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Commentary & Analysis

Amazon and On-Demand Clothing Manufacturing

Amazon’s patenting of an on-demand clothing manufacturing warehouse points to a future of on-demand mass customization of fashion.

By Cary Sherburne
Published: January 15, 2018

This story on Recode caught my attention. Amazon stories are always interesting – the company plays a large role in many of our lives, especially mine, since I live on an island and need to ship lots of stuff in. Well, “need” is probably an exaggeration, but you get what I am saying.

I was particularly interested in Amazon’s patenting of an on-demand clothing manufacturing warehouse. According to the story, “The computerized system would include textile printers, cutters and an assembly line, as well as cameras designed to snap images of garments that would provide feedback on alterations needed in subsequent items. In order to increase efficiency, the goods would be manufactured in batches based on factors such as the customer shipping address.”

This is another piece of news in the clothing microfactory saga that I believe we will see evolve rapidly in 2018 and beyond. One aspect we have been following is EFI’s development of an industrial textile ecosystem. Following its acquisition of Italian textile printer manufacturer Reggiani, the company has patiently assembled an array of solutions, internally developed, by acquisition and from partners, to a build complete ecosystem for digital textile production. It includes EFI Reggiani printers, EFI Optitex design and digital showroom solutions, EFI Fiery® digital front ends (DFEs) and EFI Reggiani inkjet printers, allowing for design agility and taking time and cost out of the textile design and manufacturing process. Partners Klieverik (heat transfer press) and Zünd (cutting), along with automated sewing solutions, round out the microfactory concept. EFI was awarded Must See ‘Em recognition at Graph Expo 2017 for this concept.

We also recently spoke with eco-friendly clothing manufacturer Fed By Threads. This innovative company has microfactories in its sights, and is currently looking at the EFI solution. We’ve also heard rumors about other apparel manufacturers looking to bring customized apparel manufacturing closer to the consumer. These concepts range from retail kiosks and pop-ups, such as the London start-up Unmade and athletic brands accelerating investments in digital design and automated manufacturing. The future vision for consumers is the ability to order custom-made shoes and apparel with delivery in minutes instead of weeks.

And it doesn’t stop with apparel. There are a number of online businesses popping up that offer custom textiles, based on professional designs or your own designs, for apparel and home goods. One example is Spoonflower. The site allows consumers to print any design on fabric, wall paper, gift wrap and home décor items.

This is a very exciting market opportunity, and Amazon jumping in just adds to its credibility. In 2018 and beyond, we will be closely following developments, speaking to some of the key players, and offering ideas for our readers as to how they can capitalize on this rapidly-evolving trend.

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.



By Paul Gardner on Jan 17, 2018

It's a joy to watch what we Printers have learned about on-demand and custom manufacturing being applied to a ever-wider range of industries. Sometimes, as with Amazon's clothing project, there's a connection to Print. Other times not, but there's something to learn from every new application.

Thanks Cary!


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