When it comes to producing extended sizes, many in the fashion industry have jumped on the bandwagon… with a litany of excuses: “I’m not sure where to start;” “There isn’t enough demand to justify the production costs;” “Producing to additional sizes will affect the bottom line;” “We don’t have the technology or experience to make extended sizes,” and so on.
Yet a profound change in public opinion has demanded more brand inclusivity, not just in sizing, but in elements like adaptive design and an openness to working with all types of designers, brands and companies. In short, no more excuses.
It’s also smart business. According to Allied Market Research, the plus-size clothing market garnered $480.99 billion in 2019 and is anticipated to reach $696.71 billion by 2027.
On-demand manufacturing is a way for companies to tip-toe into this growing market—testing demand, producing only what is needed, and creating new market opportunities without committing to large up-front inventory.
“With on demand manufacturing, companies won’t have to waste what is not used,” explained Michael Clevestig, director of marketing-Americas, at Lectra. “It also allows for smaller companies to break into the space without the need for high overhead, both with inventory and labor.”
Some brands shun larger sizes because they use more fabric and thus cost more to make, and labels can’t necessarily charge more. But on-demand manufacturing actually uses less fabric, because companies aren’t purchasing extra materials to create excess—and wasteful—inventory that doesn’t get sold.
Consumers can also customize their garments and upload their own measurements to an on-demand order, so brands produce on-demand clothing that perfectly fits their shoppers. This eliminates fit issues, which are the root cause for costly retail returns.
“There are more returns with sizes that are made to ‘standard’ body shapes because many companies only cater to two to three body shapes,” Clevestig said. “So whether you need a larger size or you simply don’t fit the mold, returns occur because people aren’t a one size fits all.”
On-demand manufacturing allows for better control of how products are nested together, so you can produce multiple sizes at once to better utilize the material, Clevestig added. It also lets brands adjust surface design on the fly with digital design, especially helpful if they don’t know how to visualize the placement in an area they are not familiar with.
Adaptive design—which caters to consumers with special needs like fine motor or mobility issues—is another area where brands are testing the waters. It’s also one they often know little about.
“On-demand manufacturing can help them test, learn and adjust as they go, producing garments with special sizing or accessibility considerations as needed,” Clevestig said. “Brands are hesitant to enter into other markets they know nothing about because they don’t want to do full runs of something that won’t sell, or that they might just ‘get it wrong.’ On demand allows them to quickly produce in smaller runs so they can get the garments to market and immediately know what the response is.”
Adapting to a niche market is an ongoing process, and on-demand manufacturing lets companies produce actual fit requirements allowing them to adjust to their audience as response, and consumer loyalty, grows.
The whole on-demand system is also inclusive to the companies who use it, offering opportunities for smaller brands to get up and running more quickly, with less overhead, and less need for capital to support large inventory runs. They can test their products and see where the interest lies, all with less risk.
At the end of the day, a fashion brand that wants to be more inclusive to niche-yet-important consumer sectors has to check its assumptions at the door. Extended sizes needn’t focus solely on plus size, they can also refer to tall or petite. Or they can refer to genderless clothing.
The important thing is to offer a seamless shopping experience, mitigating risk to the brand, and doing what’s needed to make sure everyone has equal access to beautiful clothing.
To learn more about Lectra’s on-demand manufacturing capabilities, click here.