High-end activewear apparel without minimums, how is that possible?

New clients ask us this all the time - how is it that you do not require a minimum order quantity? Why aren’t you asking me to buy 300 leggings or shirts at the same time?

The answer is actually very simple - we make all of our clothing on demand, one piece at a time. This is made possible by a supply chain and production processes optimized for mass customization. This system derives its economies of scale not from individual orders but by pooling the demand from all of our clients.

Let’s have a look at how active wear is traditionally made:

Large retailers optimize their purchasing of apparel for the lowest cost per item. As a consequence, the traditional production process for apparel involves a complex international supply, many steps and many middle men. The retailers purchasing the finished goods often don’t know who has made their clothing. The complexity of this supply chain necessitates very high minimum orders and the order lead time is measured in months. While several ‘fast-fashion’ retailers have been successful at significantly improving this lead lead, such improvements have come with surprising hidden costs. High minimum orders create also risk to a retailer’s margins - if a style proves to be unpopular, over-produced units must be marked down (up to 60%!) to sell. Even at negative margins, some units will not sell and must be discarded. This is bad for retailers but also bad for the environment - the EPA estimates that 13.1 million tons of clothing is discarded per year, only 15% of which is reclaimed or recycled.

So how does Ziel produce?

In contrast to traditional apparel production, Ziel operates on an on-demand model, also called purchase-driven manufacturing. By building a software-defined supply chain and implementing digitally-defined garments, we are able to produce garments as they are needed in about a week. Instead of trying to predict consumer demand for certain styles, Ziel can rapidly iterate through styles, finding what is popular and quickly responding to trends. By manufacturing entirely in the USA, we can be sure that our garments are produced in an ethical and environmentally friendly way. On-demand production also eliminates the problem of over-supply, ensuring stable margins and further reducing impact on the environment. While the unit cost of items produced in this manner is often higher than items made the traditional way, as a whole it is more economical for our clients. Since garments are made only as they are sold, there is no inventory risk, no write offs and no customers being bored by the same yellow t-shirt that has been on sale for months on end.

Sounds great! How else does this on-demand business model effect my business as a health & wellness influencer or health club?

By combining the on-demand production model with small (~10 units) levels of inventory at our clients’ retail locations, Ziel enables our clients to deliver a much better customer experience around purchasing apparel. Members and followers see a rotating collection of stylish designs representing their community, keeping it fresh and interesting. Our clients reap the benefits of higher sales, freed working capital and empty inventory storage space.

So next time you think of setting up your own line of activewear, consider what you are optimizing for. Instead of optimizing for unit cost and buying 600 cotton t-shirts with a unicolor screen-printed logo, consider optimizing for sales, brand awareness and stable profit margins with an on-demand model enabled by Ziel. Stay tuned as we blog through the process of how we provide you with the right digital prints to quickly rotate collections.