Less waste, more coveted. Could pre-order be the answer to fashion's huge waste problem?
Until this morning I didn't know that pre-order fashion was a thing, but according to my 21 year old daughter it's "an emerging trend in the fashion industry". I'm always interested in anything that will help me reduce waste, so it sparked my interest. After doing a little online research I decided it makes sense - only items that are wanted are made.
How it works: Pre-order means the manufacturer only produces the orders that are placed. The customer sees a product online, orders it and a month or two later they receive it. The positives are that waste is reduced and upfront costs for the brand are substantially lower.
Environmentally, our planet suffers the consequences of the excess clothing made by brands. Overproduction is one of the fashion industry's costliest and most environmentally damaging aspects. Dead stock (merchandise never sold to customers) and excess fabric weigh heavily on the world's carbon emissions. High end brand, Burberry faced public outrage in 2017 for burning $40 million worth of excess product. Pre-ordering reduces the waste and damage to the ecosystem caused by the fashion industry because there won't be overproduction.
Once orders are placed, manufacturers can calculate how much fabric and other supplies are going to be used. By having this information of quantities ordered, sizes, colours, etc. upfront, they are able to keep waste to a minimum.
From the designers point of view, pre-order provides less risk and prevents financial loss from overproduction. This is really important for new and small designers, who are struggling with their costs, sourcing, sampling and marketing before sales and production can even be considered. Pre-order also cuts costs like warehousing, insurance, transporting, and deadstock.
Pre-order clothes are also sold in "drops" making a small quantity of each design, making their clothes more coveted too - a plus for brands!
Some pre-order brands allow you to customise the product at the time of ordering. And because they aren't mass produced, you won't see yourself walking towards you in the street. US based pre-order marketplace, Nineteenthamendmentsays about their business model - "We believe in giving brands a way to sustainably and authentically bring their products to market with less risk and waste while democratizing the fashion playing field. That's why, all items are sold via pre-order".
Sydney slow fashion brand, florencethelabel manufactures pieces in small quantities to reduce the possibility of excess stock that could potentially contribute to landfill. The brand aims to encourage conscious consumption by escaping seasonal trends. Instead, creating pieces that are timeless and guaranteed to last you for years to come. Perhaps this trend of making clothes "live beyond the season" will be one many other brands choose to follow.
The Coronavirus has forced many industries to become adaptive to the changed world they find themselves in. Fashion is no exception, with the drop in sales, forcing some big name, luxury brands such as Gucci and Saint Laurent to re-evaluate previous systems and intense turnover, both announcing they will go seasonless.
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Slow fashion, like slow food, certainly appeals to me more than their fast food and fast fashion alternatives. It will be interesting to see if pre-ordering takes off in the mainstream. However, if patience isn't one of your virtues and you are not into "slow gratification" then pre-order possibly isn't for you! There has been a backlash in social media against some of the pre-order brands with people complaining about the time their orders are taking, so keep in mind that you'll be waiting for your clothes.
In the meantime I will add "pre-ordering" to my slow fashion armour (i.e buying less; avoiding fast fashion; buying quality over quantity; purchasing second hand; repairing and caring for our clothes so they last longer).
By Allison Licence
Allison Licence is a Sydney-based freelance writer and 1 Million Women volunteer who is passionate about the environment and finding ways to live more sustainably.