An estimated 15% of all clothes and shoes churned out daily in the $3 trillion global fashion industry go unsold and are dumped in landfills or–worse–incinerated. “Fashion is driven by guesswork months before something is sold in a store,” says Hal Watts, cofounder and CEO of London-based software company Unmade, which combats overproduction by enabling clothing brands to offer shoppers customizable items that are unlikely to sit on shelves. Unmade’s technology tracks everything from the unique design of a product to where it will be shipped, and aggregates orders to determine the optimal production schedule. These capabilities allow fashion brands to bring down the price of on-demand manufacturing substantially. (It still costs roughly 20% more than traditional manufacturing, but brands save further by eliminating waste and reducing warehousing costs.)
After a 2016 trial with Opening Ceremony on a line of bespoke sweaters, Unmade spent the past year signing up larger clothing brands, such as cycling giant Rapha. The company currently has five partners and expects to install its software in 20 factories for 12 additional brands by the end of 2019, including two of the top 10 largest clothing labels in the United States. “We’re trying to change the industry so that brands are actually selling what the consumer wants,” Watts says.