As the fashion industry faces a reckoning for its wasteful ways, the concept of creating products to meet consumer demand is picking up traction.
Now, Alabama apparel manufacturer OnPoint Manufacturing has pioneered what it hopes will be a solution for many of the industry’s upstarts and burgeoning designers looking to develop their businesses while curbing overproduction.
According to OnPoint CEO Kirby Best, the company and its partners have been quietly crafting a digital portal that makes its Purchase Activated Apparel Technology (PAAT) software accessible to customers who might be new to the on-demand manufacturing game—or the fashion world more broadly.
Eloise.Fashion is an all-in-one virtual platform that gives designers and brands access to all the tools and applications they need to create, manufacture and sell their garments. “We call it a super-SaaS model,” Best said, referring to software-as-a-service technology that is licensed and accessed through the web. “This is one step beyond, where you don’t pay for the software until you make something with it.”
Best believes the concept will resonate with industry newcomers because they can access the platform’s benefits on a “pay as you produce” basis while they go through the design process. Many entrepreneurs—especially recent fashion school grads—can’t afford to buy into pricy programs to craft their collections, much less pay for piles of inventory without seeing proof of concept.
Best consulted with the heads of Belmont University’s design school, Parsons School of Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology as he fleshed out the software’s capabilities. As students leave the comfortable cocoon of the academic world, he said, it can be hard for them to find their footing. “Many of the graduates don’t make careers in the business because there are so many hurdles they face in starting their own lines,” he added.
OnPoint worked closely with strategic partner Gerber Technology, a provider of digital textile manufacturing solutions, to develop the platform. Users can navigate the production process through the online portal, and when a product they’ve designed sells, it’s manufactured and fulfilled. Only then does Eloise.Fashion pull a fee from the proceeds of the sale to pay for access to the technology, which is used to create, produce, distribute and sell the garment.
“Covid-19 has only accelerated the trends towards e-commerce and the need for a digitally-connected, agile apparel supply chain,” said Karsten Newbury, chief strategy and digital officer of Gerber Technology. “Together with PAAT, we are now making it possible for all designers, small and large, to quickly and efficiently design, develop and then produce products on demand, with MOQs as low as one.”
Best characterized Gerber as the project’s white knight, as it has lent its backend capabilities to the project. And rather than limiting production to OnPoint’s capabilities, Best has called upon some of the country’s leading on-demand shops and service providers to act as founding partners, providing designers with access to other apparel categories.
“We wanted this to be a digital hub,” Best said. “I couldn’t call it a marketplace if OnPoint was the only one on it.”
Ventura, Calif.-based digital knitting technology company Nimbly has signed onto the effort, giving brands access to factories that produce knitwear. The company boasts a virtual network of knitting machines in factories across the globe, ensuring convenient access for brands based basically anywhere.
“I’m never going to get into the knitted side, and they’re never going to get into the woven side, so we said, ‘This is a match made in heaven,’” Best said.
Spoonflower, a Durham, N.C.-based firm that specializes in on-demand digital textile printing, will also lend its talents to designers via Eloise.Fashion. The company allows them to design and print their own custom patterns, with the capacity for limited yardage and the creation of one-off products.
“These two companies are forward-thinking and super environmentally conscious,” Best said. “They are at the top of their games, and I thought, ‘Let’s bring some superstars into this.’”
OnPoint has also been working with Amazon-owned Fabric.com, Best said, which carries more than 100,000 types of material and sells in quantities as small as one yard. The company, which provides overnight delivery, has been a life-saver for OnPoint, Best said. “We can’t carry that much fabric at one time, or store it for that matter,” he added. Instead, the manufacturer keeps to its on-demand philosophy by only sourcing the materials that its clients actually need.
“There are so many bright people in this industry, who are like-minded and who want to solve things,” Best said. Eloise.Fashion is slated to launch on Nov. 17, and brands, designers and students are encouraged to register on the platform so they can be among the first to explore its capabilities upon launch.