From pixel to parcel – the most sustainable micro-factory in the world

Clothing manufacturing social enterprise, Fashion-Enter Ltd (FEL), and print solutions company Kornit Digital, have made the future of fashion a reality with the opening of what is being described as the most sustainable and efficient end-to-end apparel micro-enterprise in the world. -plant.

Kornit Digital’s direct-to-fabric and direct-to-garment digital printing machines, which are now based at Fashion-Enter’s headquarters in North London, UK, can take a dress “from pixel to package” or of a drawing on the screen. be ready to ship, in as little as 25 minutes. As all processes take place at the same site, this equates to a more efficient, sustainable and shorter supply chain.

During the introduction to the factory tour, Kornit Digital CEO Ronen Samuel explained the importance of improving sustainability in the fashion industry. He pointed out that fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world after oil and said it accounts for 20% of global industrial water pollution and 20% of global carbon emissions.

The goal of Kornit Digital’s process is to make the garment supply chain shorter and more efficient, while making it more sustainable by eliminating harmful chemicals and using a minimal amount of water. Kornit Digital statistics claim that its systems use 95% less water, 94% less energy and produce almost 83% less greenhouse gas emissions.

Samuel also suggested that today’s fashion supply chain is not up to date with today’s needs, with shipping costs from countries like China and Bangladesh being ten times more expensive. than before. He pointed out that brands want to bring production closer to end consumers in order to react more quickly to the latest trends on TikTok and Instagram.

What is the future of fashion?

When Fashion-Enter CEO Jenny Holloway took the stage to announce her organization’s collaboration with the print shop on the sustainable micro-factory, she agreed with Samuel and said, “Traditional fashion is dead. .

Holloway explained: “When you think of all the cash tied up in stock that’s stuck on ships and the rebates that have to happen to get rid of old stock – it’s just unsustainable,” adding: “The Kornit Digital’s technology has blown me away and there are more advancements to come.

In an exclusive interview with Just Style, Holloway expanded on her thinking. She said: “The traditional way of buying a year in advance is over.” She pointed out that there are a number of major disruptors today, ranging from shipping delays, the current Chinese New Year delays, transportation costs and now the war in Ukraine, and thinks we have everyone has a duty to ensure that this is corrected.

Holloway also pointed out that the digital age is already here and will only expand. She said: “It really is the only way forward in fashion today because it will give shoppers and consumers what they need today,” adding that the industry needs to understand the importance of make clothes “on demand”.

The new partnership between Fashion-Enter and Kornit Digital grew out of a discussion Holloway had with Kornit Digital’s Head of Retail Transformation, Scott Walton, after a podcast they did together.

She explained that Walton speaks about her beliefs and the philosophy of the company and that it aligns with Fashion-Enter’s vision to make fashion a more ethical and sustainable place. She described the collaboration, which was initially with online retailer Asos Plc but has now opened up to all clothing brands, as a unique partnership and she feels honored and delighted that what started as a meeting could potentially be a game-changer for the UK. fashion industry.

Who can experience the technology at Fashion-Enter headquarters?

Holloway was also keen to emphasize that Fashion-Enter is not possessive about information or intellectual property. In fact, the polar opposite is true. She wants to share the company’s findings with companies and encourage individual designers, as well as big brands and retailers, to experiment with micro-factory technology to make fashion more sustainable and efficient.

She said: “We encourage buyers and buyer’s assistants to come on site and spend a day here working on their collections, pushing trends and designs forward. After eight hours with us, they will have 15 garments at their disposal to start their collection.

Fashion designer Joshua Scacheri is already using micro-factory technology to produce clothes for his brand called Love Hero. He told Just Style that technology has already reshaped the way he thinks about designing and creating collections.

He said, “Technology is changing the way I design because I design and collaborate with technology, which eliminates errors and waste.” He also explained that he uses technology to create more circular garments, either printing over previous designs to create new artwork or designing a print that accompanies pieces that are already part of his collection.

Holloway is proud that Fashion-Enter now hosts the UK’s only sustainable ‘on-demand’ service. She explained that anyone can come up with their own designs, they can manipulate those designs, the patterns can be created immediately, and the Fashion-Enter team can make the clothes right before their eyes.

She thinks the beauty of Kornit Digital software is that designers can create virtual patterns, press a button, print the fabric and immediately create the sample. That means time spent waiting for fabrics to arrive, delays in the post, cutting a sample and then deciding to make a change, and having to start the process all over again – all gone.

Holloway, who has worked in fashion for many years and founded Fashion-Enter 17 years ago, pointed out that any type of change can be worrying and adopting the Kornit garment manufacturing process was not without its challenges. She told Just Style that when Fashion-Enter was first approached by Kornit Digital to do the collaboration, some people within the company, including senior executives, didn’t think it would be possible.

“We had a number of setbacks, like the compressor being the wrong size to start with, and we couldn’t get the physical equipment into the building, so we had to get planning permission to build a bigger door. great, but you just can’t give up with such obstacles. It takes perseverance and resilience.”

In saying this, Holloway candidly told Just Style that there is a lot of talk in the retail fashion industry about changing or dying. She knew making the Kornit process a reality wouldn’t be easy for Fashion-Enter but if she didn’t, her social business could be severely impacted, not driving change internally and setting a new innovative benchmark. to buyers. .

She said: “What was our unique selling proposition as a factory, because anyone can come up with a design and anyone can look at the fabric ranges? It was important for me as CEO to protect our workforce and bring something new, but always within our ethical production mandate.

Where will this sustainable micro-factory concept be applied in the future?

Holloway would like to see the micro-factory replicated in areas of the UK that already have a number of garment factories such as Leicester, Wales, and she thinks her business could also help find a partner in Scotland.

“I think when people understand and appreciate the benefits of this process, it’s going to pop like a mushroom – it’s going to become the new industry standard.”

Holloway is keen to tell the apparel industry that Fashion-Enter is just showing what can be done, but she thinks it will be retailers who start investing in micro-factories in the future as they will have the money to do it.

She said: “By saying that, retailers won’t have the manufacturing expertise, so they’ll have to rely on manufacturers to help them.”

Kornit Digital’s EMEA President, Chris Govier, closed the opening event by saying, “Hopefully we’ve been thought-provoking.”

He believes the long-lasting micro-factory collaboration between Kornit Digital and Fashion-Enter will help solve some of the key challenges facing the wider fashion industry.

The crucial point he made, however, was that overcoming the challenges of tomorrow will require the right questions to be asked today. For example, Kornit Digital’s end-to-end technology will no doubt be a big investment for any brand or retailer, however, the consensus of everyone who attended the event was that retailers and brands need to start ask what the output margin of their garments will be as opposed to their input margins.

In other words, a sustainably made garment produced in a nearby UK factory might cost more initially, but it might result in a higher exit price as it will require less discounting and be part of a more efficient, sustainable and ultimately circular.

Fashion-Enter unveiled its first sustainable clothing micro-factory in June 2021, featuring Zünd D3 digital cutting technology.

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Michael O. Stutler