Why Made-To-Order Fashion is Sustainable
Need a jumper? You pop into any chain store, pick one out from the 20% off rack, and it’s on your back before you’re out the door. Easy, right?
But this convenience we’re all used to has a dark secret. It’s a model of overconsumption that is fuelling the climate crisis. Every year, 14 million tons of clothes end up in landfills in the US alone — and, when they’re there, these textiles can take over 200 years to decompose.
There’s got to be a better way to shop. And there is: made-to-order. Many brands — Má + Lin included — are now turning to this model as a solution to the industry’s terrible environmental footprint.
What are ‘Made-To-Order’ Clothes?
Simple. Made-to-order means making an item only when an order comes in. It’s a way for brands to make exactly what they need — and no more.
Think Subway sandwiches.
You pick out what you want. They whip the sub up while you wait. And it might take longer, but you get something fresher than a ready-made Tesco BLT that’s been sitting around all day.
In the same way, a made-to-order item is crafted just for you. It takes time. But unlike the racks of mass-produced clothes in any department store, you get a quality item, minimising waste.
Believe it or not, made-to-order isn’t that radical. Up until the mid-20th century, that’s how most people got their clothes. Skilled tailors made individual items by hand with quality materials, so that they would last a very long time. Discarding something after a handful of wears was unheard of.
Only recently have we grown accustomed to chain stores that sell us an abundance of options, all of the time.
But made-to-order is being revived. Though ‘bespoke-wear’ has been the mainstay of haute couture, a movement is now gaining speed to make the made-to-order model mainstream. As climate action becomes more urgent, a new wave of customers wants to be connected with where their clothes come from. Made-to-order does just that.
Fast Fashion vs. Slow Fashion
Fast fashion is what it sounds like — fast. It’s the culture of mass-producing clothes at an unfeasible pace. Stores crank out quantity over quality, saturating their shelves with flimsy items that don’t sell out. This low-cost, high volume model drives a throw-away, trend-driven culture, in which customers have an insatiable appetite for new items.
According to Greenpeace, the average lifespan of a garment is just over two years. And in the UK, an average shopper buys 26.7kg of clothes per year. Fast fashion is wrecking the environment at alarming speed, singling it out as a major culprit in the climate emergency.
The stats are catastrophic.
The industry spews out 10% of the world’s emissions, clogs the oceans with synthetic microplastics, guzzles 20% of global water usage per year, and rips out endangered forests for textiles like viscose.
Bluntly, this is a model of excess. And as the fashion industry teeters towards disaster, it sorely needs to reckon with its hand in climate change.
That’s where slow fashion comes in.
The slow fashion movement is about consuming more consciously. It values high-quality garments that will last a longer time, minimising excessive consumption. It’s a philosophy of simplicity. Buy less frequently, and only when needed. Appreciate what went into an item. And take good care of it.
In a nutshell, it’s about buying less, but buying better. It asks us to think about how a garment was made, and what hidden costs — in terms of labour, water, and waste — it took before it ended up in our hands.
Why Buy Made-To-Order Clothes
So how do you hop on board slow fashion? Well, pre-ordering your clothes is a great first step. Buying this way is one of the most powerful things you can do to mitigate the overconsumption that is crippling the planet.
Avoids Wasting Raw Materials
Pre-ordering can reduce the volume of raw materials that are wasted. Notoriously, fast fashion has a record of high waste in the production of its raw materials. But when we know how many items we’re making, we can buy materials in smaller quantities, meaning less waste. Also, by having a low inventory of items, we can save space, energy, and resources that would go towards storing these clothes.
Reduces Overproduction of Garments
Fast fashion is a model of gross excess. When seasons lapse, unsold garments end up piled up in landfills. H&M even has a history of burning their excess stock. When that happens, all the resources that went into an item are wasted. And because many of these materials are made from plastics, spill-off from waste sites leads to micro-plastics and chemicals ending up in our oceans.
Pre-ordering prevents this surplus stock. There’s no guesswork. We make the exact number of garments that have been ordered, so none go to waste.
High Quality Pieces
Aside from surplus stock, poorly-made items wear down quickly, and have to be discarded. The cheap materials and shortcuts of fast fashion mean their items are not built to last. Typically, a piece might not make it through more than a few washes.
But made-to-order pieces are worth waiting for. They’re individually handcrafted, and given the time and attention necessary for top-quality garments. High-value and perennial, these items have a long lifetime value, and won’t end up in landfills.
Ever heard of delayed gratification? Well, that’s what makes pre-ordering so rewarding. Sure, you could scratch the itch and get same-day delivery on a trendy tank top. But nothing beats the joy of a delivery after patience and anticipation.
A pre-ordered item becomes something that you will love and cherish for a long time.
So many shoppers are woefully out of touch with where their clothes come from. Made-to-order gets you more connected with how your clothing was made, so that you can appreciate it fully, and wear it to its full potential.
It’s the Ethical Choice
Another nail in its coffin: fast fashion is often exploitative. Those lean price tags are only possible because factory workers are paid next to nothing. Working conditions can even be dangerous — even inhumane — with workers facing long hours, no ventilation, or inhaling toxic fumes.
Pre-ordered fashion might be a little pricier, but it’s because your cash is going to pay those workers a fair wage. When you buy made-to-order, you’re supporting the ethical treatment of those behind a garment. Nobody deserves to be stripped of their human rights in the name of a T-shirt.
One of the most revolutionary things you can do is to rethink where your clothes come from. By picking slow, small-scale, made-to-order fashion, you’re casting your vote for a more sustainable and ethical future.
Because we believe strongly in this philosophy, Má + Lin is pre-order only. Here’s how that works:
- You pre-order an item on our website.
- By a certain date (see below), we produce all the orders we’ve received in bulk.
- Then, we ship it off to your door!
We’re thrilled to bring you timeless, mindfully made essentials with our first linen collection. All items are available for you to pre-order now. Check out the dates below to find out when you’ll be able to get your hands on an item: