Custom tailored clothing is commonly perceived as being for special occasions and for the wealthy and famous, something that most people do without in their day-to-day lives. However, readymade clothing is quite a recent development in human history, with the industrial revolution making way for mass-produced garments and standardized sizing. Before that, clothing made to fit the wearer’s measurements was the norm. Mass production has driven clothing costs down significantly, but it has also led to clothing being seen as more disposable than in the past, with many cheap garments not intended to last long and a substantial amount of unsold clothing being simply thrown away.
The clothing industry now faces several challenges and issues: aside from the waste produced, fast fashion also tends to underserve or ignore people who fall outside of “standard” sizes and needs, and many apparel manufacturers still rely on underpaid labor to create their products at the speed, price point, and variety that consumers currently expect. Sustainability and social responsibility are also becoming increasingly important issues to consumers, many of whom will now base their purchasing decisions partially on these factors.
With higher consumer expectations, stricter environmental regulations, and a desire for a better fit, custom-made clothing and tailoring services are starting to make a comeback. Many small businesses have begun offering made-to-measure garments, and some large brands like Levi’s and Uniqlo offer an amount of customization as well. From casual t-shirts and athletic wear to designer outfits and bridal wear, consumers are increasingly looking for customization to get exactly the style and fit they’re looking for.
How is Custom Tailored Clothing More Sustainable?
There are two significant factors contributing to clothing waste in the fast fashion industry. One is that many companies are striving to keep costs low in terms of material and labor, leading to garments that don’t last long before becoming damaged. With consumers increasingly throwing away and replacing such clothes rather than repairing them, these companies also benefit from people buying new clothes more frequently.
The other key factor is that a large amount of fast fashion ends up being thrown away before it is ever sold. Sometimes manufacturers and retailers end up with more stock than they can easily sell and decide to send it to the landfill instead of distributing it in another way, or they throw away customer returns rather than incur the expense of putting those items back into circulation or selling them at a loss to other distributors.
Made-to-measure clothing brands don’t have to deal with these challenges — or at least not to the same degree. These businesses keep little or no stock on hand, as they make custom tailored clothing once they have a consumer’s order and specifications. They don’t need to make a certain amount of stock in advance and risk having more than they can sell. This not only saves garments from going to a landfill, but also reduces the amount of energy and resources used in the first place.
In addition, many companies that produce custom tailored clothing also offer alterations if the garment doesn’t fit right. Because the clothing ultimately returns to the customer with a better fit, there is much less waste generated from returns. There are also fewer returns in the first place, as the clothes are designed to fit the customer’s measurements.
Many companies are also making deliberate choices in how they source their fabrics and what materials they work with. While this isn’t a quality inherent to the made-to-measure process, many companies entering this market segment are integrating sustainability and social responsibility into their business practices beyond just reducing waste. Some businesses work with leftover fabrics from other fashion houses, while others opt for materials such as bamboo and hemp, which are renewable and biodegradable.
As consumers become increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and more willing to pay higher prices for sustainable products, business decisions like these can give companies an extra edge in the competitive fashion industry.
A Unique and Precise Fit
Another appeal of custom tailored clothing is its uniqueness. For consumers who want to stand out or just to develop an individual style, a customized garment provides something that mass-produced clothing does not.
There are other demographics that benefit from a custom fit as well. The standard sizing of fast fashion often neglects people who fall outside of what the industry considers to be the “average” consumer. Those who wear plus sizes, who are particularly tall or short, and disabled people with specific clothing needs often have a hard time finding clothes that fit them and that suit their personal style. With less variety available in mass-produced garments, made-to-measure clothing allows people greater control over material, style, fit, and other features.
Custom tailoring businesses can therefore capture segments of the market that have traditionally been underserved, providing them with a wider customer base and the potential for loyal repeat customers. In an industry still recovering from supply chain disruptions and other logistical challenges, the made-to-measure business provides an opportunity to rethink manufacturing and distribution processes, reduce waste, and fill unmet demands.