manufacturing enables consumers to take part in apparel production.

“The beauty about on-demand manufacturing is that you make exactly what the customer wants and nothing more,” Ziel CEO & founder and panelist Marleen Vogelaar said.

Vogelaar’s company, Ziel, is a service for businesses that want to sell high-end performance apparel with shorter lead times. Ziel offers clients, including healthy lifestyle brands, e-commerce integration and manufacturing, so they may deliver quality activewear to their consumers without delays.

On-demand manufacturing also bridges the gap between retailers and consumers. In the past, retailers dictated wardrobes. Today, with the help of on-demand manufacturing, consumers now can be in the driver’s seat when it comes to the apparel production process.

“Our mission has become bringing manufacturing close to the consumer, SoftWear Automation VP of sales and marketing and panelist Pete Santora said. “It brings this concept of made to measure or custom to the person right in the store.”

SoftWear Automation, an Atlanta-based automation startup, offers the industry autonomous sewn good work lines. With the help of robotics providers, including SoftWear Automation, many apparel companies, including Under Armour, have transformed their supply chains with on-demand manufacturing. With advanced machinery, retailers including Under Armour, can engage in local production and bring consumer garment preferences, such as technical components, to life in their merchandise.

On-demand manufacturing also heightens the in-store experience. Many retailers, including Hickey Freeman, are allowing brick-and-mortar consumers to dabble in the apparel production process with software programs. Roy Nicholls, VP of manufacturing, spoke about how Hickey Freeman held an event where consumers designed their own suits on an avitar.

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“If they can make a garment their own, that is a huge value,” Nicholls said. The ability to give somebody the feeling of ownership creates brand loyalty.”

As see, now buy now and fast fashion become prevalent in the industry, on-demand manufacturing enables retailers to connect with their consumers from sourcing to finished product. With the incorporation of technology, including automation and software programs, on-demand manufacturing streamlines brands’ operations and provides consumers with the opportunity to be valued in the apparel production process.