Custom-made clothing has long been a desirable wardrobe choice for people seeking a more sophisticated look, but intense manual craftsmanship – from taking measurements to the last stitch for refitting – has made it a luxury segment for the mass consumers. The fashion industry has become more size-inclusive in recent years but the consumers are still facing tough challenges due to irregular standard sizing system and horrible purchasing practices that are not at all sustainable.
US-based C2C Fashion and Technology LLC is one such innovator which has its eyes on the future of custom-based clothing. Being termed as a one-stop consortium for fashion business with needs product development and cloud technology integration, C2C has all its focus on the circular economy, and therefore using cutting-edge technology, it aims at giving companies a better insight on how to utilise the raw resources in a more efficient and sustainable manner.
The company quite recently collaborated with a China-based leading Made-to-Measure (M2M) product developer – Qingdao Kutesmart Co., Ltd. – to boost its efforts towards custom-made clothing trend through its sister concern Kute Intelligence and make its reach more to mass population.
The major challenge that C2C believes is prevailing in the industry is fluctuation in inventory throughout the seasons and the overproduction of apparel products is not going to help retailers and manufacturers in their endeavour towards approaching circular economy. The collaboration of C2C with Kutesmart aims at providing a proven technology platform for more sustainable fashion in the form of M2M clothing.
“We are looking at aggregate of efficiency for sustainability in a circular economy for all projects. Raw material will be a scarcity for the future. Globally, we are operating at 14-15 per cent of aggregate efficiency of raw materials,” told Samuel Alexander, Owner, C2C Fashion and Technology LLC to Apparel Resources.
This is how M2M on-demand product is being developed by Kute Intelligence…
12 years of experience into the business and a cost of hundreds of millions are main reasons behind deep integration of ‘informatisation’ and ‘industrialisation’ in Kutesmart that’s made even smoother with a complete IoT system. The factory of Kutesmart is one of the first garment factories in the global textile industry to realise intelligence.
Kute Intelligence has realised data-driven personalisation for 10 years and its assembly line, based on C2M (Customer-to-Manufacturer) system which is an integrated business ecosystem of industry and commerce, has helped Kutesmart to open the door to a new world of a data-driven large-scale customised clothing factory.
Led by the father-daughter duo Agent Zhang (Chairman) and Zhang Yunlan (President), the company has invested huge financial resources to build a C2M system where users can design online and place orders in real time, and individuals directly face manufacturers. The personalised customisation platform constitutes a large database that can automatically match hundreds of billions of styles, drive the platform pipeline, manufacture personalised products, and finally complete the implementation of the data-driven large-scale personalised customisation production model. Over 20 million human body data accumulated over the past decade have formed a large database that can automatically match 1,000 trillion designs and 100 trillion styles.
Product Development – Kutesmart’s system collects customers’ measurements and requests for different fabrics and design, such as the shape of the collar or embroidered initials, and automatically transforms those into manufacturing specifications. The pattern making, which originally took 2 or 3 days to complete, now takes only 7 seconds. Under the dispatch of the intelligent production scheduling system, workers can complete the production of 4,000 sets of custom-made garments on a daily basis according to the instructions of the electronic labelling system. The production efficiency is 100 times that of the past, i.e. a decade ago.
Production Process – Every piece of clothing on the company’s assembly line is different. Each sewing machine has a small computer built in it. Workers have to punch a card to make a piece of clothing. They can refer to the processes of the suit/garment on the computer fitted in their machines.
With skilled workers, exquisite fabrics, intelligent machinery and equipment, the company claims its manufacturing process is completely different. It can now use data to drive large flow operations to create personalised clothing and can produce thousands of different products on the same assembly line, such as men’s, women’s and children’s clothing.
“As in a traditional factory, it’s not easy for workers to make a different piece of clothing every time; the company therefore launched a separate assembly line and told workers to work for only 8 hours, no matter how many orders they have,” said Zhang Yunlan recently during 16th Summer Summit of Yabuli China Entrepreneurs Forum in 2020.
What drives the change in the process is data. Thousands of data that one can’t see with naked eyes is always on the work in the company. Every order enters the computer system through the network. It generates an independent information code, and this code guides the workers in the production process. More than 300 production processes are the same, but the materials and manufacturing methods used in the processes are completely different. And this code can accurately tell workers how to operate.
SDE (Source Data Engineering) is the method used by Kutesmart which links custom orders to a finished product. SDE deeply integrates the industry and information, using production process networking and intelligent management, to achieve synchronous production of personalised products. This data-driven, on-demand, zero-inventory and a process with a flat management structure is said to be a lean production process. The company also uses radio frequency identification tags to track products through the process.
The products are still passed on to the assembly line, but with the network and the data accumulated over the past decade and more, the production no longer takes place in batches. As per Kutesmart, it can meet the personalised customisation information submitted by 99.9 per cent of users worldwide. The complete production cycle of each product only takes 1 week, and at the same time there is no inventory.
As far as reduction in employee headcount is concerned, a 30 per cent reduction is there as well as there is a substantial elimination of inventory problem and cash flow is also achieved. A suit would be delivered to the customer in a maximum of 10 days after ordering, including 7 days spent on manufacturing, compared to at least 6 weeks lead time (which may go up to months) in conventional tailoring. Today it churns out 4,000 suits each day under a series of labels such as Kutesmart or the customer’s own brand, and hopes to attain a customer base of tens of millions within the next decade in North America, Europe and China, respectively.
Even though the system of M2M custom-made clothing has become more automated in Kutesmart, it hasn’t lost its human factor, and workers still cut, sew and assemble the various pieces. A week later, the suit is ready. The company employs about 3,000 people and it pays wages approximately 20 per cent higher than the industry’s average worker.
Role of C2C in taking forward Kutesmart’s Custom-made clothing in the market…
C2C currently is working on 3D scanning software development and a SaaS (Software as a Service) cloud-based solution will connect all aspects of businesses from concept to consumption for Qingdao Kutesmart which will be focused on more precise product development in the factory for the overseas markets such as USA and Europe where its custom-made suits sold at prices as low as US $ 500, a fourth of a typical tailored suit in the US and Europe. Kutesmart rakes in 90 per cent of its sales from those markets, thanks to local agents and increasing direct online orders. The company is particularly strong in New York, where it made its first footprint overseas recently. According to Samuel, the ones who can use this 3D body scanning software technology are retailers and private label for the store with custom or small runs; new designers who are just starting with small runs and consumers who are more inclined towards custom clothing.
Customers can either go to one of the company’s brick-and-mortar measurement sites or give detailed measurements online. They can also choose such things as the type of cloth, styles and stitching. This personalised information is fed into automated precision cutting machines in Kutesmart factory, then to embroiders, joiners, ironers and others. The suit is electronically tracked until it is ready for the customer, 7 days later.
Samuel also revealed that C2C is going to launch its cactus leather jacket – made as a first product using the newly developed system, next month.