Why Sustainable Clothing Brands in the UK are Embracing Made-to-Order

Posted by Sally McLaren on

As mere mortals, not A-listers with access to custom couture, we are used to fashion buyers deciding what we should be wearing each season. Once they have decided what styles to stock, they then have the hugely difficult job of predicting how many of each size to order from the factory tasked with making them.

Buyers for well-established brands have the advantage of being able to look back on previous sales figures, to help them make informed sales projections for future seasons, but even the oldest brands with the most astute buyers are still left with a certain amount of unsold stock at the end of each season.

What happens to unsold clothing at the end of each season?

End-of-Season Sales

If consumers are lucky, brands will sell off their surplus stock at reduced prices in end-of-season sales. Who doesn't love getting a nice new garment at a lower price? It feels like winning the lottery when that item you have had your eye on all season is reduced in price at the end-of-season sale and, by some miracle, they still have your size.

However, this high is so addictive that we often end up buying sale items that aren't exactly what we want, in a size too large or too small, just to try and get a hit of that bargain hunter's buzz. What happens to all these sales clothes that weren't quite right for us? They are destined to clutter up our wardrobes, be donated to charity and end up in landfill.

Outlet Clothing Stores

Brands like TK Maxx, Brand Alley and Fashionesta capitalise on the propensity of brands to over-buy by offering to take some of their surplus stock off their hands and sell it to consumers at reduced prices.

For label lovers on a budget, stores like these become regular haunts. We've all got that friend who is a dab hand at snagging gorgeous designer clothes at hugely reduced prices and always looks fantastic. But, much like the end-of-season sale mis-buys, the rest of us are often tempted to settle for less-than-perfect styles and fits in designer outlet stores, simply because we want to take advantage of the huge savings on offer.

Donation to Charity

Brands with a social conscience and a consumer-inspired sustainability pledge to fulfil may sell off or donate their deadstock to charitable organisations such as Traid, We Recycle Clothes and Donate Clothes UK. These organisations either sell the clothes to raise money for good causes or organise for the clothes themselves to be distributed to those in need.

Landfill and Incineration

Managing any of these pathways for surplus stock takes time and energy that many brands do not have. Other brands are so fiercely protective of their image that they don't want to be seen to be discounting too heavily and too regularly. In both these scenarios, the simplest, easiest and cheapest way to deal with dead stock is to destroy it, and that is what many brands do.

It is estimated that 4-9% of all textile products put on the market in Europe are destroyed before use. This equates to between 264,000 and 594,000 tonnes of textiles being destroyed each year and it is one of the many ways in which the fashion industry is harming the planet.

The take, make, waste approach is standard for most fast fashion brands, but a surprising number of luxury brands are also guilty of destroying dead stock too. In an article published last year, eco-business.com calculated that a truckload of perfectly wearable textiles is dumped in landfill or incinerated every second.

That is a scary thing to imagine, but how do we go about reducing the environmental impact of the fashion industry?  

The Rise of Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion has gained significant attention and popularity in recent years, as consumers become more aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion and actively seek out alternatives that align with their values. This has led to a surge in demand for ethically produced clothing, made from sustainable materials such as organic cotton. The growing consumer demand for clothing retailers that reject wantonly wasteful practices is motivating the establishment and enduring success of brands like Ivy.

Quality Organic Cotton Basics, Made Sustainably

From its inception in 2017, Ivy has championed classic organic t-shirts, manufactured in small batches by a carefully chosen factory in Portugal, which shares our founder, Sally's commitment to sustainability.

As technologies evolve and more efficient ways of working develop, Ivy will always try to embrace the most ethical and sustainable ways of working, at every stage of the supply chain. We promise complete transparency in our endeavours to prevent looking great from, quite literally, costing the Earth.

By keeping our range deliberately small, focusing on classic, timeless styles and only ever buying in small quantities, we have been able to able to keep wastage low from the outset, but we're ready to try and take our sustainability efforts to the next level...

Introducing Ivy Made-to-Order

In our ever-evolving quest to be at the forefront of sustainable clothing manufacture, we are piloting a made-to-order system for six of our most well-loved styles over the coming weeks.

Listening to customer feedback we're launching three exciting new shades to add to our colour range that we think Ivy customers will love. These are:

  • deep Marine Blue
  • vibrant Blood Orange
  • classic Green

The next part of the process is up to you. Choose your favourite colour and decide whether you'd like to own it as an Audrey, Dotty, Erin, Mabel, Maya or Thia tee.

What is Made-to-Order?

Made-to-order means that production is limited to the number of garments for which there are existing orders. This really boosts a brand's sustainability promise, as it minimises excess inventory wastage and conserves the precious resources required to manufacture the products in the first place.

For our made-to-order trial we've selected six of our most popular certified organic cotton t-shirts:

Our Made-to-Order Short Sleeve Organic Cotton Tees

Dotty - Our classic v-neck tee, Dotty has a flattering curved hem at the front and back and has a relaxed, body-skimming shape.

Mabel - A classic wardrobe staple you won't want to be without, this semi-fitted tee features a flattering low crew neckline that is universally flattering.

Made-to-Order Elbow Sleeve Organic Cotton Tee

Thia - Our loose, relaxed boyfriend fit tee features a crew neckline with a rib neck trim and an easy shape through the body.

Our Made-to-Order 3/4 Sleeve Organic Cotton Tee

Erin - A square cut, boxy tee with a crew neck and flattering 3/4 length sleeves. We love Erin as a spring wardrobe staple - a happy compromise between the long sleeves of winter and the short sleeves of summer.

Our Made-to-Order Long Sleeve Organic Cotton Tees

Audrey - Consistently one of our bestsellers, this semi-fitted tee transitions effortlessly from smart to casual styling and is the ultimate layering t-shirt.

Maya - A looser, more relaxed fit than Audrey, this tee has side splits at the hem and a rib crew neck.

How Ivy Made-to-Order Works

We know from experience that these six styles will sell, so we've had small batches of all of them made at our factory in Portugal, but they have not yet been dyed. That's where you come in.

  1. Select your favourite organic cotton t-shirt(s) from the six available styles.
  2. Select your size - read our size guide if you haven't ordered from Ivy before.
  3. Decide which colour(s) you would like.
  4. Place your order by 8pm on 6th May. Remember we will only dye the tees for which we receive orders, so if you love these new colours, get ordering before the deadline.
  5. Don't feel like you can't shop the other styles on our website while you are shopping our made-to-order tees, because you absolutely can! We will dispatch your full order once your made-to-order tee has arrived at our warehouse. We predict that this will be during the week commencing 3rd June, but we'll keep you posted.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Made-to-order is the opposite of fast fashion and it employs a more personalised approach, so you will have to wait a bit longer than usual for your order to arrive. Your Ivy tee(s) are being made specifically for you and we hope that this means you will love them even more than usual, if that's even possible. 

It is our hope that made-to-order, sustainable garments will evoke a deeper emotional connection and help to change the wasteful mindset that the fast fashion industry encourages us to accept as normal.





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