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Articles on designing your own custom merch, growing your brand, and managing manufacturing as a small business.

The Evolution of the Clothing Manufacturing: From Slow to On-Demand

From nature-found hodgepodge outfits to factory-made, mass-produced apparel, clothing manufacturing has shifted tremendously over the past few hundred years. From slow to on-demand, custom product manufacturing is on the rise. Technological advances, rapidly shifting mindsets and increased consumer demands for quality, speed and affordability are changing an industry that traditionally has stayed stagnant.

Learn more about the evolution of clothing manufacturing from the Stone Age to 2018, then learn how The/Studio is changing the game yet again with on-demand manufacturing.

A Brief History of Clothing Manufacturing

Humankind has been wearing clothing since the Stone Age, according to Britannica. Early clothing, usually of leather and animal skins, was stitched together and later handwoven, sometimes with bone needles. By the Middle Ages, the introduction of iron sewing needles made embroidery and other complex designs and styles possible.

With the rise of industrialization in the 19th century, and with the patented invention of the sewing machine, the world of clothing manufacturing fundamentally shifted. The factory production of textiles and fabrics made clothing more affordable and convenient, which meant many could stop making their clothes from home — a task that was both expensive and time-consuming.

In the 20th century, garment making largely became a commercial affair in the United States, with the industry creating a wide variety of jobs and income sources for all those trying to survive during WWII. In the 1960s, advances in global manufacturing and the spread of media brought a rise in popularity of global fashions, and the demand for mass production has continued to grow through the decades.

(1912 Flint Cotton Mill, Massachusetts)

The Rise of On-Demand Manufacturing

In the same way industrialization shifted clothing manufacturing from a home affair to a factory operation, advances in manufacturing technology have made it possible for a new age of manufacturing to rise. Laser cutting, 3-D printing, and automated manufacturing are three technological advances that have made on-demand manufacturing not only possible but affordable.

Not sure how it works? Check out our article: What’s On-Demand Manufacturing.

In today’s economy, mass production of style isn’t always an option. Rapidly changing trends, globalization, and seemingly-instantaneous delivery speed are all facets of today’s fashion industry that earlier years didn’t have to contend with. Short-run and custom product manufacturing have become popular simply because they allow manufacturers to utilize what works within the manufacturing supply chain (automated assembly lines) while disrupting what doesn’t (ineffective supply chain).

In the same way ride sharing and food delivery apps are responding to a growing consumer need for instantaneous service, custom product manufacturing through on-demand manufacturing makes it simple for brands and retailers to not only get products customers want quickly, but also deliver exactly what the consumer wants even when those whims change a week later.

What’s Ahead for Custom Product Manufacturing?

According to Quartz, the custom product manufacturing industry is rapidly changing, with traditional manufacturing models and supply chains shifting every day toward automation and digitization. The biggest challenge the industry faces is manufacturers themselves, who may not be open to changing the way they’ve done business for the past half century.

But with ever-changing consumer demands, and ever-increasing competition, one thing is clear: remaining flexible and open to change is one of the only ways to stay in business.

The/Studio is an on-demand manufacturer offering custom product manufacturing. To learn more about our process and how on-demand manufacturing can elevate your brand, read Our Story.




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